As you prepare for your career, you will go through the process of career selection. For some, this is a detailed exercise in career planning, involving testing, counseling and experiential learning. Yet for most, career selection is typically based on aligning your job search with the type of jobs that are available based on your education and experience. Lack of actual career planning is why so many people end up switching careers multiple times over the course of their work life. Most people plan their vacations more thoroughly than they plan their careers.
However, it doesn't have to be that way. Take the time to carefully plan your career. You can do this through careful analysis by combining research and testing in these four key areas:
- Aptitudes - is the job/career in alignment with your aptitudes? This doesn't necessarily mean your level of smartness or your IQ. There are a lot of people who are very smart who do not have the aptitude to be a doctor or engineer or artist. You can overcome some level of lack of aptitude through education and ongoing learning. However, it is always best to align your aptitudes with a potential career. Think about the remark: "S/he is a natural at that job." Find that "natural" ability in you. That natural ability centers around your core aptitude(s).
- Personality - is the job/career in alignment with your personality? The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is the best known test aligning personality types (16 types by the MBTI measurement) with specific careers.
- Interests - is the job/career in alignment with your interests? The Strong Interest Inventory is the classic test to help determine how your interests align with various careers.
- Values - is the job/career in alignment with your values? For example, if you don't want to work in the petroleum or chemical industries, you may need to rethink making Chemical Engineering your major (since that is where most jobs reside for that major).
With most career tests, the results can go in two different directions: 1) the results can point you to careers that align with you based on the test results; and 2) the results can validate whether a specific chosen career is in alignment. In both cases, do not consider the test results to be the final say on who you are and what you are capable of doing in your career. The test results are merely a directional indicator. You should review the test results along with career exploration to determine the best path for you personally and individually in your career. In addition, a qualified career counselor can assist you in interpreting the results and making the best use of the options available to you. Career counselors are generally available at colleges and universities (where their services are either free or at a relatively low cost as part of the student fees), as well as in private practice (where they are not free). In addition, many colleges and universities offer services through the alumni office, so best to check there first for potential assistance.
In the end, you need to take personal ownership of the decision on your career selection and direction. Take the input from many sources, make your decision, then remain flexible throughout your career to make adjustments and changes based on both the job market demands and your career and personal needs.