How Do I Know Which Career Is Right for Me?

“How do I know which career is right for me?”, “How do I know the company is a fit?”  These are questions that probably everyone will come across at some point in their career. Finding the right position, career and company is not easy and most people will have to switch positions and companies more than once before ending up in a place where they feel fulfilled. This article, by case coach Adi, will help you get clear on when you are starting a job for the wrong reasons and how to make the right decision about your career in 3 steps.

Why do so many people around the world look forward to the weekend? Clearly, what we must be doing Monday to Friday is not creating the impact we desire for ourselves and the people around us. If you thoroughly enjoy what you do, work becomes life and life becomes work. There is little struggle to wake up in the morning. But for many people, this is not the case, unfortunately. This is not too surprising because finding a career that fulfills you is easier said than done!

The problem is that many people jump into a job for the wrong reasons without looking at the situation with enough attention and making sure it is the right thing for them. Misery is unavoidable in this case. Some typical reasons which most people get wrong are as follows:

1.1 Peer Pressure and Social Pressure

“Most of my school, university or work friends are joining company X or industry Y. So, it must be great for me, too!“ or “My family and friends have great expectations of me, and I must fulfill their desires.”

I hope you can see the problem with these reasons, whether you consider them individually or all together. They are not your desired but someone else’s! You are making decisions driven by external pressures which will probably not satisfy you in the long run.

1.2 Lifestyle and Salary

“If I get this job in this location, I can afford all the materialistic things and live an elevated lifestyle just like they show in the movies and television series.” Or “I must make as much money as I can as this is going to make me happy. I deserve it!”

If this or the above reason genuinely are your true desires, that is great. But be honest with yourself. Do you really think that it is worth it to follow a career that doesn’t really intrinsically motivate you just for the money? You are making decisions driven by external pressures.

1.3 Reputation and Brand Image

“Firm X has a great reputation and if I somehow clock 2-3 years, it will open great doors for me in future.” or “Firm X has a great brand image, and a million people would die to work for them. It will make finding a job in the future easier as my CV will be very strong.”

With this reasoning, you are making your career decision solely based on where you want to get in the future. Are you sure that this future scenario will really happen or that it is really what you want? You cannot change the past, nor can you predict the future. All you have is the present moment and the ability to create a future by doing the things that truly matter to you now.

When trying to make the right career choice, it all starts with asking yourself two questions:

  • Given I will be investing 90,000 hours of my life at work, what should I invest this time in, to make it worthwhile for me and the people around me?
  • Do I do what I want to do (e.g., start my own business)? Or should I do what is most needed using my skills and talent (e.g., work in Consulting or Investment Banking)?

Some people do land in the right company, job, and career very early – the sweet spot. Most of us must try a few different things before we land in that sweet spot. So, taking risk is part of the game.

2.1 Finding the Sweet Spot for Your Career in Three Steps

First, approach this as a marathon and not a sprint. This is a journey, so pace yourself. If your friends are getting promoted every two years, it does not mean a thing for you. You can learn from them and get inspired but stick to your own plan and believe in it. Do not live their life. Live your own life.

2.2 Use These Questions to Find Out If the Company Is a Good Fit for You

Before you say Yes to a job, answer the following key fit questions:

1. Do I have the right aptitude/skills to offer to the firm?

Through school, college, internships, and work experience you pick up skills such as leadership, project management, coding, communications, writing etc. Some of these skills come naturally to you and you enjoy them. Some do not and you need training. Not every skill will inspire you or will give you the motivation. So, make sure you understand which skills you are good at, or which skills inspire you that you can learn through training. If these are what the firm expects, then it is a match. Otherwise not.

2. Do my values align with the firm’s (culture, leadership, ways of working, reputation, etc)?

Every firm has a certain culture that is unique to it. Simply, culture is the way things are done in the firm and how employees (including leaders) behave. This culture drives values and how the firm handles outside business transactions. If you do not find this culture and values attractive, then stay away from that firm.

For example, you may be a quiet and shy person and feel pressure to “show off” or be extroverted in the new job, you may not be inspired by the industry the firm operates in for example Defence or Tobacco or the way their leaders come across. Start-ups have a culture and values of their own, which may not work for someone who has worked in traditional industries and believes in structure and hierarchy.

3. Is the role a good fit with my career aspirations at least in the short to mid-term?

Whatever your career aspirations are (e.g., working in consulting or investment banking or learning IT Transformation etc.) the role at hand must fit with those aspirations. One way to gauge this by what responsibility you will be given. You learn only when you are given the responsibility to create something worthwhile. Without a tangible impact on you and people around you (colleagues, clients, family, friends, etc.) there is no growth.

4. Will this job allow me to give my best and be happier?

Cultivate the attitude of giving your best in every activity you engage in. If your heart is not into something, you will never give your best. You can give your best when your worries and anxieties are at bay. If you worry about your boss, too much commuting time, expectations from you, poor work-life balance then focussing on giving your best becomes a challenge.

5. Are any underlying risks of taking this job manageable?

Nothing in life is without risk. For the job you are considering, make sure you anticipate and plan for some risks. For example, is there a risk of the company folding in 6-12 months, or is there a risk the role will not exist in 6 months?

2.3 Do Your Research

 In addition to the interview process, you must do your research to find the information and evidence you need to answer the above questions.

1. Use freely available social media sources

Use sources such as Glassdoor, LinkedIn and Google reviews, FT, CNBC, Economist, Ted Talks, Bloomberg, and Annual Reports to get an idea of what former and current employees, experts and industry commentators are saying about your target firm. You want to pick up any red flags on share price, investments, leaderships changes, lawsuits etc.

2. Join networking events

Attend company events (e.g., Webinars, Open Days, Training) virtually or remotely to hear from the employees and interact with them. These events can be a great opportunity to hear about their latest research, innovation, growth areas, etc.

3. General networking

Use LinkedIn and general networking extensively to engage directly with current and former employees. Use your own network of friends and colleagues. Someone might know someone who works in your target firm or knows someone who works there. It is okay to cold call or email if required but make sure to tailor your message to them. Have your pitch ready and do not be afraid to ask questions about the firm that you need answers for.

2.4 Take Your Final Decision Based on These Factors

Once you have answered the above questions honestly, you are ready to look at the following factors to work out your final decision:

  • Salary: Research Glassdoor, Vault, and LinkedIn to get an idea of salary ranges and compare these to your lifestyle and expectations. Do not get too hung up on numbers especially during the early stages of your career.
  • Benefits: Holidays, pension scheme, private insurance, car allowance, stocks, and other perks.
  • Location: Make sure the commute time does not consume your personal time and is manageable or the firm is in a location of your choice.
  • Final thought: Do not settle and keep looking until you find your sweet spot. This could mean changing employers and/or role and/or geography and/or industry over time. Do not become a serial job hopper though. If you are applying the approach discussed earlier, such moves should be less frequent anyway.

Apply the same approach above when deciding between two offers.

Get this right, and success is inevitable.

Your Level of Responsibility And Trust Increases Over Time

This means you are growing in terms of depth and breadth of work. Your colleagues recognize your skills and talent. You are in demand and trusted to undertake challenging projects.

Your Work Creates a Tangible Positive Impact on You And The People Around You

Unless you can experience and ideally measure a tangible impact(s) on yourself and people around you in terms of improvement in wellbeing, wealth, happiness, satisfaction, etc, the work you do can come across as empty. You will grow out of it over time.

You Feel Fulfilled (Most of The Time at Least)

This is an inner feeling of joy regardless of the ups and downs and bad days at work. You feel good about your work, the people you work with, and the impact you create. Without this experience, the impact of your work is going to be very limited. You will often do things for the sake of it, cling on, and eventually get very frustrated.

Success Comes to You

This can be wealth, promotion, and recognition by people but most importantly “inner success” i.e., sustained experience of joy and not just a “good feeling” when you get promoted or your boss praises you.

If you are not getting the above signs, then it is time for a change. Go back to where it all started as explained above.

When you are doing something, you really want to do and are having fun the question of work-life balance does not arise. You make it work seamlessly. If you are savvy, you can have a good work-life balance over time otherwise NO. Companies (big and small) have stepped up the game in recent 3-5 years to create the support required for work-life balance. Success is patchy and varied in geographies around the world. But they are trying, nonetheless.

Work-life balance is something that you must take control of. If you let the company dictate the rules, they will consume you. But it takes some time for you to be in that position of control. It will not happen from day 1 when you join the company. If you are in such a company – that is great! 

Factors That Can Help With Work-Life Balance

  1. Staying in the firm for at least 3 years and having a good reputation and high on the job performance
  2. Being close to key leaders in the company who are high performing themselves and back you
  3. Staying on the same one/two clients for multiple projects
  4. Having key clients back you and wanting you on the projects
  5. Having a network of people to call upon for favors- these are colleagues/peers/seniors you are willing to help you out, share a load, cut you some slack, etc.
  1. You need to have a clear plan for yourself, otherwise, work and people will consume you. You draw the line on work not intruding on your personal space (leisure time, weekends, etc). Learn to say NO subtly and tactfully
  2. Do not follow the crowd – if everyone is or appears to be slogging, you do not have to. Be yourself, believe in yourself, and follow points 1-5 above
  3. Focus on doing your best, enjoy the process, and do not worry about the outcome. Things fall into place
  4. Keep talking to people (especially senior people) about their perceptions of you! People forget easily over time. Be visible a lot!

Closing Thought

Just like everything else in life, no job or firm will be perfect. There will always be something a little better. There will be ups and downs and it is important not to be driven by anxiety to get into “a job”. Focus on a mutual fit as explained above and factor in some calculated risk.

About the Author

Profile Picture AdiAdi

Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

  • Professional Experience: Yext Ltd, Accenture, Deloitte Consulting, Singapore Telecom
  • Languages: English
  • Location: United Kingdom

Adi is a leader with 14 years of experience (with 9 years in management consulting) in a broad range of roles in management consulting, digital marketing, supply chain & operations, and product development in the Telco, Media, and Hi-Tech industry. In the most recent role, he led the UK & Ireland Supply Chain and Operations Consulting practice at Accenture, UK.

He grew up, studied, lived, and worked in 8 countries through the course of his life and now calls London his home. He is passionate about sustainable lifestyle, poetry, and behavioral economics. Adi strives harder to align all his activities (work and personal) with living in complete harmony with nature.

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