Choosing a career path is a major decision. Even if a person changes their career three times in their lifetime, a job is a place that you spend a lot of time, with far-reaching consequences in your life, and you want to choose wisely. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before embarking on your new career.
What is Important to You?
What are you good at?- Take a chunk of time, say half an hour, to brainstorm the things that are important to you, that you are passionate about, that get you excited.
A good way to identify your passions is to think about what you do when you are wasting time. What are the enjoyable activities that you default to when you are trying to avoid something unpleasant? Identify your particular skills. Ask for input from the people who know you best to provide a bit of perspective.
Come up with a good list and then take a look at it. Try to come up with ways that these things can make you some money. Do you love to write? Perhaps you could work for a newspaper, or write for TV, or work for a blog. Do you love to bake? Perhaps you could open your own bakery. This leads into the second question.
Do you Want to Work for Yourself or for Someone Else?
This is a very important question that should be carefully considered. Many people think that they want to work for themselves but do not realize what that means: no built-in health benefits, no retirement package, no set schedule that someone else keeps for you. Not everyone is built for that kind of a job. Think critically about what conditions you work best under. Do you need to have someone telling you what to do in order to get anything done? Being your own boss probably isn’t the best idea for you then.
What Kind of a Work Environment do you Want?
This requires you to know a bit about yourself. Do you like to be around people all the time or are you perfectly happy to sit by yourself in a corner and work away? Do you mind being alone all the time? Do you need to have lots of big open windows letting in a ton of natural light, or are you just as happy working in a dank and dim basement office? Do you want to commute to work or would you rather walk? Will you travel for work? Do you want to work in a corporate office, or a smaller firm?
What do you Want out of Your Career?
What are your career goals? Some people are fine with just getting a paycheck from their job. Some people need their job to be exciting and fulfilling. Are you looking for money, prestige, satisfaction, challenge? If you’re looking for something that is challenging and satisfying, you probably do not want to jump on the first dead boring but spectacularly paid job that comes along. If you are only in it for the paycheck, though, that might be exactly what you want to do.
If You are Considering a Job, Why are You Considering It?
Are the reasons in line with your priorities that you laid out in question four? Are you considering going into Med school because your parents always dreamed that you would be a doctor, even though you can’t stand the sight of blood and the thought of all those long hours makes you feel nauseous? This is a bad choice. You need to make sure that your reasons for considering a particular career are in line with what is going to make you happy.
What is Your Work Style?
Related to work environment, your work style involves things like whether or not you like to work to a deadline and how well you deal with stress. If deadlines are your thing and you thrive under pressure, seeking out a high pressure corporate job may be just the ticket for you. But if you prefer flexibility and freedom, you are going to have to look somewhere else. Know your work style, know how you work best, and know what the career you are considering entails. You may think you know exactly what the job is, but once you research it, you may realize that you were wrong the whole time.
The most important thing about choosing a career is to make sure that you are choosing it for you. You are the one who is going to have to go to that job day in and day out, not your parents, not your girlfriend, not your friends, not society at large. Make your choice based on what is going to work for you, free from outside expectations, and you will have made a good decision.
Lena Paul is a Medical School graduate who is an enthusiastic blogger and holds an editorial position in Prepgenie, a test prep provider that offers PCAT sample questions and PCAT preparation to the students.