Career Questions

Sarah’s Story

Sarah had a good paying job with excellent benefits in a large corporation. But she wasn’t happy. At our first career consulting session, she said she felt restless in her work life. She sadly admitted she no longer felt passion for her work. She wanted something different, but didn’t know what.

Sarah had changed during the years at her job. She developed new interests, uncovered new aptitudes, learned new skills. The company changed too. Jobs evolved, departments shifted, functions outsourced. After five years, Sarah found herself misplaced, employed in a job she no longer liked. Sarah isn’t alone. Because of downsizing, closures, on-the-job injuries, and burnout many people find themselves facing the big career question: “What’s the next job or career for me?”

That’s the question Sarah and I agreed to answer. I explained that finding her answer would require research and information; research to uncover possible answers, and information to help her choose the best one. Sarah’s first assignment was simple: list the qualities in her “ideal job.” Her list was short but revealing. She’d love a job where she could work with people, solve problems, flex hours, have variety and travel. She quietly confessed her current job allowed few of these. Her voice grew stronger and her actions more animated as we talked about her interests outside of work: horses, medicine, and travel. She left the session with an assignment: search the library’s computer data base for magazine articles related to her outside interests. Learn about new trends and ideas. Let that information simmer, and then we’d talk.

Become a detective

When we met several weeks later, Sarah gushed with excitement. She had discovered a magazine article about a woman who teaches therapeutic riding to handicapped children. Sarah was hooked and decided to track this woman down. She located several books the teacher had written on the subject. From the books she found her phone number. She called and asked many questions. She arranged to visit the teacher’s ranch during the upcoming summer and see therapeutic riding in action. The teacher pointed her toward a national organization for therapeutic riding. Sarah joined. This brought more information and she located a school that trains and certifies therapeutic riding instructors.

Sarah had the answer to her career question. Her next job would be therapeutic riding instructor. She would stay with her current job while creating this new career.

A one-two approach

Sarah used two kinds of research to find her answer: Inner research, such as describing an ideal job, focused her on finding something she would like rather than dwelling on a job she disliked. Outer research, such as learning to use a computerized database, uncovered helpful information. This one-two approach produced a quick answer.

Not all career questions are answered so quickly. Instead of answers, you may find dead ends. After all, there are more than 12,000 different kinds of jobs in the U.S. and only a few are right for you. Finding the right career is a process of elimination. You start by considering any and all possibilities. Inner research quickly eliminates some, but a few survive the first cut. A round of outer research eliminates more, but also uncovers a few new options to consider. As your list of likely careers shrinks, the match between you and the remaining ones grows. You gather more information and do more career soul searching. Eventually, persistent effort pays off; your career question is answered.