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Whether you are starting a career fresh out of college or considering a change in career, the task can be trying. You may be asking yourself this “Where do I start when I don’t really know what I want to do?" Most people will either end up picking the highest paying job available to them, or whatever opportunities that come their way. The result may be a mismatched career choice or being disillusioned later in their career life. If you want to avoid these pitfalls, here are 5 simple steps which can help you create a thriving career.
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1. Know Yourself
This is probably the most important step towards making a career decision. Understanding your values, natural ability or talents, and behavioral style will allow you to figure out what careers will work for you and what may be inappropriate. There are plenty of assessment tools available in the market to help you understand these; the most common being Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which tells you how you perceive the world and make decisions. Unfortunately, it has limited insights into the application of these traits. A better option is to use a combination of assessment tools to get a holistic understanding of yourself. A suggestion is to use the Gallup StrengthsFinder to recognize your potential strengths, DISC to understand your personality or behavioral styles, and the InnerMetrix Values to appreciate what drives you.
You will also need to figure out your overall goal. What is it that you want your career to achieve for you? Make sure it is a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results in Time), and one which really resonates with you. If you’re making one based on what someone else wants, it will not be compelling for you; and you are unlikely to be inspired and motivated to get there.
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2. Explore Possibilities
Once you have a clear understanding of yourself and where you want to get to, you’ll need to identify the possible options open to you. Don’t limit yourself to what is already available in the market. Sometimes the career that works for you may be one which is currently not available in the market. Yes, this means you may have to create it. It will likely be tougher but it is still a possibility.
If you prefer to gain some employment experience or build up some capital first, you can consider a combination of employment followed by starting your own business. In which case, you need to make sure that the initial career choice is in line with your overall goal identified in Step 1. You may also need to revisit Step 1 to breakdown your goal into 1 or 2 short-term goals prior to the long-term goal.
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3. Acquire Relevant Skills and Knowledge
When you have determined the best option or path to take on, you will need to take stock of the competencies you currently have. List down all the skills, knowledge and experiences at your disposals. Try not to screen out any of them at this point because some of them may be indirectly required as you work through the exercise of matching competencies to objective.
Next, with reference to your overall goal, identify the areas of skills and knowledge that need to be acquired to support your goal. At this juncture, you will need to consciously refer back to your natural abilities or talents, and behavioral style to determine which are the best skills and knowledge to acquire. As an example, you love children and wants to open a child care center as your goal. Your passion is to nurture the kids, but the idea of managing the finances of a business does not interest you at all. While all businesses entail finances, that does not mean you need to develop the skill and knowledge to handle the accounts. You can hire or partner an accountant to manage this part of the business, so that you may develop the relevant skill set needed to take care of children. On the other hand, if you do not enjoy running a business entirely, then the phrasing of your goal may need to be adjusted since it is possible to work in an environment with kids without owning the business.
After you have completed this exercise, you should have a good list of development items.
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4. Practice to Create Strengths
Simply acquiring the skills and knowledge from the bucket list of improvement items will not guarantee a strength in these areas. You will need to practice and perfect them. As the number of development items may be long, you will first need to prioritize them. As you pick up each new skill, find opportunities to practice them. For example, if you want to work with kids, start practicing by baby-sitting your neighbor’s kids. Test out what you have learnt. Once you are satisfied with your performance, move on to the next item, learn it and practice. In the meantime, continue to practice the previous learned skills to keep it current. Only by putting skills and knowledge to talents or natural inclinations will you create a strength. Consider Tiger Woods; while he may be naturally gifted at golf, he only became the amazing golf player he is today through continuous practice at the game.
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5. Market Yourself
One of the toughest thing people face is marketing themselves. In fact, most are terrible at it because it feels like outright bragging but it does not have to be. Marketing is just a process of spreading awareness about a product or service to achieve a favorable perception in order to gain patronage from a targeted audience. So marketing yourself is just a way of letting others know a capability or strength you have that may be of value to others.
The best way to do this is to find opportunities to promote your strengths and capabilities. One way is to volunteer for a project or work (at existing employment or outside), or join a relevant society to showcase these capabilities. As you gain experiences and exposures, the acknowledgement of your capabilities from the community will be testimonials of your expertise. Inadvertently, your career will thrive.
About the Author: Tang Chun Hoe is a partner of Thrive Now Pte Ltd, a company dedicated to help people discover their potential strengths, behavioral styles and what motivates them. He also writes regularly on topics relating to personal development and self awareness. Visit their blog here: www.keystosuccess.sg