Your career search beings with you. Career happiness is an elusive puzzle with countless moving pieces. Students often make the mistake of trying to tackle the huge task of choosing a career all at once. They select a major, not because of interest in the subject, but because this major is required for the job they think they want after graduation. While this is a winning strategy for some, many experts agree that a better approach to achieving career happiness is to break down the broad, “what will I do with my career?” question into smaller, more easily approachable parts. At Next Wave, we have identified six key questions that everyone should answer on the road toward career happiness:
1. What motivates me?
This question is as simple as it sounds, so don’t over think it. What are you excited about when you wake up? What do you look most forward to doing, besides sleeping, after class is over? While this question is a simple one, what isn’t always so simple is translating what motivates you into something that you could make money doing. Regardless, it is important to start here because professionals with the highest job satisfaction can distinctly indicate what it is about their job that motivates them. And, they frequently indicate interest in the field as the most important reason why they chose their profession.
2. What do I like to do?
Beyond what motivates you, what do you genuinely enjoy doing? If money was no object, what would you spend your time focusing on? Prior generations may lead you to believe that you aren’t supposed to enjoy your job. At Next Wave, we believe that enjoying what you do is of the utmost importance in choosing a career. Doing more of what you love each day is likely to keep you more engaged in your work and push you to work smarter, not harder, while also increasing your likelihood of being successful.
3. What do I want to continue doing in my next job?
While it is often easier to focus on what you didn’t enjoy about a previous job, we’ve found it is sometimes much harder for students to tell us what they did like. No matter where you’ve worked previously, even if unpaid, you’ve more than likely enjoyed some aspect of that job. Maybe you enjoyed your coworkers or your manager, the hours you worked, the location of the business, how much you were paid, etc. Regardless, being able to identify the specific aspects of your former job that you did enjoy, will help shape how you think about your next role.
4. What do I never want to do again?
Similarly, if you’ve hated doing particular tasks at work, you should develop a list of those tasks, too, so you avoid doing them again in the future. Realizing what you never want to do again is a valuable way to eliminate jobs where you know you run the risk of being unhappy. That said, please don’t confuse performance of difficult tasks, which often have tremendous value, with tasks you never want to do again. Jobs are not easy, even when you love them, so you have to be really thoughtful about separating responsibilities that were just difficult, from those you wish to never do again.
5. Where do I want to live?
Location, location, location. Students sometimes forget the impact that location can have on career happiness. Different industries often have a natural association with specific parts of the country. Wall Street is as synonymous with New York City as the Bay Area is with technology. If you want to work in film and TV production, it might be difficult for you to achieve that goal if you are living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Location is important because you have to live where the industry operates. That said, location also plays a personal role. If being close to family and friends is important to you, you must consider this when deciding where to work.
6. What are my weaknesses and how do I plan to improve upon them?
It is hard for most people, including senior executives, to objectively recognize their weaknesses. Mastering the career puzzle depends on your ability to clearly understand your development areas and tirelessly work toward improving them. Just because you aren’t good at something today, doesn’t mean you cannot make a career doing it in the future. What you will need to do is work at it. The best way to improve on weaknesses is acknowledge that they exist.