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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Career Choice -- 4 Questions To Ask Yourself by Ray Wong

Susan Cain photo by Steve Jurvetson 
Thinking about a career change? Not sure what career to select? Author Susan Cain was adrift in her own wayward vessel, floundering without a rudder, until she asked herself some tough questions. Her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, provides insights that could help you find your path in life. Cain graduated from Harvard Law School and worked as a corporate attorney for ten years in a high-paying job that didn’t fit her personality. Cain was unhappy and wanted to make a career change, so she needed to do some soul-searching. 

In her book, Cain poses questions (page 218) that get to the root of who you are. The answers could very well lead you on the path to career fulfillment. First question -- what did you always want to do when you were growing up? This isn’t to imply that if you dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child, you should immediately join NASA. The key to looking back is that if you wanted to be an astronaut, there was something there that tugged at you. Was it the thrill of being in space? The technology? The communication with your flight crew? The adventure? Wearing a spacesuit with the cool round helmet? There are clues from your childhood fantasy that can reveal a lot about what’s important to you.

Second question – what work tasks pull at you? As a lawyer, Cain didn’t take on extra corporate duties, but volunteered to help a nonprofit women’s leadership organization. She didn’t like attending committee meetings but enjoyed mentoring and training young lawyers in the firm. If you look at what you “gravitate” to, it can help you identify the types of tasks you want to include in your next career.

Third question – who do you envy? Yes, envy, and yes, it’s okay to look at it because this can provide important information. Cain didn’t envy people who argued big cases in front of the Supreme Court. When she really looked hard at herself, she found that she envied writers and psychologists because they had something she wanted. Then she set about including the best of these roles in her career change. Her book is the result.

I would add a fourth question to Cain’s quest for self-enlightenment – if you could work in any career, if you already possessed the skills, knowledge, training, and education, what would you choose and why?   

If you can answer these questions with rigorous honesty, you have taken the first steps to finding your ideal career.

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