5 things to look for in a career

5 Things to Look for in a Career

Jonathan JenkinsBy Jonathan Jenkins7 Minutes

If you have ever worked a position you knew would be temporary, you probably realize the fundamental difference between a job and a career. While a job pays the bills and can be a step forward in a career, your career is focused on long-term growth and development.

With a career’s big-picture nature, the question of what you really want out of it becomes much more important. If you get ten years into a forty-year career and find out this wasn’t what you really wanted to do, it will be much harder to change direction than if you had decided to change things early on.

To avoid getting stuck in a career that isn’t right for you, here are some ideas you can evaluate and research to help discover what best suits you. These are five basic questions you should consider before deciding on a specific career.

  1. Will it challenge you?

While a job without stress, deadlines, or daily challenges may sound incredibly relaxing, that environment will not help you grow and develop over the course of your career. Without anything to aspire to, you might even grow bored in that role. Just as a muscle grows and strengthens through resistance, our professional development comes primarily through challenge. Look into what situations someone might face in the career path you are considering. Do you feel those experiences would help you grow? If so, then consider careers that will promote your growth through those challenges.

  1. What is your work-life balance?

Work-life balance can make or break a job. Extend that over the course of a career, and you can see where potentially negative issues might arise. In high-stress, heavy workload environments, you may be working long hours with a consistently heavy stress load. However, the pay is often higher than other jobs to compensate for the extra work.

Beyond the pay, you need to consider other aspects of the job that could affect the future. If you decide to have a family someday, would this career path give you the chance to be with them as much as you want and they want? Does the work-life balance start out heavy on the work but get more balanced as you rise through the ranks? Investigate the working conditions for a career and contrast those conditions against your present and future goals. If there is conflict between the two, then realize you will probably have to compromise somewhere.

  1. Does the career suit your personality and talents?

Everyone has different personality traits that shape the way they engage the world. With nearly every career, there are specific traits and talents that help people become successful in that role. Some talents and expertise can be gained or improved over time, but others are really due to our personalities. Finding a career that leverages soft skills and talents you already have and continues to develop them will be incredibly rewarding over the long run.

If you are having a hard time figuring out where your talents lie, consider taking the Gallup CliftonStrengths test. This personality profile narrows your top five strengths. While not telling you what career you should take, the test identifies your natural abilities and what career choices will likely be rewarding. There is a cost for the test, but the results can profoundly change the way you perceive yourself and how you look at a career. Understanding yourself better is usually well worth the price of admission.

  1. Is there room for growth?

With any career, you need to make sure there actually is a real path to follow. Does the career have a ladder of success to climb, or is it just a little footstool with only two steps up? Before you decide what you want to do, make sure there are ways to develop and grow within that career. While you do not have to follow the corporate ladder structure, you should always make sure that there is a path forward in some form. Whether that is learning more and widening your role in a company or climbing up to higher management levels as you gain more experience, a strong career path will provide higher pay and a brighter outlook for the future.

  1. Does it make a difference in the world?

This question is especially applicable for Christians. While most people strive to do something they feel benefits the world in some way, as believers, we are specifically called by Christ to make a difference in the world around us. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work at a Christian non-profit or become a missionary overseas, but you do need to look for opportunities to make a difference. While those opportunities can come through volunteering and other services outside of a career, finding a career that combines great opportunities to grow and the chance to make a difference can be an incredibly rewarding part of your life.

Considering what you want out of a career is paramount to actually achieving a life of satisfaction. Think deeply about it, figure out what is important to you, and form a plan of action to get the career that will be fulfilling in the long run. Take the time now, and your future self will thank you.