The following article was published in Inside Business, The Hampton Roads Business Journal on November 13, 2017.
EXPERT COLUMN: The Recipe for Finding the Right Career
By Tamara S. Raymond
So you’re a high-school or college student struggling with questions about what you want to do with your life. Your parents or guardians, friends, and adult mentors have advised you on good careers to go into, and now you’re even more confused. Their suggestions don’t make you smile, make your heart leap, or make you want to start working tomorrow. What you’ve heard makes you want to crawl back into bed under the posters of your favorite musicians and TV shows, never to face career questions again.
I completely understand where you’re coming from. As a teen, I was confused about the career path I would take. I have always loved helping people, but as I neared college age, relatives and others encouraged me to go into medicine, engineering, or accounting. All of these fields were far outside my areas of interest and talent.
My relatives’ career advice came from a good place—they wanted me to be financially secure—but their guidance was somewhat off the mark. Finding the right career is not about whether the career pays lots of money (although that is nice). No, the recipe for finding the right career for you is essentially made up of three ingredients: your passions, aptitudes, and taking action.
My book Careering: The Pocket Guide to Exploring Your Future Career shows you how to discover your passions and aptitudes—in addition to providing many other tips and career exercises—and how to put your discovery into action to help you land in the right career. I want this for you because I don’t want you to walk in my shoes: I spent years second-guessing myself in my pursuit of finding a career before figuring out the recipe to cooking up my own career bliss. Today I coach others to help them grow professionally and help students like you discover your career path. I’m helping from a genuine place—I’ve keyed into my passion—and I’m finally happy in my work.
Identify your passions and what you do well now, while you’re in high school or the early stages of college, and be ahead of the curve in the pursuit of a career.
How do you discover your talents and interests—and the right career? Through exploration. Careering shows you how to explore and to find your answers in interesting places . . .
Maybe you mow lawns in your neighborhood. You don’t enjoy the physical aspect of the work, but when you were signing up lawnmowing clients, did you like connecting with them—and did you sign up a good number of clients? If the answer is yes, that’s a sign that you may one day perform well in a sales-oriented career.
Consider this other example: One of your parents or guardians regularly enlists your help with home-improvement projects. Because they value your advice, they always ask for your thoughts on the best material to use for a project or where a new furnishing may fit best. In fact, they regularly act on your recommendations because your suggestions almost always turn out well. Additionally, you love helping with these projects and find the work easy. Both your enthusiasm for the work and the enthusiastic approval with which it is met are signs that a career in a design-related career may be in your future.
You can find clues to your passions and aptitudes at school: Look at the classes you enjoy and do well in. Perhaps you perform well in math and love doing equations. If this is you, maybe you’d enjoy a career in the sciences or math. If so, are you taking the toughest science and math classes, or are you coasting? If you’re not challenging yourself, now is the time to expand your skills and start looking for some tougher classes to enroll in next semester.
Don’t stop at classes. Learn more about your passions, talents, and possible careers by taking part in summer enrichment programs, after-school extracurricular activities, seasonal and entry-level jobs, and, if you are in college or trade school, internships.
As you journey through discovering what you’re best at and love to do, research careers that would take the most advantage of the skills and passions you bring to the table. Reach out to a business where someone is performing your dream job and find out if you can shadow them for a day. This is a great way to see if what you think you’re interested in doing may really be for you. It’s also a way to network with professionals who can give you advice and, possibly one day, a job. These professionals you meet along the way could also serve as good references for you later.
Like I said, don’t wait like I did to figure the career question out. If you’re serious about landing in the right career for you, the time to start careering is now.
Tamara S. Raymond is the founder and CEO of Innovative Management Consulting (www.imcleaders.com) and the author of Careering: The Pocket Guide to Exploring Your Future Career, her first book. You can find her on Facebook (Tamara S. Raymond) and Twitter (@TamaraSRaymond).