When caught under the pressure of deciding what your next career move should be, when struggling with the fear of not finding a job or of disappointing someone, you often forget that your needs and aspirations are what you must keep in consideration before making any important changes in your professional life.
Here we’re suggesting three questions you can use as a starting point to figure out what career move you may want to make next.
- What do I like to do?
As idealistic as it may sound, asking yourself what makes you feel satisfied is imperative considering that your job typically takes up the largest slice of your daily life. While we’re aware that no job is perfect, we should still make a genuine attempt at finding a good fit for us. To do so, you should first consider what you enjoy doing, possibly (though not exclusively) based on your studies and field(s) of expertise, but also on your priorities (e.g., family, money). Second, it’s important to reflect on the ways you spend free time. These activities can usually offer an unfiltered insight into what you truly enjoy doing. While not all pastimes can be “translated” into jobs, they can all unveil traits of your personality that could guide your decisions. Lastly, you should also look back at past experiences (not necessarily work-related) which have made you feel accomplished: these too could help decide what direction you should take.
2. What am I able to do?
To counterbalance the idealistic nature of the first question, the second, more practical question to ask yourself is what skills you have. If you’re considering changing jobs and you’re targeting a specific position, try to answer this question keeping in mind what skillset is needed to succeed in that job, and if what you have to offer matches that skillset. This is a helpful exercise: sometimes you idealize a job without having considered if you’re really cut out for it. Realizing that you are not can be harsh, but it’ll prevent you from making the wrong move and wasting resources on something that may not be worth it.
Even if you’re not targeting any specific job or don’t have a precise idea of what to do next, assessing your skills is very important. It allows you to narrow down options thus making your search more focused.
3. What are the pros and cons?
This third question is about the pros and cons of the career move you’re considering making. Irrespective of what your next move may be, jotting down the positive and negative aspects of what you’re currently doing and of what you’re contemplating doing next can guide your decision. Compiling lists is always a good method to organize thoughts and evaluate options. If coming up with a well-organized list, ask the opinion of people who have observed you in different settings. They’ll help you recall in which circumstances you were satisfied and/or frustrated, and you can use this to draw a clearer distinction between the pros and cons of what you’re currently doing and you’re contemplating doing next.
Asking yourself these three questions will help you figure out your next step, be it getting a job or taking a gap-year, resigning or asking for a raise, sticking to your field or adventuring on a new path. It all starts by looking for answers that are already inside you.
This article was written by Alex Cherici.
Alex Cherici is a PhD candidate in Chinese Linguistics at Indiana University. She’s currently writing her dissertation and teaching undergraduate courses. Before resuming her academic studies, she has worked as a language teacher and school manager for eight years.