Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Do You Choose the Right Career Path for You?

Choosing the right career eludes some of us right up until retirement. Be one of the lucky ones who have truly found their calling. The following tips from Bayt.com should help.

Franklin D Roosevelt once said “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Thankfully, we live in trial-and-error times where growth and change are expected and employers have learned to tolerate if not wholeheartedly appreciate and welcome the diversity in background and skills that come from career changers.

In lieu of life-long job and career stability, many of today’s professionals espouse a career trajectory that is open to responding to new challenges and opportunities as they arise. These may be motivated by entirely extraneous factors such as economic restructuring, downsizing, upsizing, the emergence of lucrative new industry sectors or motivated by changes in personal situation which could include age, changes to marital or family status, geographical preferences, new life demands, desire for better work/life balance etc.
Whatever the motivation, career change is no longer the frowned-upon sole recourse of the unemployed but a common turn of events and one that is expected to become more so as economies restructure at an ever more accelerated pace, information about alternate career paths flows ever more freely, work/life balance becomes an increasingly hot topic, and a booming global economy means opportunities abound.

A recent on-line poll run by the Middle East’s #1 job site Bayt.com covering over 1,420 professionals that enquired how often candidates have changed career paths in their life saw the majority of respondents have changed careers at least once and many had changed careers two times or more. Only 40% of respondents have never changed careers whereas 27% had changed careers once and 32% of respondents had changed careers twice or more.
So how in such times of flux and opportunity and in light of the vast amount of choice out there do you determine the right career for you? Below the Career Experts from Bayt.com offer some pointers as you approach this important topic:

DREAM

(Examine your passions and interests)
1. Read the current literature on career change – the whys, how-tos and whens. Books such as What Colour is Your Parachute are a great way to start the self-exploration process.
2. Ask yourself what you would do in an ideal world if money were no imperative. What would you do if you had a year away from work or if you could emulate someone who in your opinion has a dream job? Would you write poetry, run a global corporation, compete in athletics, design world-class architectural projects, publish literature, start your own little business, work with children, with the elderly, teach, heal, perform?
3. Ask yourself what tasks you ideally like to immerse yourself in. Do you prefer the analytical aspects of your current (or past) job, the administrative aspects, the leadership aspects, the coaching aspects, problem-solving aspects, decision-making in teams, writing, designing, co-ordinating, managing, creating, trouble-shooting etc. Where do you find yourself happiest and most comfortable?
4. Make a list of those aspects of your job or other jobs that you don’t like and wish to avoid.
5. Be honest with yourself, be creative and dare to dream as you think of what you would really like to do. The dreaming stage is not the time to focus – allow yourself to really explore all avenues of interest and be curious about new paths and possibilities.

DETERMINE

(Examine your values, priorities and skills)
6. Determine what your priorities really are. How important is work-life balance to you versus career growth or financial stability? How important is leisure versus work versus learning for you? Are you willing to put one or two on hold while you pursue a third or is your ideal life plan a blended one that includes the three? Are you content with financial stability or are you interested in huge financial gain? Are you interested in a job or a career? Is prestige and social status critical to you and how much of these does your career, past and potential, afford you?
7. Determine your real values and ask what career satisfies and is consistent with those. Albert Einstein’s advice on this front was: “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”
8. Make an inventory of your skills and strengths.
9. Take self-assessment tests to even more deeply understand what it is that motivates, drives and inspires you.

DIG DEEP/ DISSECT

(Examine alternate career paths)
10. Research alternate career paths – look at growth potential, job profiles, pay, benefits, mobility, work/life balance and all other issues that will determine your longevity in the career.
11. As you hone in on potential career paths obtain the maximum amount of information about these careers. Read industry blogs and websites, talk to people in the field, subscribe to industry journals and newsletters and leave no stone unturned as you familiarize yourself with the potential new territory.
12. Map your personal inventory of skills, interests, values against the requirements of alternative career paths.
13. Realistically analyse and make contingencies for those factors that impede your career mobility. These may be geographical mobility issues, financial limitations, family considerations, or education/ training issues. Look at occupational and non-occupational barriers to career entry and determine realistically how you can/will overcome those.
14. Seek counseling and advice. As you seek to reinvent yourself you may want to talk to a professional counselor formally, or informally to someone in your new area, an old colleague or a peer. Formal counseling is useful when trying to overcome mental blocks to career growth and advancement. Often, the biggest detriment to career development is low self-esteem, anxiety fear, inertia and the inability to deal with change meaningfully and constructively.

DECIDE

(Select the ultimate career path)
15. Let your natural instincts, your introspection and the fruits of your intense research guide the way. Many of us in today’s number-crunching world have learned to quell those very essential natural instincts that propel us towards leadership, happiness and success.
16. Don’t be swayed by external pressures. Often family, friends and society place undue pressure on a person to conform to or follow a certain career path. Pablo Picasso once said “My mother said to me, "If you become a soldier, you'll be a general; if you become a monk, you'll end up as the Pope." Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”” .
17. Don’t let financial considerations alone guide you unless of course you have determined that financial gain in itself (with all its glories and trappings) is your overriding value, interest and goal in life. Oftentimes, short-term financial losses can be compensated for by the fact that you will eventually prosper most and acquire the most depth and skill in the field that most interests you.

DARE

(Confidently stride into your new career)
18. Believe in yourself. Have faith and be bold and brave as you follow your aspirations. Don’t let negative self-perceptions and external diatribes detract you from your true calling. After the homework, the reading, the research, the introspection, soul-searching, networking and analysis, close your eyes and find the person you always wanted to be.
Robert Kennedy famously once said “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Arm yourself with your dreams, your invaluable newly acquired self-knowledge and your rigorous research into the plethora of opportunities out there and don’t hesitate in pursuing the career of your dreams. Your success will thank you!

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