Today’s professionals swap job titles like kids trading snacks at the lunch table, toggling between many companies, teams and industries throughout the course of their careers.
The upside to this trend is that as a young professional, you’ll have a lot of choice throughout your career. The downside is that not all choices are necessarily good, and having too many can be paralyzing. Here are 4 great questions to ask as you decide:
1) What are you good at, and what do you love?
You’ve probably heard the “follow your passion” line since the day you were born. The problem isn’t the idea of pursuing things you’re good at and that you love; it’s that your aspirations are too broad and difficult to act on. Think of your passions as a starting point. If you want to be the next Stephen King, break that passion down into writing and editing. Then do a “skills inventory” to determine just what else you bring to the table.
Your skills inventory could take the form of a checklist, a mock resume or interviews with friends, family members, mentors and former employers who can provide an outside perspective. You can then try to carefully match your skills and interests to job titles, narrowing in on those that are both best suited to you and have the best prospects for growth.
2) Are you promotion- or prevention-focused?
Feeling motivated is an essential aspect of job satisfaction. But causes for motivation vary widely from person to person. In general, there tend to be two main motivation types: promotion-focused and prevention-focused.
Promotion-focused professionals are classic creatives and entrepreneurs. They work quickly, seize new opportunities and think abstractly. The downside is that they can be impulsive, overly optimistic and are likely to make bigger mistakes.
Prevention-focused professionals are just the opposite, focused on maintaining the status quo and protecting all they’ve worked on. These professionals prefer planning, reliability, thoroughness and analytical thinking.
While we all need a little bit of promotion- and prevention-oriented thinking, it’s important to determine which way you lean before diving down a career path. A prevention-focused person, for example, would do far better as a developer in a major corporation than launching her own startup. A promotion-oriented person will likely feel suffocated in a traditional 9-to-5, thriving instead in a more creative environment with bigger risks and bigger rewards.
3) What is the best environment for your personality type?
For similar reasons, it’s often helpful to do even deeper personality tests. This will help you further pinpoint just what you need in your work environment to thrive. Particularly important is determining whether you’re more of an introvert or an extrovert, as the two personality types differ widely in their needs.
An introvert, for example, may be more attracted to a quieter research role, while an extrovert will thrive in a busy, loud sales office. Public speaking, amount of teamwork required and frequent contact with clients are also factors to consider.
4) What kind of lifestyle do you want?
Most jobs start off with at least a few years of hard labor at lower pay than you’d like. What’s more important is looking ahead at people well into a career track to determine whether the lifestyle they lead is desirable to you. Some factors you might want to consider include the amount of control they have over their own time, their salary and the amount of travel involved, among other factors.