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“How do I make the ‘right’ career choice?”

danielscareers-rightchoiceOftentimes this question comes up in meetings with students who are exploring career options. In a perfect world, the answer would be “both.” However, due to a multitude of reasons, this might not always be the case. With influences from family, society and from within, you may be daunted by the idea of making the “right” choice about your career trajectory.

In cases where too much emphasis is placed on interest, candidates may be hindered by expectations about skill matching. Being interested in a job or company is not sufficient for being a good match for a position. Not only will candidates need to consider whether they have the appropriate education, training and experience to match job requirements, but also whether or not they possess the “soft skills” necessary to perform the job. Employers will be looking for all of the above.

Alternatively, without passion, motivation will not be longstanding and job performance will suffer. On average people spend 40+ hours per week at work so it would be plausible to assume that those hours would be more productive if folks are enjoying what they do and finding meaning in the work.

Finding Your Purpose

Values are going to play a large role in how you navigate through this dilemma. What is the purpose of work? How is it that you came to develop the meaning of work? Messages come in a variety of forms that influence what types of jobs people pursue and what they think they can or cannot do. Additionally, life events or an individual’s stage within his or her own career development can influence these ideals.

Fortunately, everyone defines career success differently so there won’t be one correct answer to this question. However, if you are finding yourself in a bind and having difficulty with your career decision-making, here are a few tips to follow:

Interest + Skills

If push comes to shove, shoot for a position that combines your area of interest and some innate skills. Everyone can work to develop different skills but it is unrealistic to aim for going from 0-100 overnight. Sometimes bills do not allow us the time to develop the skills we need for our dream job, but we can continue to work towards that end goal while simultaneously taking care of immediate needs.

Pursue Your Hobby

If you are working at a job for which you lack passion but have skill, you can always do what you love as a hobby or develop a part-time business on the side (at least to start).

Think Differently

Think of options. While there are more highly recommended ways of achieving certain goals, not everyone gets to the same result in the same way. Are you thinking creatively about different ways to achieve your goals? This skill will help you to be more resilient in times of frustration or disappointment.

Finally, if you find yourself struggling with making decisions about your career path, seek out the counsel of a career coach or another trusted individual who has your best interests in mind. Sometimes it helps to bounce ideas off of others in order to weigh out the pros and cons of potential choices.

Melena Postolowski facilitates career development and coaching for MBA and MS students, including job search strategy, résumé and cover letter writing, interview preparation and salary negotiation. Postolowski also works with companies to promote hiring of students, designs and manages student programs and events, facilitates career-management workshops and is the program lead for the Executive Mentor Program.

Update: Melena is no longer with Daniels.