Career Planning Begins with YOU

The best place to begin the process of choosing a career is with you! The better you know and understand yourself, the more likely you are to choose a career that is right for you. Begin with a careful look at who you are. What is important to you? What type of work will best fit your personality and learning styles? What jobs will best use your aptitudes and abilities? Which show your interests and attitudes toward work? What are your strengths and weaknesses in these areas?

Values, Goals, Interests, and Attitudes

The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to make the right career decision. Begin by identifying your values, goals, interests, and work attitudes.

Values. Becoming aware of your values is an important way to get to know yourself. Your values are the principles that you want to live by and the beliefs that really matter to you. Choosing a career that matches your values will make your work more enjoyable. Careers that fit your personal values are also likely to bring a sense of pride and self-fulfillment.  What personal responsibilities, such as a raising a child or caring for an elderly relative, do you have now or might you have in the future? What relationships are important to you? Do your goals include helping people or animals? Is achievement or recognition something you value? After identifying and prioritizing your personal values, you will probably find several career choices that offer a good fit. You can learn more about your values by clicking on Identifying Your Work Values at About Career Planning under the topic, Self-Assessment.

Goals. Your lifestyle goals are the way you want to spend your time, energy, and resources in the future. As you consider your desired lifestyle, think about what you want to do in life. What income do you hope to earn? Do you prefer to stay single or marry? Do you want children? How would you like to spend your free time? How would you like to spend your vacations? What interests and hobbies would you like to pursue? To what organizations do you want to belong? How much money do you really need to live comfortably?

Your goals also show the possessions you want to acquire and how you want to live.  What kind of place do you want to call home? Do you prefer to live in a house or in an apartment? Do you prefer city living, suburban living, or country living? Do you prefer to live in a certain area of the country? How do you want to decorate your home? What type of automobile do you want to drive? How do you want to dress? What recreational or hobby equipment would you like to own? As you research various career choices, consider whether each would make your desired lifestyle possible.

Interests.  In addition to recognizing your values and identifying your goals, pay attention to your interests when considering a career. Your interests are the things you enjoy doing. What school subjects have you found most interesting? What are your favorite activities? Do you prefer indoor or outdoor activities? Do you prefer to do things alone or with others? Would you prefer working at a desk, moving around, or some of both? Do you prefer to concentrate on one type of activity or a variety of activities? Would you prefer a job that allows you to work at home or to travel? Remember, if you love your work, it will hardly feel like work at all.

Identifying your interests can help you recognize whether you would prefer to work with data, people, or things. You prefer data if you enjoy working with information, ideas, facts, symbols, numbers, or statistics. A preference for working with people may also include working with animals. Working with things involves materials, instruments, tools, equipment, machinery, or vehicles. While most careers involve working with some combination of data, people and things, you will find that your best career choice is one in which you work often with the one you most prefer.

Another helpful way to discover your work interests is to take a formal interest survey. When you take an interest survey, you choose activities that appeal to you. The results match your interests with those of people who chose specific careers.  The result is a list of careers that might fit you. To learn more about careers that might fit your interests, try taking a free online career interest survey. The O*Net Interest Profiler will help you learn more about your work interests and make it easier to decide what kinds of careers you might want to pursue.

Attitudes. Your reasons for working and what you hope to do in a career show your attitudes toward work. Do you want a job that earns the respect of others? Do you receive satisfaction from doing a job well? Do you want  a better life for yourself and your family? Are you looking for personal satisfaction? Do you want to give something to the world? Can you even imagine life without work? Are you looking for work that will give you money and time to do the other things you enjoy? Do you expect work that is fun and adds to your happiness? Your reasons for working are important considerations when you choose a career.

Skills, Personality, and Learning Styles 

After identifying your values, goals, interests, and attitudes toward work, what else should you consider? The careers you consider may need certain skills, personalities, and learning styles. Your goal is to find a career that makes the most of the qualities you have.

Aptitudes and Abilities. Many jobs need skills like knowing how to learn, visualizing what you want to do, making decisions, and thinking creatively. Specific careers or jobs may need skills like playing a musical instrument, planning a lesson, driving a truck, designing a building, investigating a crime, or transplanting a heart. What types of skills do you learn easily? What job skills have you mastered? List your skills then ask people you trust to check the aptitudes and abilities you identified. What suggestions and questions do they have? Try to think of careers that need each of the skills you listed. Finding a realistic match for your aptitudes and abilities will make it easier for you to reach career success.

Personality and Learning Styles. As you consider potential careers, think about where you feel most comfortable and what brings out the best in you. How would you describe your personality? Make a list of words that you believe best describe your personality. Ask people you trust to check the words they believe best describe and to add other words that fit you. How might your personality influence your career choice? In which careers might these traits would be an advantage?

Psychologists, counselors, and human resources professionals use tests to identify an individual’s personality type. One well-respected test is the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which uses a series of yes-or-no questions to classify people as having one of 16 different personality types. Each personality type has its own characteristics, including strengths and weaknesses. You can learn more about these personality types using the MBTI: Myers Briggs Type Indicator on the About Career Planning website under the topic, Self-Assessment. Knowing your personality type can help you understand which careers might suit you best.

Your personal learning styles show your best approach for learning something new. You are more likely to do well in a career that uses your strongest learning styles. You can learn more by taking the Learning Styles Quiz on What styles of learning do you prefer? Which do you think is your main style of learning? Can you think of a career that would be especially suited to your personal styles of learning?  Being aware of everything that makes you who you are will be an advantage as you explore career choices.

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