Discover Your Perfect Career Path Through Your Hardwired Preferences

Discovering your perfect career path is about identifying work where you can use skills you’re good at and enjoy the most. In these jobs, you’ll “fire at all cylinders” and perform to the best of your ability. By now, you may know what your top transferable skill sets are and may have written some reality stories showcasing these skills at your highest level of efficiency.

Even so, you might still be stumped about how you can use these skills and in which industries. A good place to start is to recognize your natural preferences that have been hardwired into you since birth. One methodology I use with clients is the John Holland Theory of Career Choice, which has been widely-used by career practitioners for decades.

According to Holland’s theory, peoples’ career choices are determined by: 1) whether they prefer to work with people, things, data or a combination; 2) how they like to solve problems; and 3) what they value in work situations.

Holland groups career choices into six vocational themes: Realistic; Investigative; Artistic; Social; Enterprising; and Conventional. When you read each description, it’s likely that you’ll discover three that will resonate most for you:

* Realistic: People with athletic or mechanical skills, who like hands-on activities such as working with objects, machines, tools, plants or animals. They solve problems by “doing.” They value frankness, independent thinking and physical activity.

* Investigative: People who like to work with ideas, data or visible facts, to analyze, learn, watch and troubleshoot. They solve problems by thinking. They value caution, creative processes, intellectual freedom, logic, precision and science.

* Artistic: People with artistic, innovating or intuitive skills, who like working in unstructured situations, using their imagination or creativity. They solve problems by expressing feelings or ideas through creating visual art, designing, performing or writing. They value artistic freedom, nonconformity and originality.

* Social: People who like to work with people, to cure, develop, enlighten, help, inform or train them. They solve problems by helpfully relating to others, verbally or through writing. They value genuineness, ethical awareness and a strong sense of community.

* Enterprising: People who like to work with people, by influencing, persuading, performing, or managing for business goals and economic gain. They solve problems by leading and taking risks. They value influencing others, making decisions and selling ideas.

* Conventional: People who like working with data, using clerical or numerical skills and completing detailed work by following instructions. They solve problems by being organized. They value efficiency, prevailing societal values, and self-control.

The Holland-based assessment I use with my clients is the Career Liftoff Interest Inventory, which scores you in all six themes(on a scale of 25-75 points each) to reveal what your top 3 are. You’ll also get a list of careers (sorted into 5-9 clusters) matching your preference mix.  <Side note: My top 3 are Artistic: 59, Social: 59, and Enterprising: 46. Here’s my report to see what yours might look like.>

Another benefit of Holland assessments is their integration with the O*NET, linked to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides timely statics about job details, training, salaries, etc. For example, if you’ve considered being an event planner and your top 3 themes are Enterprising, Conventional, and Social, you’ll learn that this career can be a potential fit, as long you match the job requirements and the work appeals to you.

Recognizing your inborn preferences plays a key role in choosing your ideal work. If you make your selections using the Holland philosophy, you’ll know if you’re completely off-course or confidently moving in the right direction.

 © Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2012


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    Know Your Top Transferable Skills Sets, Then Plan Your Career Transition

    When beginning a career transition, many people work backwards. They rush to have a resume written as a first step; then, they jump into a job search, without really knowing what their most saleable skill sets are and how to position them for their career direction. This strategy is like putting the proverbial “cart before the horse.”

    In my coaching practice, I’ve come across countless people using this backwards approach, who become quickly discouraged when they don’t get enough interviews in proportion to the resumes they send out. But I’ve also observed that people who get the most interviews and right-fit job offers took a step back to first uncover their top transferable skill sets to gain clarity about their career direction;   then planned their career transition accordingly.

    So, what exactly are transferable skills? My definition is: abilities, knowledge, strengths and talents you’ve developed through work, education and even hobbies, which can be used in future employment. Transferable skills can be industry-specific “hard skills” like operating a forklift or using object-oriented computer programming languages, or “soft skills” such as analytical abilities, interpersonal communication skills, and being a good team player.

    Some transferable skills can be more portable than others, even if you decide to change careers. For example, therapists can work with clients in agency settings. But if they are looking for a new career, they may consider working in a customer service environment, where they can still use their listening skills and compassionate nature.

    It’s critical to know which transferable skills fire you upand those that can burn you out. For instance, you may have good writing skills, but would become exhausted and drained if you were writing for eight hours per day. On the other hand, perhaps you enjoy training others and doing this more in your workday would energize you.

    The idea is to pursue jobs where you can use the skills you’re good at and enjoy the most. In these jobs, you’ll “fire at all cylinders” and perform to the best of your ability. Even in the interview phase, you’ll project more enthusiasm, instead of being perceived as an ordinary jobseeker looking for a paycheck.

    So, how can you figure out what your top transferable skill sets are? You can take an online self-assessment to gain some insights. One that I highly recommend and that I’m certified to administer is the SkillScan Career Driver.

    You can also opt for “Success Factor Analysis” – an organic process I use with private clients where we analyze 10-15 of their proudest career achievements; then we distill them down into 3-8 “Key Success Factors,” which is simply a synonym for top transferable skill sets.

    Whichever method you use to identify your top transferable skill sets, they will provide a solid foundation for your career transition campaign and will help you:      

    1. Feel more confident about what you can offer prospective employers;

    2. Get clear about your most perfect career path and work you love;

    3. Create compelling core content for resumes, cover letters and social networking profiles;

    4. Feel more at ease when presenting your value to your network and potential employers;

    5. Take control of interviews, salary negotiations and job offers.

    (Side note: The Success Factor Analysis tool will be available in my soon-to-be launched “Wake Up to a Job You Love © Home Study System“) 

    Your top transferable skill sets hold the key to a successful career transition. When you know what those skills are and focus on career opportunities where you can capitalize on them, you’ll confidently move forward to a job you love, instead of back-pedaling in frustration.

    © 2012 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved.

    * This post originally appeared in the July 2012 Edition of Career E-News.

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