You and Your Career

Making a good career match means thinking about the people, the place, the position and, most importantly, YOU.
Jaideep Patel
Publisher, gradmalaysia

Confucius once said that if you choose a job that you love, then you will never have to work a day in your life. However, while that may sound ideal, there’s more to making a career fit than just liking the idea of a job or a career area!

Though it’s important to like the activities you’ll do, the people you’ll work with, the location, your position in the company, and how you want to use your skills are all factors that will influence your job satisfaction.

That being said, where do you start, and what do you start with as you begin your job search?

Start with yourself

You, as the job-seeker, are central to this entire exercise, so you need to be clear about your personal values, interests, personality, and skills. Spend a little time with your family, friends, lecturers, career advisers – in fact, anyone whom you feel is qualified – to help you do a little self-assessment in these different areas:

Your interests and pastimes

The interests and hobbies that you pursue in your leisure time can give you an insight into suitable career paths. Think about the things that you geek out about with friends or strangers, that you love reading or blogging about, or that excite you. Chances are, that's a good place to start building your career on.

In short, use your hobbies to help you figure out what would make you jump out of bed in the mornings, eager to go to work!

Your likes and dislikes

Next, making a list of your major likes and dislikes will help you decide what you want from your role – and what you don’t want. Would you prefer a job where you interact regularly with clients, or a desk-bound one where you can focus solely on the task at hand instead? Do you like crunching numbers, or would you prefer a job that lets you work with words instead?

Once you're done with that list, define the absolute essentials. What would you absolutely never want to do in your job, no matter how much anyone paid you? Inversely, what would you be more than happy to do, even if you had to do it for free?

Your personal values

Determine the factors that inspire your daily actions and decisions. Some people are motivated by something more concrete, like personal ambition or good old money (which is perfectly ok!). Others have a more altruistic drive, wanting to help others or fight for world peace.  

A job that supports your value system will motivate you more than a job that goes against it. For instance, if you’re passionate about environmental issues, it might not be that good an idea to apply for a job at...say...a big oil company.

Your skills

You can also pinpoint potential employment areas and opportunities by identifying the skills that you have and enjoy using. If you find that you are exceptionally good at dismantling and reassembling machines, then you may want to consider a more hands-on occupation – as an engineer or automotive expert, perhaps.

Don't just limit yourself to skills within your area of study! Think about “transferable” proficiencies that can be applied across multiple sectors of work – there isn’t an employer, for example, who doesn’t value good leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, and communication skills.

Your personality

Different jobs will suit different types of personalities, and having a better understanding of yours will enable you to make the right decisions. Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Are you able to work well under pressure, or do you prefer a less excitable environment?

While there are numerous personality tests that you can use to determine your character, it would also help to think about how you behave in a variety of real-life situations. If, for instance, you just don't have much success haggling with vendors at the night markets, you might want to rethink starting a career in purchasing.

Then, think about the job

You’ve probably thought about this aspect of job-hunting already. Still, maximise your chances of success by asking yourself some questions to home in on what you really want.

How would you use your strengths?

Imagine your strengths in the context of the job, and how you can use it to contribute to potential employers. If you are good at negotiating, then what sort of people would you like to negotiate with? Where? And to what end? In five years' time, would you like to be negotiating with contractors for a property development company, or getting the best deal on medical supplies for an international NGO?

Where would you like to live and work?

Where would you be happy perching your laptop – a closed-cubicle office, an open-plan work space, in a classroom, or outdoors? If you plan on working outside Singapore, would you like to be in a city, town, or in the country?

Find out also about the travel that could be involved in your career. If travel opportunities are available, are they for international secondments or projects abroad? Some jobs may require relocation, so you may want to ask yourself if you are up for it.

The people you’ll work with 

How well would you cope in a team full of hyper-competitive colleagues? Would you be able to put up with socialising with clients during evenings and weekends on a regular basis?

Your future colleagues, in particular, will heavily influence your happiness – a supportive line manager or an inspiring colleague could really make a difference. And it’s not just your immediate colleagues you have to think about; take into account also those from other departments and outside of the organisation.

What might get in your way?

This bit requires that you place yourself in the shoes of someone who’s already gotten the job, and then thinking about what your employers need from you. This may require some self-analysis. For instance:

"I’m a sociable person. Maybe I would succeed as a manager in hospitality? Wait... hospitality firms would prefer a candidate who can get strict with staff members to keep them in shape – which I’m not. Maybe I’m looking for a gentler role where I can work more on a one-to-one basis with people?"

The bottom line: thinking people make the best match

As well as getting the right fit for you, this focused reflection will give you an extra advantage. Employers love candidates who have thought carefully about what they want, why they want it, and how their skills and passions match the needs of the job.