Before jumping into job boards and networking events, you’ll need to figure out the right career path for you. Otherwise, you might end up in a job that’s the wrong fit.
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Whether you’re a new graduate, considering a career change or in the midst of a job search, it’s easy to get excited by all the job opportunities out there. It’s also easy to get overwhelmed. Where do you start looking for the right job if you don’t even know what the right job for you might be?
Numerous guides and life coaches can help you “find your passion and realize your potential.” But if you don’t have the money or time to invest in these resources, you can still make progress on your own. Start by asking yourself these three questions, which will help increase your self-awareness, narrow your job search and evaluate your opportunities.
For each question, ask yourself what you like doing and what you’re good at doing. Know that one answer is not necessarily better than the other, and sometimes you have the option to choose both (more on that below).
You don’t even need to have previous work experience to answer these questions—think about what you enjoyed as a child, which extracurricular activities you participated in high school or college and what you could see yourself doing. And remember, just because you’re great at something doesn’t mean it should determine your career path. If you don’t enjoy something, it’s not the right fit for you.
1. Do you prefer to strategize or implement?
There’s a difference between designing a strategy and actually implementing it. As a strategist, you look at the big picture and analyze data to make decisions and advise on solutions.
As an implementer, you take that strategy and figure out all the tasks and timeline necessary to fulfill the vision, then execute those tasks. Some people love creating strategies and don’t mind staying out of the actual implementation. Others struggle to design strategies but are skilled at taking someone else’s strategy and making it a reality.
An example of a strategizer would be a consultant, while an implementer would be an engineer.
2. Are you a seller or builder?
Were you great at selling lemonade as a kid, but horrible at making it? Do you love creating and building your vision, but have a hard time communicating it to others?
Many jobs fall on different sides of the “building or selling” spectrum. As a builder, you create a product or run an organization, from the vision to the day-to-day operations. As a seller, you communicate and sell that vision, product or organization to others, from written materials to sales and business development. Sellers may not be as involved in creating the product they sell.
An example of a builder would be a project or product manager, while a seller would be a marketing or salesperson.
3. Is an internal- or external-facing position better for you?
Within an organization, your position may be more internal-facing, meaning your main contacts and interactions are within your organization’s staff. You may work closely with other employees to build a product or communicate messages within the organization.
There are also external-facing positions, which mean you work with outside partners, customers or media. You’ll likely work with your users or partners to sell your organization or product.
An example of an internal-facing role would be a data analyst, while an external-facing role would be an HR recruiter.
Now for the bonus question: Can the best job for you combine any of the above skills?
As you may have guessed, these roles run on a spectrum. And you can absolutely combine each or all of these options!
You could be a strategizer who likes to sell internally—which means you should look for a role where you get to create a strategy for communicating or selling a product, but you don’t work directly with media or prospective customers to do the actual selling. Or, you could be an implementer who likes to build externally—which means you should look for a product manager role where you work with engineers to create a product and work with users to better understand their needs in order to improve it.
If you find you answered “both” to all of the questions above—for example, you like to strategize and implement—look for a startup or small collaborative organization. Because of the nature of these companies, you may be required to both strategize and implement, build and sell, and work internally and externally.
Now, read the questions again.
Are you afraid of any of the roles above? Are you attracted to being a builder but fear you’ll fail? Or do you often choose internal roles, then regret that you aren’t more external-facing? Be honest with yourself and figure out what’s holding you back. It’s important to take time to become more aware of what drives you to be a great employee so you can truly love your work.