Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

Quick and easy tips to find the right job for you
By Amy Michalenko, Career Services Manager, Fresh Start Women’s Foundation

I can’t begin to tell you how many women I work with on a weekly basis that are in the latter part of their career and have realized that their current profession does not fulfill them. They are good at what they do but they do not enjoy their work. Surprisingly, some of these women are thankful that they have finally been laid off from the job that they never had the heart to leave. All too often I hear those words: “I don’t think I know what I want to be when I grow up”.

What I have found is that few people consider the right factors when making career decisions. Most will make decisions about their career direction with 3 main factors in mind: money, ease of finding the position and whether or not the career is in a growing industry. In reality, they have neglected to consider the most important factor: who they are.

Personality is something that develops very early on in life and studies show that it will never really change drastically beyond the age of 18-21. Certainly, the salary and whether or not the position is in a growing industry are important but personality should always be considered first. As we know, the medical industry is still thriving, there’s a wealth of opportunities and potential to make money. However, what I know about myself tells me that no matter how much someone pays me or how in-demand those jobs are, I will never enjoy or be good at this profession. I hate the sight of blood and hospitals scare me. I can’t even watch a medical show on TV without cringing! I also know that when I think about what I want to do with my career, I first have to examine who I am.

Whether you are beginning a job search, considering a career change, attempting to choose the right educational program or trying to figure out what you what to be when you grow up, use the following tips to help determine your exciting new career direction.

  1. Make your passion part of your work – Each of us has something we are passionate about; the key is figuring out how you can incorporate that into your career. Maybe you love animals and feel strongly about animal rights yet your college degree is in marketing. Some easy career transitions or options could be doing community outreach or public relations for a local animal shelter or the Humane Society. Maybe you love the arts and your degree is in finance. Your experience and passion could translate into a job as a fundraiser for an arts foundation or even grant writing. Infusing your passion into the environment and mission of what you do each day, can create a more fulfilling and successful career.

  2. Why am I here? – Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk wondering why you are even doing what you are doing? How did you get where you are today? Sometimes life can move so quickly that we forget to regularly assess where we are going. Take time every so often to make sure that you are getting as much out of your job as you are putting in and that the work environment is right for you. Do you understand the importance of your position and what it means to your company? Are you continuing to learn and grow in your current position? Do you feel accomplished at the end of the day? If you can’t satisfactorily answer these questions then it is likely that you are not receiving the career fulfillment you desire.

  3. There is a big difference between “CAN DO” and “WANT TO DO” – Most people confuse these two statements or even use them interchangeably. However when it comes to your career they are vastly different. Just because you can do something and even do it well does not mean that you want to or even enjoy doing it. For example, you may be able to cook a great meal for a dinner party but does that mean you should be a chef? When considering a career think about the day-to-day work tasks and skills required. Perhaps make a list of things that you enjoy – if the majority of skills required are not on your “want to do” list then it is time to re-evaluate.

  4. Consider your past jobs – A previous job can be one of the best indicators of what your future work should be and what positions you should avoid. Think back to any position you’ve had – whether an entry-level retail job that got you through school or your first professional position, then ask yourself the following questions: Which job did I love? What did I get to do each day that was exciting or fulfilling? What was I really good at? When did I feel most accomplished? Past experiences are the best things to learn from, so use work history to help direct you on your next career path.

  5. Keep your eye on the prize – Before you can effectively job search you must have a clear understanding of what position you will be seeking. What is your ultimate goal? Without direction it is easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of postings, companies and opportunities out there. It will be difficult to effectively sell or package yourself on a resume without knowing how to “tailor” your skills and experience. Before starting any job search, you must first determine where you want to be when it is all over. Otherwise, you may get distracted and end up in a position or company that won’t get you to where you want to be professionally.

  6. Get Feedback – Sometimes the best information can come from those who are on the outside looking in. Ask your friends, co-workers, professors, supervisors, classmates, and family what they see as your strengths or even what they feel you might be good at. They may see abilities or potential in you that you never noticed.
The answer to the question of “what do I want to be when I grow up” can be difficult and most certainly can change over the course of your life. If you ask yourself the important questions of “who am I and what makes me happy?” you too can find the career success and fulfillment you desire.

Do you want more helpful advice on job searching or career advancement? Become a member of the Fresh Start Community of women today: Membership gives you exclusive access to all of the exciting & interactive workshops.

Amy Michalenko is the Career Services Manager at Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and a master’s in instructional leadership and corporate training from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has more than 10 years of experience in the areas of human resources, career services, corporate training and development.