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Finding Your Career Direction

August 24, 2012 by Dr. Jon Warner in Career Management

Finding Your Career Direction

People choose occupations and career paths for many reasons, such as challenge, money, location, family expectations, desire to serve others, learn skills, and others. The assumption is that one of the most important motivations for choosing a career is a desire for work that is interesting and satisfying and that will permit the use of your preferences and competencies and will entail relatively little use of things you do not enjoy doing or involve skills that are relatively weak. No occupation ever provides a perfect match of course, but knowledge of your innate preferences and strengths can help you to avoid major mismatches, understand sources of work-related stress, and help you find appropriate niches for yourself (particularly if you find yourself in the wrong job).

For many people, some “clues” about who they are and what they might prefer to do may be starting to become a little clearer in terms of a future job role or even a long-term career. These might be positive clues about tasks you like, or less positive clues about tasks you know you dislike. For example, perhaps you are a creative thinker in a specialty that requires a lot of attention to detail and gives little opportunity for finding creative solutions. Maybe you are a “people person” but never get the opportunity to help people directly. Perhaps you are an introvert and never get the chance to think alone or an extravert in a job with little human contact. You may be idyllically happy in your job or you may have found yourself in a largely unsuitable specialty but have found a niche that allows you to use your strengths. If you are at the stage of deciding which career path to follow, some idea about who you are and where your key strengths lie will be invaluable – not only for matching your personality and personal preferences to jobs but also for understanding your strengths and weaknesses.

It cannot be said too often that generating ideas, gathering information, networking, and careful decision-making are essential ingredients of effective career development, but different individuals are better at different stages of this process. Introverts may find networking with others very difficult, while extraverts may rush into things without giving themselves time to think. Factual types may make decisions based on the here and now, forgetting to look ahead, while more intuitive types may be so concerned with future possibilities that they forget to consider practical things like travelling and living arrangements.

Two Critical Factors in Making Career Choices

Whether you’re a new entrant to the world of work or a mature adult looking for the best possible onward career path, there are two foundational factors that have a major role to play in your choices (and the enjoyment that you are likely to gain from the job that you do). These are your personality temperament or style (or what is often described to be “who you are as a person”) and your skills or competencies (or what is often described to be “what you have learned to do relatively well”). The more that we can better understand both of these factors, the more informed our career choices can be.

Many people want as much help as they can get to find out which job or career is a “best match” for them. Although it is impossible to be definitive about this (as people can potentially do many jobs in different ways and with different approaches) it is possible to assess yourself and think about the type of work that will be most suitable for your unique background, traits, needs and wants.

Typically an effective self-assessment of personality and preferences is best broken down into the following areas:

  • Personality
  • Personal Style and Interests
  • Work Attitudes and Values

One way in which to go about assessing the above factors (at least initially) is to reflect upon broad questions such as:

  1. Who am I? What words describe me best? How do others see me? What are my strengths?
  2. What style of working do I prefer – both when I lead others or when I am led?
  3. What values are important to me? What are my strongest attitudes towards work and people?

While these will all provide a good start, many individuals will want to go deeper than this and try to identify a number of personality-based factors that will reveal style, preferences, attitudes and values a little more clearly. One of the best ways in which this can be done is to take a personality or style-type assessment. There are many of these available and if well chosen, can be very helpful in revealing quite insightful information about any individual (and even surprise the person taking the assessment).

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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