Career Options

Exploring Your Options: 2 Tools for Choosing a Career

If you’ve ever attended college or vocational school, chances are, you had the opportunity to visit with a career or guidance counselor to help you choose the career path that fits your interests, skills, personality and ambition.


In this process, you discover that there are more career paths, opportunities and directions you can go than you’d ever imagined. Career advisers will tell you to look at your hobbies and interests for clues into what you should pursue as a career track. For example, maybe you like to write – you could be a teacher, a journalist, a public relations specialist. Within that career track, you can drill down further to specific jobs like a graduate professor in medieval literature, investigative reporter for an international news agency or a non-profit fundraising manager.


There are a lot of options out there, making it tricky to find the career path that’s right for you. Here are two tools you can use to explore your career options on your own.


1. Research online.
Whether or not you’ve had the opportunity for career counseling, websites like MyPlan.com are a great way to find information on different careers. Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career, recommends this one as a great resource.

There, you can sign up for a free account and search over 900 job descriptions. You can also sign up to take a free career values assessment or purchase a full career assessment package. The site also offers salary data and descriptions of college majors along with related careers. They have resources for everyone from middle schoolers to adults looking for a career change.


2. Talk to an expert.

Another great idea when you want information about career options is to talk to someone you know who works in the area you are interested in. If you don’t know anyone, ask around. Chances are, your friends, parents, co-workers or classmates will know someone who works in your desired field. Make an appointment to visit them on the job, or meet someplace for lunch to chat with them openly about what they do, the pros and cons of the career, and what they would recommend for someone wanting to start out in that field. Not only will this give you insightful information, it will help you begin to build your network in the field.


When you’re considering your career options, you’ll make the best choices if you’re informed about all the possibilities. You’ll also increase your chance of finding a job you love by considering all your options.


What have you done to learn about different career options? Have you ever had anyone help you decide for or against a career path?

What Makes a Job Great?

Everyone is motivated by different things. That’s why the perfect job for your best friend or next door neighbor might not be the right job for you.

Have you ever sat down and really evaluated what makes you happiest (or unhappiest) at work? Many people just assume money is the only factor to consider when taking a new job, but in fact, good compensation alone will rarely make people love their jobs.

In order to find a job that’s a perfect fit for your strengths, personality and values, you must first know what you’re looking for. Take a moment to think about what would really provide you the most satisfaction at work.

Television Shapes Our Career Paths

TV and CareersWhen I was young I knew what my parents did for a living. My father was a petroleum geologist and my mother was a teacher. I never grew up thinking that I would follow in their career footsteps. It’s not that I wasn’t proud of what they did. I think a big part of not wanting to follow in their footsteps is that television shaped my future career aspirations. There weren’t any shows about people who found oil and gas reserves and “Welcome Back, Kotter” was my only teacher-influenced television program.

The world of TV got my wheels turning as I thought about my future career path. Through television, I was introduced to more than characters and storylines. I learned about different jobs and that, for the most part, my TV role models had jobs they loved and were passionate about. Here are the top eight TV shows that had a strong effect on my career path:

  • Bewitched – The world of advertising never looked better to me.
  • Happy Days – Mr. Cunningham ran a hardware store and Fonzie had an auto repair shop. I could relate to those jobs since my father took me to the hardware store in his car that was constantly in the shop in the early 1980s.
  • The Brady Bunch – Mike’s study (man cave) was huge, and he made architecture look exciting.
  • Adam-12 and Barney Miller – Law enforcement careers were presented in two very different formats. Regardless, I wanted nothing to do with potentially getting shot.
  • WKRP in Cincinnati – I learned all about the radio: sales, programming, on-air talent, weather and promotions.
  • Emergency! – I got a good look at what goes on in the daily lives of the fire department and hospital work, and everyday life-and-happenings.
  • The Love Boat – I discovered that I could be a captain, doctor, cruise director or bartender and never get sea sick.

That was 30 years ago. Today, children have a much more diverse group of television role models.

  • Bob the Builder introduces kids to the field of construction and teaches them important lessons along the way.
  • SpongeBob Squarepants is the world’s best food-service worker. His boss, Mr. Crabs is an entrepreneurial restaurateur.
  • Hannah Montana is a rock star, and her father is a songwriter and her manager.
    The father on Cory in the House is the personal chef to the president of the United States.
  • Kim Possible’s mom is a brain surgeon and her dad is a rocket scientist.
    Each episode of Higglytown Heroes educates kids on a different career.
  • The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is a comedy about identical twins living at the Tipton Hotel with their single mother who is a lounge singer at the hotel.

Bewitched had the biggest influence on my future career – Darrin Stevens was in advertising. I’m a professional communicator, but my wife is definitely not a witch like Samantha.

Based on what my older daughter watches, she’ll never leave high school since she’s hooked on High School Musical.

I’m more concerned about my four-year old daughter. She has high expectations, and I hope reality sets in soon. When she grows up, she wants to be the yellow Power Ranger, and serve on the Justice League.

Did the TV you watched as a child impact your future career choice? Does it have an impact on your kids?

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

What do You Want to be When You Grow up?This past weekend, my oldest daughter operated a lemonade stand and started a dog-walking business. She also asked me to take her to the local children’s hospital so she could collect the broken toys, repair them and return them anonymously. That’s pretty ambitious for a nine-year-old.

She wasn’t interested in getting paid – she just wanted a job.

Sunday evening, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. As she’s gotten older, her answers to that question have changed. This time, when I asked her, I wasn’t really surprised with her response. She wants to be a large-animal veterinarian who specializes in horses – during the week. On the weekend, she wants to be a paleontologist. And as a hobby she wants to be an artist (in her free time).

I know that the careers she chose are also linked to her interests. We have three dogs, a cat and two guinea pigs, so we go to the vet frequently. She loves riding horses, so becoming a large-animal vet made sense. My oldest daughter is also in to rock and fossil collecting. She has quite a collection that she keeps in her room next to her dinosaur books. Her love for art comes naturally to her. She’s not the best artist in her third-grade class, but she certainly is the most passionate.

Career awareness begins as early as elementary school. The attributes you develop as a child are carried with you into adulthood. So, if you’re searching for your dream job, exploring what interests you now and what’s interested you in the past can help you find the right career path.

Are you a social butterfly? You might be well-suited for a career as a lawyer, teacher, sales rep, receptionist, concierge or restaurant manager.

Do you love the outdoors? You might have a future in landscape architecture, commercial fishing, archeology or forestry.

Are you a protector? What about a career as a police officer, firefighter, security guard or building inspector?

Do you like art? You could be a clothing designer, graphic artist, architect, cartoonist or floral decorator.

Are you good with your hands? You might excel as a machinist, automotive technician, welder, farmer, chef or pianist.

Do you like to help? Consider a career as a personal trainer, nurse, childcare worker, counselor or social worker.

Are numbers your thing? A love of math could open the door to a career as an accountant, engineer, software designer or astronaut.

Did you know early on what you wanted to be when you grew up? Are you still searching for your dream job? What do your kids aspire to be? I’m interested in hearing.

Baby Boomers Keep On Truckin’ in New Careers

baby boomers jobsBaby Boomers are shaking things up again. While they may not be protesting in the streets or picketing outside schools, their influence is still redefining cultural expectations.

An article in this week’s Newsweek magazine focuses on Boomers who are choosing unexpected career paths. According to the article, an increasing number of the 50+ crowd are saying goodbye to corporate jobs to seek the freedom of the open road as truck drivers. Data in a 2005 study for the American Trucking Association showed that from 2000 to 2004, the number of truckers age 55 to 65 and older increased by about four percent.

As a personal example, over dinner last week, my architect father-in-law told my husband and me that he’d like to drive a truck when he retires in two years. He’s driven Chevy and Dodge trucks for years, so I guess it wouldn’t be such a stretch for him to be out on the road in a big rig.

The Boomer generation is sometimes referred to as the first workaholics and is often associated with aggressively climbing the corporate ladder to get ahead. But, it seems after a lifetime of structure, org charts and board meetings, many Boomers are ready for some freedom.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, what are your career plans for the next five or 10 years? Could you see yourself traveling the country as a truck driver?  Even if you’re not a Boomer, does a desire for a change of scenery tempt you to leave your current job?

Plan to Change the Plan – Career Surprises Reward the Flexible

Some people have a clear plan, a timeline with goals and strategies, to get where they want in their careers. They’ve laid out how they’re going to get there in a year, or 5 years or ten years and are moving forward in that direction. These are the type of people that more spur-of-the-moment people, like myself, often admire. We look at their spreadsheets and to-do lists and wonder how they got it all figured out.

At the same time, there’s something to be said for flexibility and going where life takes you. While I’m not saying it’s a good idea to have zero career plans, I am wondering about the value of having a more liquid idea of the future.

Instead of focusing on a particular job or career path, I generally think about my strengths and what I’m most passionate about. I don’t have a concrete 5- or 10-year plan, but I do plan to be using my strengths in a field that I’m excited about. This type of plan may not sound as impressive, but it’s worked out pretty well for me so far. It also seems to have worked out for Eric Nakagawa.

On the USA Today blog, Small Business Connection, blogger Jim Hopkins posts about how former software developer Eric Nakagawa became an “accidental entrepreneur” when he posted a humorous picture on his website of an overweight cat.

That picture became the catalyst for the “I Can Has Cheezburger” blog, a site featuring photos of animals with comedic captions. The site now garners about 200,000 visitors a day and thousands of advertising dollars. It’s unlikely that Nakagawa had a five year plan that included: “Start successful blog featuring cat photos and bad grammar.” Being flexible when there’s a fork in the career road gave Nakagawa the opportunity to do something he probably never planned for.

Do you have a 5, 10 or even 20 year career plan? Or, are you taking things one day at a time? If you have a plan, have things turned out the way you expected? If you don’t have long-term plans, how has that affected your career?

Does Your Job Have Staying Power?

Bug breeder. Road kill collector. Catfish noodler. Alpaca shearer.

Those are a few of the positions Mike Rowe lists on his résumé. Rowe is host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, a show that exposes people to all kinds of jobs that they don’t necessarily see in the classified ads each week.

If you asked 100 elementary school children what they wanted to be when they grow up, I’d bet no one would mention any of the jobs that Rowe has tried out on his show. But doctor, teacher, politician and artist would probably rank high on the list.

Those four also showed up on list of occupations that will “stand the test of time,” according to CareerBuilder.com. Also included on the list of professions there will always be a need for:

Barber
Construction worker
Farmer
Law enforcement officer
Mortician
Religious leader
Scientist
Soldier
Tax collector
Waste disposal manager

Can you think of other jobs that are necessary and will still be relevant in the future? What about your job?

I love my career, however I’m not sure my position will be around in 50 years. But then again, I probably won’t either.