Read an Excerpt
Seek a True Calling
The students and graduates and job seekers we work with hope to find a career that allows them to direct their energies and passions toward their individual skills and talents. Denial of this desire can lead to frustration. Many people experience the Monday morning blues, that is, the feeling that "I can't believe I have to spend my time doing this, there has to be more to life." People we counsel consistently express the wish to find their true calling, or an ideal job that matches their skills and values.
What is an ideal job to you? What job would you find exciting? What moves you and gets you going in the morning? This is a job that resonates with your drives, values, and skills. An ideal job can also offer you the flexibility to have balance and security: your desired trade-offs between making a living and having time to pursue other dreams/ loves (i. e., gardening, writing, sports). This book focuses on a wide range of jobs for people who want to use their special capabilities and have a rewarding time doing so.
Your challenge is to identify the most meaningful match of career options to your talents and interests. This task is not as easy as it sounds. It is complicated by factors such as an obscure sense of self, a wide range of potential career opportunities, and a vague notion of what success means to you and to society as a whole. What can you do about this? How can you identify and understand the different elements that make you tick? How do you fit the "real" you to the "right" job? Doing so requires a range of actions, including reflection, assessment, exploration, and networking.
REFLECTION: THINK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES
Reflect on your experiences. Think back to significant jobs, projects, and activities in which you participated. Cover the full range of your experiences: occupational, community, academic, professional, and recreational. Pick out those experiences that really excited and energized you. Then try to identify the features of those experiences that gave you a sense of joy, vigor, and satisfaction. By reviewing these experiences for a sense of where your passions lie and what gives you drive, you can begin to integrate your feelings about these past experiences into your future career goals.
Build on this reflection. Think about an ideal work day. Ask yourself what kinds of activities would be most invigorating to you. Examples include going to meetings, talking on the telephone, researching information, analyzing data, selling a service or product, making presentations, leading teams, developing plans, strategizing on new products, organizing events, and so on. Also, think about the flip side. What kinds of activities would you find most boring and disagreeable?
There are many books and publications that delve more deeply into reflecting on your experiences and offer exercises to help you to identify your favorite skills and activities. Chapter 5, Resources to Assist Your Search, lists some of the best publications that we have found.
The key is to unlock your mind and allow yourself to visualize and feel the best of your experiences as a solid and meaningful base for making your career choices. During the course of your career, reflection can help you track your career interests and progress-- and proactively define the nature of work and kinds of positions you desire.
ASSESSMENT: ANALYZE YOUR INTERESTS
Most business schools and career development offices offer career assessment tests-- instruments-- that can help you to identify the skills you enjoy using and are good at, thereby helping you to clarify your vocational interests. Make use of them. These instruments are valuable tools for giving you a language to express your skills, interests, and work preferences. Examples of such instruments include the Strong Campbell Vocational Interest Inventory and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. These tests can give you some very useful insights about yourself; they can affirm your strengths and interests, and your preferences for work style and career choices. They are best used with the guidance of a qualified counselor who can administer and interpret them properly, and help you to recognize their limitations.
If your placement office offers these instruments, take advantage of this opportunity. Outside career consultants may charge $150 or more for these assessments, while career development offices usually administer them at cost. They have served our students very well and we recommend them highly.
EXPLORATION: SURVEY YOUR OPTIONS
Next, shift your attention from finding those things that move you to using that information to identify what career options best suit your skills, talents, and personality. Survey your options by reading the career profiles provided for you in this book. You can also read the books we have listed in Chapter 5 on resources, which provide more information on the specifics of particular areas. This step can help you to further eliminate from consideration obvious job or career mismatches and to narrow your range of choices.
By utilizing your reflection and assessment steps, you can better study and evaluate the career profiles to get a sense of which might be a good fit for you. This process provides you with a more realistic list of top career priorities based on real peoples' experiences in the field and on what those people believe contributed to their success. This particular step in the career process is crucial because it grounds your ideas about what you want to do in the reality of day-to-day experiences of people in the field. You will want to survey your leading options (i. e., go to corporate presentations, read the profiles provided in this book, and talk to students a year ahead of you who may have interned at a company of interest) before you network. You don't show up for a test without studying. The same holds true for surveying your options. You study the industry and then talk to people to be prepared to ask intelligent questions when networking.
NETWORKING: TEST YOUR PRIORITIES
The best way to test your career priorities is to talk to as many people in the field as you can about what they do. Find out what they like and don't like. Also, find out how each person chose a career and how that person developed or created that opportunity. What were their processes? Speak with people at different stages within their careers: new-comers, veterans, and those in between.
All too often we encounter students and job seekers who are well-read on their career priorities, but who have not talked with people employed in these fields. Remember that the map can be different from the territory. Networking provides an opportunity for you to find out about reality from people in the field. You can build confidence during your job search when you fully understand the day-to-day responsibilities of people already working in your desired career area.
When you have defined what you see as your best work options, you can then consider which associated quality of life factors you are seeking, for example, job security, financial rewards, free time, and family life. Finding one's true calling requires a balanced perspective. Some careers offer great financial rewards but limited job security. Some careers offer terrific professional satisfaction, but limited financial rewards. The key is to define success for yourself in broad terms, including both work and quality of life considerations.
Fortune magazine found that 75 percent of MBA candidates prioritized developing a career, 71 percent building a family, 51 percent their own personal development and growth, 23 percent spending time with close friends and relatives, 22 percent starting their own business, 19 percent exercise and fitness, 17 percent travel and leisure activities, 5 percent contributing to nonprofit organizations, 3 percent developing artistic and creative talents, and 2 percent to other (Fortune, April 4, 1997). This survey suggests that most MBAs are striving to balance their work and personal lives. To balance these considerations, you need to have a sense of what makes you tick and what makes you uniquely you-- your skills, interests, and work preferences and how they fit in with the culture of and skill sets required by a particular organization and job.
For you to get a reality check on how you fit into an organization, once again we stress the importance of networking. If you aren't networking, chances are you won't be working. The two go hand-in-hand.
By talking to people in your field of interest, you will be better able to obtain the information you need to make the best balanced decision. The path to your true calling and the search for your ideal job may include some risks, sacrifices, and unexpected turns, but with real world input from your contacts, you can construct a practical, long-range plan for reaching your goal.
This chapter has focused on your defining a true calling, a career described in terms of function (what to do) and sector (where to do it). A thoughtful, thorough process of ref lection, assessment, exploration, and networking can provide the drive and direction for the aggressive self-marketing campaign recommended in the next chapter.