Careers as a Career
I have spent the majority of my working adult life helping people with disabilities find a job. I started out working with adults who have cognitive disabilities. Cognitive disabilities affect how a person learns and processes information. Autism and Down’s syndrome are considered cognitive disabilities. I enjoyed the work so much that I decided to study Vocational Rehabilitation. The concept behind Vocational Rehabilitation is that work can be therapeutic; besides money, work is a social outlet and a chance to feel like a productive member of society. For many of the people I worked with, having a job was the best and brightest part of their day. They had co-workers who saw them as people, not just as a disability. Finding a dream job can be a soul-searching journey that can lead to wealth beyond money and satisfaction beyond the end of the workweek.
Why you want to work is as important as what you want to do for a career. If, for example, you are motivated by money, then working as a ticket taker may not be the answer to your dream job. For many people, money is the motivation. Not only do they need money to live, but they also have dreams, hobbies and desires that require a certain amount of cash. Other people are motivated by prestige. They may take a job as a minister, for example, in a small congregation. This job may not pay well, but a minister is usually looked upon in a positive light and their word is highly valued. Some others may value notoriety, or fame. They may pursue a career in acting, sports, or music. Maybe power is a motivating factor, and a job in politics is chosen. Another factor for choosing a career is the desire to help others. Some people truly do not feel fulfilled unless they can care for and assist others in need. These types of jobs can include the professions of doctors, nurses, or social workers. If you enjoy working with your hands, maybe you would like working as a carpenter, painter, or sculptor. Sometimes, there is a family business that you were born and raised to do and you naturally fall into that occupation. The reasons for choosing a career are as varied as the careers out there!
Finding What Motivates You
So, when looking for your dream career, the first thing to do is find out what truly motivates you? Be honest with yourself; if you are motivated by money, then that is fine! It’s more important to be honest then to worry about what others think about your personal feelings. If you aren’t so much interested in money as you are with, for example, working with animals, then working with animals is your motivation. What do you do if you have more than one motivation? Combine the two motivations! For example, if you really want to help those cats and dogs but want the money to support your sailing habit, then you would look for a job that can provide both, such as a veterinarian. Sometimes, you need to decide which of the two factors motivate you more. If working with animals is more important then having a great deal of money, then maybe working as a dog groomer or in a pet store is what will work for you. Motivation is very personal. It may take a lot of time and deep thought to admit to yourself what you want out of a job or career.
How Much Commitment
Once you have honestly asked yourself what motivates you, it’s time to determine how much it motivates you. In the example I gave before, I used a veterinarian. The person who is choosing to be a veterinarian is motivated by money and helping animals. If they are not motivated enough to go to school for such a long length of time, however, then being a veterinarian may not be the right choice. How much commitment and passion you are willing to put into a career is also important. For some people, a job is just a job. For some, a job is a passion, and they are willing to put in the time and dedication into their education and their career. Keep in mind, also, that working towards your dream job may require putting in time at a similar job. For example, if you want to work as a supervisor in an assembly plant, you may have to learn all the machines on the job before stepping into a higher role. It all depends on the type of work and the workplace.
After thinking long and hard about motivation and commitment, also take a look at what you like to do. Do you like being around other people? Do you like working alone? Do you like working inside? Do you need to be outdoors? Not everyone is cut out for the 9 to 5 office job. Interest inventories can help you to narrow down what you like and don’t like by using a scale to rate how much you enjoy certain activities. One example of an interest inventory is the Self Directed Search. It is available for free online and has a list of job duties and a choice between liking and disliking each task. It rates each task and determines which type of career may be for you. It is important to remember that interest inventories give you a snapshot of your interests at the time you take the test. If you were to take the test again in a few months to a year, your answers may be different. However, interest inventories can help you to narrow down your choices from thousands to a select few.
What Jobs Fit My Motivation, Commitment Level and Likes?
Once you have narrowed down what motivates you, how much of a commitment you are willing to make, and what interests you, it is time to research those jobs. The internet is a fantastic resource. One of the best sites is O*NET. O*NET provides information on:
- Jobs Titles – O*NET has thousands of jobs and related jobs
- Job Description – what is involved with certain jobs
- Tasks – this is basically a more detailed description that tells what is involved with a specific job
- Tools and Technology – the type of equipment needed to perform job tasks. A computer would be an example of this.
- Knowledge – what you need to know to do your dream job.
- Skills – what you develop in order to perform a job. Examples are the capacity to manage time effectively or convey thoughts in writing.
- Abilities – describes qualities a person already has developed and that are long lasting. Examples are the ability to see details or understand what you are reading.
- Work Activities – tasks performed on multiple jobs, not just to the specific job that is being researched. Some work activities include supervising others or using word processing programs.
- Work Context – what physical labor is involved and who is it involved with. Do you need to lift heavy objects or talk with people over the phone? Work context answers those types of questions.
- Job Zone – this section provides similar jobs and what type of training or education is required.
- Interests – just as it sounds, this section describes the inclinations of those who are interested in each particular line of work.
- Work styles – what personality traits are needed to perform the job. An example would be how much stress you can tolerate.
- Work values – this looks at what provides fulfillment on the job. For example, how much do you value the support of others at work?
- Wages and Employment Trends – this section provides information on the average amount of money a person can expect to earn in each particular field. It also tells you if the job you want to pursue will have openings in the future or if it will be obsolete.
- Education – there is also another section that lists how much education was completed by people who already work in each occupation.
O*NET is a great resource. It really allows you to thoroughly research a job and gives you similar jobs. It goes deeper into what is involved and does not just paint a rosy picture. If you have to put in 4 years of education in order to get a job that is expected to have little to no job growth, is it worth it to you?
It Looks Good on Paper
Like all things, a job may look good on paper, but may not be what you expect when you are finally working. Making contact with professionals in your chosen area is a fantastic way to learn about what really happens. Informational interviews, where you contact 1 or more people in a certain profession and ask questions about their jobs. If you are too shy or uncomfortable to do an informational interview (it’s hard, believe me!) then try and research jobs on the internet by looking at blogs or other honest posts. A site like O*NET provides facts, but does not provide opinions!
Job searching is soul searching. If you plan on working full time for 50 years, you want to be able to like what you do and feel a sense of accomplishment. Being honest with yourself, having facts and the opinions of a few professionals in your chosen area will give you a good foundation with which to build a dream career. With an increased level of connectedness online and an increasing rate of innovation, few of us will be able to do any job for our whole career, so staying well connected and bridging together multiple disciplines will be key strategies to help ensure a long and prosperous career.