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What job is right for me?

By Dave Marine

What job is right for me? It is, without fail, the question that I'm most asked by people when I tell them that I work for a careers-advice website. So, from now on, I'm going refer everybody to this article!

1. What job do you want to do?

I know that’s pushing the question back at you but it’s the biggest consideration you have to make. What do you want to do? What do you want to achieve? What do you want to get out of life?

Me, for example, I always knew that I wanted to be a writer but I always thought I’d end up writing best-selling screenplays or prize-winning novels. Maybe someday soon, I will. But in the meantime, I found I had a knack for being a good listener (or at least, pretending that I was a good listener) and that I was half decent at problem solving. Writing articles for a careers-advice website makes sense to me at this time of my life. It’s not something I’ll do forever but for now, I like it.

So back to you. Do you have a yearning to be an actor? Go join an amateur dramatics group and see if you're any good at it. If you stink but you still want to be an actor, stick with it. Same with being a writer. Go, write something. Want to work with animals? Start walking your grandma’s dogs (or somebody else’s grandma’s dogs) and if the little mutts don’t bite your balls off, you might be on to a winner.

What I'm saying is, if you think you want to try your hand at a certain profession, dip your toe in the water first and give it a go. See how you get on. It might sound simplistic but it’s better than doing nothing. Plus it has the added bonus of not compromising your day job if you have one already. You don’t have to give up work and you’ll still be able to pay the rent. Small steps.

This applies to whatever you want to do, no matter how hard or far away it might seem. If you’ve just watched an episode of CSI and decide you want to become a forensic scientist, read up on what you’d need to do to become one. If that’s too overwhelming, join a discussion group on the web about how accurate CSI actually is in the first place. You’ll learn the lingo, meet like-minded people and get a grounding in the subject which will stand you in good stead if you ever decide to take a formal course in Forensic Science.

2. Careers Assessment Tools

Maybe you don’t know what you really want to do. You're a unique and lovely individual with loads to offer the world, you just don’t know which bits to offer. Sound like you? Hey, take a careers assessment.

In the old days, careers assessments used to involve spending a few hours or even a few days in a windowless room filling in green-coloured forms and answering anodyne questions like:

“I sometimes talk to myself”: Agree Strongly, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Disagree Strongly, Neither Agree nor Disagree.

With a pencil.

Luckily, the internet means that we can now fill in equally long forms if we like or go for shorter versions. If you think you could do with getting some analysis of your career check out a book called ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ by a chap called Marcus Buckingham. When you buy the book you’ll get a serial number which gives you a free careers assessment at StrengthsFinder.com. If it’s a personality test you're after, try Keirsey.com which, for me at any rate, was very insightful.

3. Evolution vs. Revolution

On closer inspection of your dreams and motivations you might decide that you're actually already in a job that you quite like but you wish it did just a little more for you. The question then is, should you stick with it and see how it goes or should you think about quitting and starting work somewhere else?

I-resign.com users regularly tell us that the 6 biggest things they want in a job are:

That last bullet point particularly is germane to this article. Can the job you're in give you the opportunity to fulfil yourself? Can your role evolve from webmaster to TV producer via the advent of video over the internet? Can you use the knowledge you’ve gained as a salesperson to design your company’s new line of products? Is it possible for you to expand your role to get into new areas closer to the thing you really want to do?

Again, the answer has to be, give it a shot! Do some exploring. Talk to your boss or HR department. This is what appraisals are meant for. And if there’s definitely no chance of ever satisfying your career goals in your present firm, think about making the move to an organisation that CAN give you what you're looking for.

4. Contract vs. Permanent

I-resign.com has a separate article on contract vs. permanent jobs but it’s useful to outline this topic here. It doesn’t so much answer the question of “What job is right for me?” but suggests 2 different WAYS of working that might be right for you.

Contract Work

You may find yourself in the happy position of not needing to work full-time to earn enough to live on. Equally, you may have decided that you really want to have a good go at starting your own underwear business or that you’d like to do a part-time course in Marine Biology but that you still need to pay your mortgage and look after your kids.

If this is the case and you’ve acquired skills that are attractive to many different employers, you may like to consider leaving your permanent position and taking a contract job.

Contracting can be great fun. You get paid as much or more than you earned as a permanent employee, you meet a whole bunch of new people every few months, you can do your 9 to 5 and not worry about the job when you get home, you can choose not to work at certain times of the year (particularly useful if you want to hang out with your children at holidays) and, finally, you can enjoy the various tax benefits available to you (assuming that you work for more than one employer and you start a limited company).

Permanent Work

Being an employee gives you a level of security and stability that you may never have if you're a contractor. For a start, you probably won’t need to look for a new job every few months (unless you’re really bad at holding even a perm job down), you’ll get to build long-term relationships with your boss and your colleagues and moreover, if one of them leaves you may be in a position to take over their responsibilities. In other words, get a promotion! And, as outlined above, it may be that you can evolve your role so that you end up doing what you really want do.

The main drawback of course is time. It might take an eon to get your job to the place you want it to get to (but again, you could always quit and move to a company where you can get on the fast track). And if you did ever want to start your own underwear business you’ll need to work hard in your non day-job hours.

Conclusion

Ultimately, you’ve gotta make stuff happen. And that’s not just me saying this. Look at every successful businessperson or politician or sportsman or indeed, anyone you admire and examine what they did. In short, they made stuff happen. Richard Branson started his Virgin empire with a single record shop in London’s Oxford Street. Nelson Mandela was a lawyer before he became an anti-apartheid revolutionary. Bjorn Borg won Wimbledon 5 times in row before he did in fact start his own underwear business.

I know, I know, it’s tough and you come home from work and you're knackered and you just want to eat a takeaway and collapse in front of the TV. You don’t have the energy or the time to commit to just “making stuff happen”.

You could always wait for the New Year and add finding the right job for you as a resolution to keep (this time). Alternatively, and whatever the limitations, just have a think about what you really want to do and if you can, start exploring how you can get there. I’m sure there’s a Buddhist saying somewhere about every journey starting with just one step…

Oh, there is. Good luck and let me know how you get on.