After that, most people take whatever job they can get, and then with the golden handcuffs of having experience in one field are reluctant to change careers.
Or the career searcher reads a career guide or sees a career counselor who administers some "tests," such as the Myers-Briggs or Strong Interest Inventory, both of which are notable for their lack of predictive validity.
Or a career counselor or self-help book helps you identify your abilities and interests and then a matching career. That approach often fails because:
- None of your abilities and interests stand out from the rest.
- You identify abilities but those apply to too many jobs, like "people skills."
- You identify an ability or interest that's unlikely to yield a decent living, for example, painting or singing.
- A career fits your abilities and interests but somehow feels wrong.
- You identify a career interest that is of interest to half the population: for example, the environment.
Step 1. Scan annotated lists of careers in such guides as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, or my book, Cool Careers for Dummies.
For even more under-the-radar but currently in-demand careers, go to indeed.com and search on a work-related skill you'd like to use in your work, for example, writing, analyzing, organizing, selling, or programming. Pick out the one, two, or three careers you find most intriguing.
Step 2. Google the name of that career and the word "careers," for example, "geologist careers." or "writing careers." Read a few articles that seem on-point.
Step 3. For any career that still seems interesting, search Amazon for a book on that career. In the best such books, each chapter is a different person's report on what it's like in that career.
Step 4. For any career that remains of interest, job shadow at least three (one or two might give unrepresentative perspectives) people in the field. Find them in the Yellow Pages, on the website of the profession's professional association, for example, The American Optometric Association, your alumni association, or simply ask your in-person or LinkedIn or Facebook network for referrals.
While you're job shadowing, ask questions such as, "What's your typical day like?" "What ends up being most important for success in this career?" "Why might someone leave this career?" and "What's the best way to get training so you're excellent in this career?"
Step 5. If a career still sounds good, choose it even if you're not 100 percent sure. Otherwise, you're likely to be waiting for Godot. Usually, career contentment comes only after you've entered the career and, like a great-looking suit, tailored and accessorized to fit you.
For example, career and life coaching fit me only moderately but I now love it, in large measure because I adapted it to fit me: I made nonnegotiable that I'd work from home and that I'd be a more active participant in sessions than is the typical counselor who mainly just listens. I also stayed committed to getting better and better rather than giving up after a couple of years of mediocre performance.