The Ultimate Career Choice Guide (2021)
How do I make a career choice?
Making a career choice is a dynamic process that unfolds over a lifetime. Your values, personality characteristics, goals and preferences impact your decision. Choosing a career is a dance with self knowledge and making wise decisions. In this article I provide your with hands-on advice to make your career choice.
Making a good career choice is composed of four key elements:
- Knowing yourself
- Making an informed decision
- Taking action
- Being adaptable
You can use various career quizzes or career tests but you will also need to do some self discovery through reflection.
What to expect in this article
Know yourself. Increase your self knowledge to make a great career choice.
Reflective career exercises to increase your self knowledge:
“Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.”
― G.I. Gurdjieff
Figure out your future self.
The Documentary Question
- What would you want your parents, children, partner, friends, colleagues, customers and strangers to say?
- Write down the answers to these questions. Keep them somewhere for easy access.
The Tombstone Question
You need to use your imagination for this question.
- Imagine that you can travel to the future. About five hundred years.
- Archeologists are excavating grave sites and they come across your tombstone.
- What quote or motto do you want them to read on about the life you lived and what you stood for?
- Write down your answer.
What is your story?
- What would the chapters of your book be?
- What would your life story teach other people?
- What is the one thing that people should know about you from reading this book?
- What were some of the pain and struggles that you had to endure?
- How was your pain and struggles used to help others or make a better life for yourself?
- Now make a list of some of the words and themes that resonate with you. Write down your answers. They will come in handy later.
Journaling for career success
Do this journal exercise to reflect. This is inspired by the article becoming your desired future self. .
Write down your answers to these prompts:
- What are one to three things I could do today to make progress toward my future self?
- What stopped me from becoming my future self?
- How can I improve on this?
- What triggered me or brought me pain today?
- What did this pain reveal about something that I care deeply about?
- Write down the value that is behind the thing that you care deeply about.
I came across the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise listening to Adam Grant‘s highly recommended podcast. This tool uses the people in your life to increase your self knowledge, and it is simple: Email five people about when they experienced you at your best.
So, send a message (or email) to 5 people that know you very well. Ask them the following
- Look at your contact list and choose 5 people you feel comfortable sending a message or email to. Ideally people from the different spheres in your life.
- Ask them to write a story about a time you were at your best.
- Copy and paste all of their replies into one document.
- Look for patterns and themes. What themes do the different stories have in common?
- Make a list of these themes. Provide key examples of each theme and what strength you think it relates to?
- Use this information to write up a self portrait about yourself when you are at your best.
- Create an action plan for how you want to use your strengths.
Spotting themes and patterns.
- Look for word repetitions.
- Look at keywords that strongly resonate with you.
- Sort the repeating words, patterns or themes into relevant categories. See what personality traits, characteristics, values, strengths and weaknesses can be grouped together.
- Look for metaphors that describe the pattern.
Career choice tests
Using personality personality tests for career choices.
Here are some free personality tests:
Using AI to determine your personality:
- Navigate to this website. Click on ‘View demo’.
- On the next page connect your twitter account or copy and paste your own text from the journaling activities or any piece of writing you had to do.
- This will reveal Big Five personality traits.
- The more information you provide the more accurate the results become.
Values exercises for career choice
Values in Action Character strength:
Free values worksheet
Determining your interests for great career choices
Determine your Abilities to make career decisions
- Look at your school marks and see what subjects or what type of work you had a natural knack for.
- Do the activity RSB activity mentioned earlier. Email friends and colleagues ask them to share a story when you were at your best.
- Another indication is to reflect on the moments that you experience ‘flow’. Think of the moments in your life where you lose track of time. There will be something about this activity that you find engaging and keeps you in the zone. This might be an indication of a strength of yours.
Go for career counselling
Making an informed career choice.
- Having good information about careers.
- Making a good career decision.
To make a good career choice you need: 1) Good career information and 2) a process to make a good career decision.
How to get more information about the careers.
- Informational interviewing
- Visiting job sites
- Exploring your interest
Informational interviewing to make career decisions
- Research Career Fields and make a list of careers.
- Identify people to interview (see tips below)
- Prepare for the interview and make a list of questions.
- Initiate contact by email or phone. Emphasise you are looking for information and then ask for a convenient time.
- Conduct the interview in a professional manner. Be prepared and respect the person’s time.
- Follow up by sending a thank you note and keep in touch.
Tips to find someone for informational interviewing when exploring careers.
Using LinkedIn to get information about careers
LinkedIn is a social networking site that specifically focuses on social networking and career development. It is a great place to network, find opportunities, see what is out there and establish your brand.
Set up a profile and see if you can connect with anyone that is in the fields you are interested in. Set up an interview or alternative send them 4 to five questions about what you want to know about the career.
Using Community Groups to explore careers
Google some companies that specialise in the field that you want to go into. Ask them if they have any open days.
Find out if there is a representative you can contact.
You can also ask them if they have any job shadowing or internship opportunities available.
Research and explore the occupations on your list of careers
Look at trends
How to make good career choices.
What factors should I consider when making career choices?
Looking at this table. See what factors you might have not considered.
You can also use the career values activities discussed earlier to make a list of the career values that are the most important to you.
How to make informed career choices.
It is important to be aware of both these systems of thinking. My advice will be to wear both of these hats when working through your decisions. For this reason Steven Hayes advises to make decisions with your ‘whole self’.
Read on for some tips and tricks to use both your intuition (System 1) and your logic (System 2) to make a decision.
How to use your intuition to make a career choice
Take some time and don’t be in a rush. Reflect on each of the questions below and keep it abstract. Just for this exercise try to keep clear of System 2 thinking. Sit with these questions and allow it to be cultivated. (These prompts were adapted from this article):
- If this career choice was a song, what song would it be?
- If this career choice was a movie, what movie would it be?
- If this career choice was a famous story, what story would it be?
- If this career choice was a poem, what poem would it be?
- If this career choice was a bodily sensation, what sensation would it be?
- If this career choice was a memory, what memory would it be?
- Consider the choices and move your body in a way that fits each answer.
- Consider the choices and draw an abstract drawing for each.
- Consider the choices and think of each as an image.
- Consider the choices and allow a word to percolate up for each alternative.
How to use logic to make a career decision
- Use algorithms (rules / system) to make your decisions. This eliminates bias.
- Take the broad view, your decision is not in isolation.
- Test for regret.
- Seek good advice.
Create a system (algorithm) to make your choice
- Will you make the same decision now with this information next year?
- What are the factors that are currently affecting my decision? This can include emotions, people, even the weather. (See the list above of factors to consider)
- Now rate each decision or career option on a scale of one to 5.
- Now add up the scores for each career option.
- The option with the highest score wins.
- To avoid halo effects, you must collect the information on one dimension at a time, scoring each before you move on to the next one.
- Do not skip around this can create noise and bias.
Gain a broader view to help with your career choice.
Imagine you receive a letter from the future.
- What will your future self be grateful for?
- What quality of being did you cultivate in the next five years?
- What will your family or children be grateful for?
- What will your friends be grateful for?
- What will society be grateful for?
Test for regret and weigh up risks when making a career decision
Imagine it is 5 years into the future, and things did not go your way. It went horribly wrong.
- What went wrong?
- Write down your thoughts.
- Does the opportunity require the commitment?
- Can you accept the risk?
- Is there a contingency plan?
Take action in your career choice
Setting goals for in your career journey
The internet is saturated with goal setting advice. But what does research say works?
Here is my summary of the elements in goals setting that helps you achieve your goals:
- Align your goals with your values
- Write them down
- Make your goals vivid
- Plan for obstacles
- Review your goals
- Have a system to keep you accountable
Align your goals with values for your career
Write your goals down to achieve your career goals
Make your career goals vivid
A great technique to make your goals more vivid is the SMART goal setting technique. A SMART goal is a goal that is:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
Plan for action and obstacles to achieve your career goals
- Plan for action.
- Plan for obstacles
Plan for action to achieve your career goals
Plan for obstacles to achieve your career goals
Review your career goals
Have an accountability system to achieve your career goals
Career Adaptability and Resilience
Ways to enhance your career adaptability.
The 4 career adaptability resources
The following headings will elaborate on the 4 resources of career adaptability.
Career concern as an adaptability resource
Career control as an adaptability resource
This adaptability resource looks at how much responsibility you are taking for your career development. Do you feel responsible for developing yourself and shaping your environments to control your next step?
So if you have a lot of self-discipline, put in a lot of effort, and persist towards your career goals, then you will score high on career control.