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5 Action Steps to Help Make Excellent Career Decisions

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Career decision-making is an important aspect of career choice and career development. Possible limited learning experiences, levels of career maturity, career, and self-knowledge mediate the career decision-making process. Recognizing that vocational or career choice is influenced by career maturity, the extent to which one demonstrates knowledge of self, and understanding of the pursued career, it becomes imperative to investigate how these factors shape the career decision-making process. Choosing a career path illustrates the manner and extent to which a person is involved and committed to designing, styling, and creating his or her world.

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Career development research by John Holland and Donald Super can be distilled to the four keys of what Career Vision calls “Career Literacy”: readiness, fit, support, and self-knowledge. These four elements work together to yield more informed career decisions.

Readiness is indicated by learning the skills needed to plan, gather information, evaluate it against established criteria, and make decisions.

A “good fit” is the degree of alignment between a person’s abilities and the performance requirements and work environment of a job. A good fit contributes to job satisfaction and performance, which is why it is so important.

Choosing a career path illustrates the manner and extent to which a person is involved and committed to designing, styling, and creating his or her world.Click To Tweet

Supports for career development include family, friends, and possibly managers, people who are interested and encouraging as a student or adult navigates the career exploration and decision-making process. This process is repeated throughout an individual’s life since career decision-making is actually a series of choices over one’s lifespan.

While each of these is important, accurate self-knowledge is fundamental. Career decisions are easier and of better quality, if we can reflect on the answers to the questions: Who am I? How am I like others? How am I different? How am I special?

The following five areas provide excellent information that leads to increasing your self-knowledge and provides the solid foundation upon which to make career – and life – choices.

1. Goals: What do I want?

To develop your goals, use these questions as a starting point: What do I want out of life? What do I want to achieve? What kind of life do I envision for myself? What kind of contribution or difference do I want to make? The best goals are written and follow the SMARTER formula: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound, evaluate, and re-evaluate. The last two criteria allow for tracking and follow-up as well as adjustments as time goes on.

 2. Aptitudes: What are my strengths?

The best word to describe aptitudes is potential. They reveal the potential of a person to acquire the skills required to perform different tasks competently. Aptitudes are objectively measured innate or natural talents. Your aptitudes stabilize around the age of 14 and remain relatively stable across the lifespan. They provide good insight into the type of tasks and learning or performance environments that support success and satisfaction.

Most individuals have an aptitude profile with aptitudes in a combination of the low, mid, and high ranges. Being strong in every aptitude can be a challenge in finding work that is rich and interdisciplinary enough to use so many strengths. Your career, job, learning and work environments, and other activities in life should allow you to use your aptitudes. With this information, you can choose a career direction where the time spent in education and training will have the greatest payoff in skill development, that is, in the areas where you have the greatest potential.

Choosing a career path illustrates the manner and extent to which a person is involved and committed to designing, styling, and creating his or her world.Click To Tweet

3. Interests: What do I like? What don’t I like?

Discovering what you are interested in is also discovering what is motivating to you. Some people are interested in practically everything, while others are very focused on their interests. It is important to identify what you like or don’t like, whether tasks, activities, subject matter, types of people, or occupations. Knowing your interests can lead you to the careers and educational possibilities that may be most meaningful for you. Since defining interests is related to exposure, students may not always know the full range of their interests because they have limited life experience.

4. Personality Style: How do I think, feel and behave?

Your unique personality is expressed through permanent traits and characteristic response patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Personality is important to consider relative to career decisions because jobs and work environments may be a better or worse fit for different people based on personality. Some personality characteristics include extraversion and introversion, tough-mindedness, sensitivity, independence, self-control, and openness to change. Understanding personality style also leads to understanding performance environments and company cultures.

5. Values: What is important to me?

Values are the standards or criteria by which we evaluate the importance of things or activities. Examples of work values include achievement, independence, recognition, relationships, support from managers and company policies, and working conditions. Values serve as a compass to keep us focused on what is most important, and assist in making good decisions.

All of the above components of self-knowledge are important; decisions should not be based on just one of the above components. Information from each of the five areas gives a more holistic and complete understanding of who you are. The diagram below shows how the intersection of your goals, aptitudes, interests, values, and personality converge to create what we call your “Sweet Spot”. The careers that match up with your Sweet Spot offer the most promise for you. This rich information about yourself becomes a great starting point for beginning to identify jobs, careers, and work environments where you can do your best work and make your unique contribution.

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This comprehensive careers handbook is packed with ideas and inspiration to set you on the right career path. Tailor made to suit your individual strengths and interests, you’ll work out where you want to go and the exact route to take.

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