How to Choose a Career

 Part II

Last month we asked the question of how a person can use his Gd-given abilities to fill the needs of the marketplace and generate income.

Identifying where your strengths lie is the critical first step in choosing a career that you will succeed at and enjoy.

Some people are very much in tune with their strengths, while others have no idea what their strengths are. We might say that there are three types of people in this regard:

  1. People who are good at many different things;

2.       People who are good at one specific thing;

3.       People who are not aware of anything they are good at,

Each of these types of people has a different challenge when it comes to choosing a career.

If you aregood at many different things:

Your challenge is to develop one specific area, rather than become a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Just as a doctor has to choose which field of medicine to specialize in, a person who has many talents has to choose one area in which to focus his career.

Having a specific focus and becoming exceptional at a particular occupation is often the key to earning more money. People will come to you, and will pay you more money, if they believe that you provide a better product or service than others in your field.  For example, an online forum for Jewish writers hosted a discussion about rates for translating from Hebrew to English. Some translators wrote that they earned only a pittance – $0.02 to $0.05 per word – while others wrote that they charged $0.10 to $0.15 per word. The higher-paid translators were earning, on average, FIVE TIMES MORE than the lower-paid translators. These higher rates reflected greater skill and experience, which made the higher-paid translators more in demand and made their clients willing to pay a whole lot more for their services.

If you are good at and enjoy many types of work, which area should you focus on? The one that has the highest value in the workforce, which is typically the one that differentiates you the most and makes you the most scarce. Try to choose an area that is in line with your value system and lifestyle and that will be sustainable in the future as you age and your family dynamics change.

If you already have a specific passion or career focus:

Your challenge is to determine whether this area is really something that fits you and the lifestyle you want to lead. Make sure your passion is in touch with reality and that your focus is actually something you can do. Every little boy wants to be a fireman, a police officer, or a pilot, but most people eventually discard those dreams in favor of something more suited to them. But if you really want to be a pilot and you’ve considered the training, the travel, and the time away from family, and you still believe it’s right for you, then go for it! If you’re not sure whether your passion is real or superficial, you need to do some careful introspection and speak to people in that field to determine if this is the right direction for you.

If you are not aware of anything you are good at:

If you’re not interested in any particular type of work, or you have no idea what you might be good at, then you probably have the biggest challenge of all. Fear not, however – this challenge, too, can be overcome. But it will take serious effort.

There are several types of exercises that can be helpful.

In our technological era, introspection has gone the way of the dinosaur. People nowadays hate being alone with themselves and analyzing their own strengths and weaknesses. When choosing a career or looking for a way to increase your income, there is no choice but to find a quiet spot where you can be alone with me, myself and I. Consider: What are my strengths? What are my interests? In what ways am I unlike other people? What types of things do others ask me for help with? Take a pen and paper and jot down your positive qualities and some of your negative qualities. List your interests, your hobbies, and the types of things you like doing. This is the first step.

The second is to get objective feedback from others who know you well and whom you trust. Interview them about yourself: What do you consider my strengths and weaknesses? Where do you see me succeeding? What do you think is unique or unusual about me?

Once you have input from yourself and from others about what your strengths and interests are, piece together the information to create a picture of what type of work you might be good at. You will likely find that you are good at one or more of the following:

  • People skills
  • Facts and figures
  • Creativity
  • Physical prowess

While jumping from job to job or career to career looks terrible on your resume, experience sure is a good teacher. After trying your hand at various tasks or jobs, you won’t have to guess what you might be good at – you’ll be able to review your successes and failures and determine which skills you can uniquely offer, which strengths you enjoy using, and where you can realize the greatest return on your efforts.