Most people make their career decisions by looking at the world around them and then trying to reshape and change themselves to fit into it. But this is the opposite of what works and the opposite of what needs to be done.
Defining the best career path for you is a process that starts from the inside out. It is a journey that begins an evolution of self-awareness. You need to become aware of your skills, talents, energies, individual assets and unique natural resources. This self-awareness is the vehicle that will take you to a more satisfying career.
When thinking about a career, most people look at the world outside and say, “What should I be doing?” It’s overwhelming. There are too many possibilities. They start with a job title and then try to fit themselves into that title. Instead, they need to look inside themselves first, to narrow the focus of who they are.
When thinking about a career, people mistakenly focus on a subject matter, industry or job title. For example, we hear people say “I’m thinking about become a lawyer, financial analyst, teacher or I’ll go into the field of advertising or human resources.” But there are more important questions to ask yourself like “Do you like working with people or paper?” “Are you logical and analytical or more emotional and value driven?” “Do you prefer facts or theories?” “Do you need freedom and flexibility or structure and routine?” Identifying these vital elements is a critical first step in career decision making.
Finding the right career fit involves knowing yourself and your deepest needs. You can’t make a choice based on skills alone. Often, being good at something masks the fact that it might not be enjoyable. Self-reflection is the roadmap that points to the right path.
Career management today is complex and subtle as well as internal and external. It means knowing yourself, gathering information and learning about new opportunities. Once you do this, you are in a better position to match those opportunities appropriately to your self-profile. When you have put all of this together, you will be better able to make conscious choices in managing your career so that you will find both personal fulfillment and financial success.
Eileen Sharaga is president of Career Resources and a recognized authority on career development and employment trends. As a career counselor, consultant and educator, she works with individuals, businesses and professionals in all aspects of career planning and development. Sharaga has delivered over 300 speeches and workshops to corporations, professional organizations, universities and alumni associations, including Harvard, Yale, IBM, Women in Communications and the CUNY research foundation, among others.