Career Decision Making Tips for College Graduates 

Career decision-making is a complex and lifelong process. Statistics indicate that the average worker will change careers five to seven times in their lifetime. In today’s fluid and rapidly changing workplace, those statistics are expected to increase over time. Hence, the best career decisions are informed career decisions. Being informed means entering into a process of self-assessment (looking at yourself) and career exploration (researching careers) to find the best match.

Many career professionals view career decision-making as similar to putting together pieces of a puzzle to form a clear picture of what those pieces represent. Many also agree that the primary puzzle pieces in the career process are your interests, personality, values, and skills. Each piece needs to be explored carefully and thoroughly on its own, and then looked at in terms of its interrelationship with the other pieces in forming a picture that is clear and understandable, such as a picture of “who you are” in terms of your career aspirations.

Here are four considerations of career decision making that college graduates should pay attention to.  

Interests 

Interests are those activities in which you like to spend most of your time and from which you gain pleasure. John Holland, a famous career theorist, believed that all of us fall into one or more of six broad interest areas: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. He also believed that all work environments could be classified into the same six areas. So if you can identify your interest areas, you can readily identify work environments (and careers) that might match. The Strong Interest Inventory, a formal career assessment based on Holland’s work, is a valid and reliable tool that can help you make this match. 

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Personality 

Personality is the specific way in which you think and act, that makes it very complex. One aspect of personality is what’s called your “clarity of preferences,” or your tendency to be one way or the other. Research showed that personality is very closely connected to career choice, as people of certain personality types are attracted to certain types of careers.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a formal career assessment, is another valid and reliable tool in the self-assessment process. With the MBTI there are sixteen different personality types. Each type is considered to be good as they are simply different. By taking the assessment you will find out your type, and thus the clarity of your preferences. You will then discover what kinds of careers your type is attracted to. 

Values 

Values are the principles or standards that drive your decisions, actions and behaviours. It is the ideals that guide and give meaning to your life and work. We all have a specific set of core values that serve as our “compass” in our personal and professional lives.

A career consultant, Ed Hallenbeck, has developed “values inventory.” It is a list of common values; some of which might resonate with you. The values inventory can be found as a separate career handout. It will help you identify values that are important to you, and thus characteristics that are important to you in careers and work environments. 

Skills 

Skills are the abilities we use to produce results in the things we do and the things we believe we do well. These things (or skills) come from a variety of sources including, but not limited to: natural ability and aptitudes, formal education, training/professional development, work experiences, volunteer service and leisure activities.

Your skills can be “technical”, such as management, accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, engineering or teaching. They also could be “soft” skills like time management, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, multi-tasking or working well in groups.

Skills can also be classified into motivated and unmotivated. Motivated skills are those things we do well, and we truly enjoy doing. Unmotivated skills are those things we do well, but really have no interest in doing.

In this area, Ed Hallenbeck developed a “motivated skills inventory.” It is a list of common skills. The motivated skills inventory can be found as a separate career handout. It will help you identify those things in which you have confidence in doing (and enjoy doing). By having an inventory of your motivated skills, you can then identify careers where those skills are both needed and valued.

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