There are two paths to achieving “career clarity” — otherwise known as a crystal clear job target.
The first is through self-exploration. There are numerous online resources you can use to identify what you want in your next job — or your next career. The second is to enlist the assistance of a professional. You can hire a career coach to help you work through the process.
The Self-Help Route
The federal government has several excellent, free resources to help guide your research. These include:
The Occupational Outlook Handbook:
The OOH provides career information on job responsibilities, education and training, pay, and outlook for hundreds of occupations.
O*NET Online provides detailed descriptions of the world of work, including the daily aspects of a particular job and the qualifications and interests of the typical worker in that field.
My Next Move:
My Next Move is a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is an interactive tool for jobseekers to learn more about their career options. The website identifies tasks, skills, salary information, and more for over 900 different careers. It also integrates the O*NET Interest Profiler, which offers personalized career suggestions based on a person’s interests and level of work experience.
CareerOneStop Toolkit (Formerly America’s Career InfoNet)
The Toolkit is a “one stop shop” to find information about careers, training, skills, jobs, wages, state and local resources, and more.
You can also take a variety of online assessments and career inventories to discern your career path. Keep in mind, however, that these many not be scientifically valid. However, they may help remind you of areas of interest that could potentially lead you in a new career direction.
Getting Professional Help
If you want to go beyond your own research, consider engaging a professional to help you identify your career direction.
Career coaches (also sometimes referred to as “career counselors”) can help you assess your interests, skills, and values, investigate career options, and define a career path. Your career coach may use a variety of tools and methods to help guide you through the career exploration process. These can include career testing, guided assessments and exercises, and interviews.
Whether through self-exploration, professional assistance, or a combination of both, your goal is to create a profile of your ideal job.
Once you figure out 3-4 types of jobs you’re qualified to do, that you want to do, and that pay what you’re looking for (either now, or that you could get the experience to move up to that pay level within the next 12-24 months), then you can look and see who is hiring for those jobs (whether they are being advertised or not — many jobs in the $50,000+ range are not advertised; they are filled through recruiters or networking/direct contact).
Investing the time — and/or money — to achieve career clarity can pay off with a shorter job search, potentially higher starting salary, and satisfaction with deliberately choosing your career path, instead of hoping you stumble across the perfect job.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What are the most likely job titles for the position you want?
Describe your ideal employer. Size, culture, location, structure (public, private, family-owned, franchise, nonprofit, etc.)
Describe your ideal job – the position you would most like to have. Responsibilities, who you would report to, who would report to you. Would it involve travel? How much? What are your feelings about meetings (daily, weekly?) Do you want to work independently, as part of a team, or both? Do you like short-term projects or long-term projects?
What industry or job field are you considering?12What do you want your next job to do for you that your last job didn’t do? What do you want to be different about your next job?
What are the most important benefits — other than salary — that would prompt you to go to work for a new company?
SAMPLE IDEAL JOB DESCRIPTION
Job Title: Pharmaceutical Sales Representative or Medical Sales Representative
Industry: Healthcare Sales
Location: Omaha, NE (first choice) / Lincoln, NE (second choice) / Des Moines, IA (third choice)
Compensation: Annual salary from $65,000 to $75,000
Bonus of 5-15% of annual salary
Full health and dental benefits
One to two weeks vacation
Work Environment: Supportive district manager
Solid initial training; lots of continuing education
Opportunity to be rewarded for hard work and sales results
Future Growth: 3-5 years – Sr. Sales Representative
5-7 years – District Manager
Other Considerations: Up to 50% travel in region (gone no more than 3 nights in a row)