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Brad Minton, MS, LPC, NCC

Career and Academic Counselor, Instructor, Speaker

Reproduced with permission from author

Minton, B. (2016, September 9).3 Questions You’re Not Asking That Will Guide Your Career Choice. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com

Working with teenagers and young adults everyday who are coming to college is extremely rewarding, and educational to say the least. Being a career counselor, I have the task of helping students discover their education and career path. The one thing that I have come to discover in the process of helping them is their ideas about career are usually fairly vague.

That in and of itself is not the issue.  Most experts agree that as many as half of all college freshman have not solidified their major and/or career choice, and 75% will end up changing their path as they work towards their degree. Uncertainty is a completely understandable and expected aspect of being a new college student.

However, over time, eventually students will start attempting to gain more clarity on their vision for the future and it is here where the problems arise. Generally the first mistake they make is simply choosing a major or career path too hastily, rather than doing the necessary self-exploration. They feel compelled to simply “choose one”, and unfortunately, it is this rush to decision that leads so many to change their majors two and three times before graduation. They simply didn’t understand what they were getting into.

If they are in fact, taking some valuable time to process their decisions, they still can falter and get off track. How? By simply asking themselves the wrong questions.

Because we tend to associate our work and our careers with time spent (roughly a third of our adult life), one of the first questions students tend to ask is “Will I like what I’m doing?”, or “Will I have an interest in it?”. While interest is absolutely a necessary ingredient to career satisfaction, the question that needs to be asked is “Will this career give me fulfillment?“. You can have interest in a lot of things but they may not fulfill you in a career unless you find the modality which allows you to combine both your interests and your values. Values are the key ingredient which most closely leads to fulfillment because they speak to your soul. They are characteristics of you that cannot be easily negotiated. Interests and values can conflict. If I have a value for autonomy and an interest in computers, I could end up feeling restricted because it may not give me the independence I need depending on the type of work and setting. So again, the deeper question is not what is just going to interest me, but what is going to fulfill me.

A second question students ask themselves often is “What do I want to do?”. The reason this question is often not going to provide as much substance to their career choices is that is focuses more on activities rather than purpose. You can give anyone tasks to complete and they will do it……for a period of time. Eventually, the question will arise of why does it matter? Knowing what to do, works in the short term, but knowing why will ultimately make it last, because the why determines the level of investment by giving the activities a purpose. The key question that students must get to is “Why do I want to do…?”

The third question that tends to come up a lot is “What do I want to get?”. Students are focused in on the perks of working: salary, vacations, retirement, advancement, independence, etc. The main reason why this is of less importance is simply because all of those things will change with time and location. How much money you think you should be earning will change as you advance. Technology will ultimately change how you work. Your level of advancement will change. You’re colleagues will change. Everything in the labor market is moving at a tremendous speed and constantly evolving, thus whatever monetary gain you get from it, is subject to the same. The deeper question you have to ask is not what I want to get, but “What do I want to give?“.

By asking yourself this vital question it ties into your fulfillment AND purpose on the deepest level of all. Giving is the ultimate sacrifice, and when we decide to give, we make the resolution that it is for a higher purpose than ourselves. What you choose to give the world is your way of making your unique mark which builds you up, plus it will provide you with more satisfaction than anything you could get, because you’ve fully committed to the purpose that fulfills you.

Additional note:  We hope that you enjoyed Brad Minton’s article.  Get more information about career exploration tools!

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