HOW TO SELECT YOUR CAREER
A VALUE BASED APPROACH
One of the greatest misfortunes in life is to be good at something you don’t like.
You may be proficient in mathematics, but you may hate mathematics.
You may be competent HR or PR Manager possessing excellent communication skills and busy interacting with people every minute of the day, but in your heart you may love a life of solitude and contemplation.
In order to be able to select the right career, one has to reflect, analyse, know one’s inner self, and be able to clearly distinguish between what you are good at doing (proficiency, competence) and what you enjoy doing, love to do and what you want to do in life (interests, values).
When I was in school, in the 1960s, there was no concept of career counselling or vocational guidance.
All the boys were herded into the Science Stream (unless one was very poor at mathematics) and all the girls were considered suitable for Humanities (unless she put her foot down and insisted on studying science).
Then, as a boy, if you were in science and did well, the options were Engineering or Medicine, and most of us continued being good at something we did not like. (The girls mostly studied arts while they waited to get married).
And much later in life we discovered what we truly liked and then, if we had time, we pursued what we really wanted to do (our true métier) as hobbies.
Fortunately, nowadays things are different.
Young persons have plenty of choice and opportunity to choose what they want to do.
If you are on the verge of choosing your career, the first thing to do is to develop a concept of the person you would like to be – introspect and try to discover your life orientation.
If your want to enjoy your work take care to ensure that your choice of career is in alignment with your LIFE ORIENTATION.
Your life orientation comprises three factors: SKILLS, INTERESTS and VALUES.
If you choose a career that enables you achieve success facilitating optimal utilization of your best skills, doing the kinds of work that relate to your favourite interests and in consonance with your core values, you will derive total work-life balance and job satisfaction.
In order to find out your orientation in life you have to know yourself.
Go to some quiet place, sit down comfortably, close your eyes, and reflect on the aspects below to discover your skills, intesrests and values.
As a first step to determining your Orientation in Life focus on the various skills you might have.
Introspect and list your SOFT SKILLS and HARD SKILLS.
Soft Skills: pertain to the intuitive, creative and emotional right side of the brain.
Hard Skills: emanate from the analytical and logical left side of the brain.
Are you a Soft Skills person or a Hard Skills person or a hybrid blend of both?
Which types of skills predominate?
Think of your best skills.
Prioritize them and make a list of all your skills in order of precedence.
Now list all your interests and put them in order of your preference, just as you did with skills.
How do you discover your interests?
Assume you have enough leisure and plenty of time and lots of resources – what would you do?
How you like to spend your leisure gives a clue to your interests.
Will the career you choose enable you to satisfy your interests at the workplace or will you have enough leisure and resources to pursue them on your own in your spare time.
Now, focus on discovering your values.
Values are core beliefs which guide and motivate attitudes and behaviour.
When you value something you want it (or want it to happen).
Values are relatively permanent desires.
Values are our subjective reactions to the world around us.
Values are answers to the “why” question.
You keep on asking yourself the “why” question until you reach a point where you no longer want something for the sake of something else.
At this point you have arrived at a value.
Let’s take an example.
I was once teaching a Post Graduate Professional Programme at a premier university, a centre of excellence.
I asked a student, “Why are you doing this academic course?”
“To gain qualifications,” he answered.
“Why do you want to gain qualifications?”
“To succeed in my career.”
“Why do you want to succeed in your career?”
“To reach the top.”
“Why do you want to reach the top?”
“To get power.”
“Why do want do you want power?”
“To control people,” he answered.
“Why do you want to control people?”
“I want to control people.”
“I like to control people.”
“Just for the sake of it – I like controlling people,” he said and repeated why questions elicited similar responses related to control.
Control for the sake of control – that’s when you discover your value.
I realized that control was one of his cardinal values and maybe he was a future megalomaniac in the making!
The same line of questioning of persons undergoing higher education may reveal valueslike knowledge, money, status, standard of living, quality of life, ambition,achievement, growth, reputation, excellence, fame.
Your personal list of values may include values like honesty, integrity, loyalty, prestige, happiness, friendship, family life, achievement, independence, education, power, money, independence, freedom and so on.
Now prioritize your values in order of importance to discover your CORE VALUES - your most important cardinal values.
Remember, there cannot be any “partial” values; for example: you cannot be 50% honest (half-honest) – either you are honest or you are not honest!
Your values are possibly the most important thing to consider when you're choosing an occupation or workplace.
That is because you can compromise your values but you cannot change your values.
If you do not take your values into account when planning your career, there's a good chance you will dislike your work and therefore not enjoy it.
SELECTING A CAREER
Introspect over your skills, interests and values.
If you have conscientiously created and prioritized your lists, you have learned something about yourself and ascertained your orientation in life.
Whilst considering and selecting a career you must thoroughly evaluate as to what degree the career-attributes are compatible with your orientation in life.
Let’s take an example.
Suppose your priority SKILLS include hard skills like mathematical and analytical ability, and soft skills like leadership and communication skills.
Your INTERESTS include travel, adventure, photography and good food.
And your most important VALUES are family life, prestige and achievement.
Now let’s consider various career options.
Consider a career as a deck officer in the merchant navy.
Your skills and interests seem to be ideally suited but there is mismatch, a conflict, between the demands of the career in the merchant navy and your most cherished core value – “Family Life”.
Perhaps, if your most important values were money, independence and prestige, the overall harmony and compatibility of your values, skills and interests with the career-attributes would have made merchant navy an ideal career option for you.
In practical life you may not be always able to avoid value versus career conflict in all cases but being aware of this fact will help you come to terms with realities and mitigate the conflict and also contemplate a career-shift in consonance with your value orientation whenever feasible.
Your values are the most important and critical aspect of your career orientation.
If you want to enhance certain skills, you can work on it and acquire those skills.
Similarly, you can change your interests or develop new interests, devoting time and resources to those interests you would like to create, acquire or strengthen.
Skills can be learned, interests can be developed, but values are intrinsic.
It is very difficult to change your core values.
You may compromise your values, but you cannot change them.
Before you choose your career, introspect and ascertain the compatibility, congruence andharmony between the career and your orientation in life (comprising your skills, interests and values).
Don’t make a hasty decision or you may find yourself on the wrong road and then it may be too late to turn back.
Devoid of intrinsic motivation to purse a career which is not in harmony with one’s orientation in life, but caught up in the need to gain parental affection,materialistic rewards, extrinsic recognition, peer pressure and societal acceptance, young people often enter careers that may not offer them true inner happiness and fulfilment that evolves from harmonious work-life balance.
Thus, though they may appear outwardly successful, inwardly they lament over the reality of inner dissonance owing to work-life imbalance.
Let your inner conscience be your guide and resist temptation and undue pressures from elders and peers.
Choosing a career which you love, doing a job you enjoy which is not in conflict with your values and lets you realize your full individuality and creative potential will enable you to achieve a sense of fulfillment.
Do interact with career counselors, talk to your parents, elders, peers and take their advice, but remember to distinguish between the “hard” and the “soft” facets of career attributes.
Read some good books on career guidance.
My favorite is a book called What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles. It is updated and published every year. It is a fascinating read and will help you discover your true métier.
And why not take a few career tests?
You can either visit a career guidance counsellor or psychologist who will administer relevant tests to you. Or try the online tests. My favorite one is The Princeton Review Career Quiz which is available online.
It is a simple, fast, interesting and effective forced choice test which presents you with interesting career options.
I gave the test sometime ago, and the results say that my interest color is Blue, which means I am a creative, humanistic, thoughtful, quiet type, and my usual style is Yellow, which means I tend to be orderly, cautious, loyal, systematic, methodical, solitary, and organized and will thrive in a research-oriented, predictable, established, orderly environment.
As per the test results, my career choices include Writer, Librarian, Philosopher, Teacher, Professor, Researcher, College or School Administrator, Human Resources Manager, Guidance Counsellor, and, yes, I am supposed to be an ideal Career Counsellor.
Am I one of these?
Well, I am not going to tell you.
I wish you all the best.
Have fun, introspect and learn more amd more about your own self.
Take your time, think, discuss, read, experiment, reflect, and discover your true métier in harmony with your interests and values and inner self.
Choose your career wisely.
Remember, one of the greatest misfortunes in life is to be good at something you do not like.
So while selecting your career you must reflect, analyse, and you must be able to clearly distinguish between
what you are good at doing (proficiency, competence)
as opposed to
what you enjoy doing (interests, values) - what you love to do and what you want to do in life.
A career can be very satisfying if you have made the right choice.
Like the famous adage that goes:
If you choose a job you love, you don’t have to work a single day in your life.
On the other hand, a wrong decision can leave you regretting and wishing that you had trodden a different path.
All the Best in discovering your true métier – I wish you a fulfilling career that suits you and work which you love.