How To Find A Job That Is A Good 'Fit'

hair stylistIt's the core question for most workers: What career should I pick?

If you're looking for quick-and-dirty, try the Department of Labor's Skills Profiler. It inventories your skills and suggests matching careers.

Alas, even the best skill and interest career assessments are far from perfect. Even worse are personality "tests" such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Despite its popularity, it has poor validity, reliability and utility. In my opinion, it's not much more valid than a horoscope.

Fact is, finding a career remains more of an art than a science. Here is how I practice that art.

Before our first session, I have my clients complete a probing new-client questionnaire. Here are 11 of the items:
  • Is there a product, service, or aspect of society that makes you so unhappy you'd like to do something about it?
  • What are non-negotiables in your career?
  • List your life's three favorite completed projects or accomplishments. Not only did they turn out well, you enjoyed the process of completing the work.
  • Which one or two of these are you: a) word person, b) math/science person, c) people person, d) artistic person, e) fix-it, build-it person, f) paperwork details person.
  • What career does your family think you should pursue?
  • At work, what do you enjoyably spend time on?
  • What's an unusual, even weird interest(s) of yours?
  • Do you know a wealthy, well-connected, eminent, or highly skilled person who could open an interesting career door for you?

Review the brief profiles of 500 careers in my book, Cool Careers for Dummies. Any appeal?

Here are two dozen professions that many people find rewarding. Mark any that appeal.
If you didn't care what anyone thought, what is your most deeply held aspiration?

In light of my clients' answers, I ask lots of follow-up questions, carefully listening to their answers, watching for nonverbal reactions, and then I play "games" with them. You might try them on yourself:

The Optometry Game: Optometrists ask, "Better lens 1 or 2" and keep doing that until both seem equal and you feel stupid for being unable to tell. Similarly, I keep offering pairs of careers that I select in light of the questionnaire responses and my follow-up questions: Better Career 1 or 2?"

If the client says or implies s/he needs to know more about a career before deciding, I offer a 30-second thumbnail of the career's non-obvious essentials. If I can't, I google it.

The Meter Game: After a client rates two careers as equal or it's clear there's one s/he likes better than all others, I ask, "What does that career score on The Meter, with 0 equals terrible, 10 equals terrific?" Then I ask, "What keeps it from being a 10?" That helps me suggest a career that addresses their concern. I keep suggesting careers until the client gives a career at least a 9.

The Lawyer Game: If a client appears undecided between two careers, I say, "I'll make the best argument I can for why you should choose Career 1. Then I'll give the best argument I can for why you should choose Career 2. Then you be the judge and decide, giving the reasons for your decision.

The Vegas Game: After we've agreed that one or more careers deserve exploration after the session, I ask, "Imagine we're in Vegas and could bet on whether you'd actually explore that career. Should we bet the house on you? If not, why not? That usually unearths objections to the career and/or psychological blocks that need be addressed. We keep revising the plan and addressing any psychological issues until the client agrees it's a solid bet.

A final caveat: People who end up loving their career often wouldn't have predicted that when they chose it. So don't wait to choose a career until one bowls you over. Identify one, two, or three careers using the method above. Learn more about it by googling to find articles and videos about it. Finally, do an informational interview and job shadow.
Then pick a career and get great training for it. You'll likely grow more fond of the career as you get more competent, choose a niche within the career, and tailor the job to suit your strengths and preferences. As in romance, it may take time to fall in love with a career.

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