Career Evaluations – Choose What’s Right for You

“I want to look back on my career and be proud of the work, and be proud that I tried everything.”

― Jon Stewart

Career evaluations both before you start your education and in the middle of your already hectic job life can be complicated. But it should not require you to sacrifice yourself for others. Parents, peers, or society, should not be a factor. It requires making informed choices and intense self-evaluation.

Your Parents Choosing Your Career

proud parents, career counseling, new jersey, new york

Sean Locke Photography via Adobe

The ability to say my “My son, the doctor” has been the pride and joy of many parents in different cultures for many years. It is clearly a motivating factor for some individuals choosing to enter the fields of medicine, accounting, or the law. Being able to be declared a “professional” and put letters behind your name carries respectability and parental bragging rights.

But it’s also not limited to the respectability of being a professional. We see it in different industries when parents want their children to join and ultimately take over the family business. Being able to say a “Family Owned” business lets consumers know there is a generation of experience behind a service or product. Lending acceptability and pride for a family.

But Will Your Career Bring You Happiness?

Consider James who spent most of his summers and free time with his godfather, a world-renowned marine biologist. While his godfather was considered very successful, his parents encouraged him into a more “respectable” job. Becoming a doctor was their first choice. As he matured, away from his parents, he decided to slightly deviate from his parent’s wishes. He became an attorney, a respectable career but still not his first choice. After twenty-seven years, is he happy with his choice?

James is older now and can in hindsight see the practicality of his parent’s lessons. His career as a corporate attorney has brought him joy and he has the ability to provide a good life for his family. But he’s learned from his own experience and has chosen a different way to encourage his own children. 

“Do what you want, but be practical in its application.” 

He allows his daughter to pursue a career in Art if she agrees to double major in her other interest in psychology. She can always do her art if she finds success, but if it doesn’t, she can always be a Psychologist specializing in Art Therapy. With either profession, she will find a way to support herself. 

A Career Society Considers Respectable and Makes Your Parents Proud 

Based on Jessica Pryce-Jones’ book Happiness at Work: Maximizing Your Psychological Capital for Success (2010), you will spend an average of 90,000 hours at work in the course of your life. You will invest many hours and quite a bit of money on education and training. Do you really want to spend your life fulfilling society’s or your parent’s dreams, and not your own?

Why Do You Work?

Ask any person why they work and the immediate answer will be:

“To earn money, of course.” 

But consider this: While an 18-wheeler truck driver earns up to $67,000, the average accountant earns just short of $61,000. People may think that money is the only reason they choose their career. But some self-evaluation of your current job and personal desires may be needed.

Depending on your personality,  you may have chosen your particular job for career advancement structure, or the opportunity to make a difference. 

According to the Employment Security Commission (1999), the primary reinforcers are:

  • Achievement – The “I’ve made a difference” feeling of accomplishment most often found in results-oriented jobs, such as financial analysts, web administrators, and compliance managers. 
  • Independence – Jobs that allow for autonomy and decision–making, like electricians, plumbers, and personal financial advisors, will most likely attract those who don’t enjoy being told what to do.
  • Recognition – Prestige and career advancement are the motive of some of the most hardworking professionals. Examples of prestigious jobs include lawyers and surgeons. 
  • Support – If you’ve always liked to help people, make it a career and spend 40 hours a week doing so. Job examples include patient representatives, school psychologists, and registered nurses. 
  • Working Conditions – Good working conditions, such as job stability, pensions, and paid vacations provide the fuel to keep you going year after year. Careers considered to have great working conditions include jewelers, actuaries, and machinists. 

Occupational Characteristics

Human beings are not the only ones with innate characteristics; occupations possess unique characteristics, too. Dr. John Holland developed a system, commonly known as the RIASEC, to identify six basic personality types shared by both people and occupations. According to Holland, personality plays a key role when choosing an occupation. 

Code Characteristics Types of Occupations

Realistic (R)

Practical, Concrete, Mechanically Inclined, Handy Optician, Dental Technician, Laboratory Technician
Investigative (I) Investigative, Observant, Solves problems  Actuary, Economist, Biologist
Artistic (A) Creative, Imaginative, Innovative Actor, Artist, Dance Instructor
Enterprising (E) Manages and Influences, Assertive, and Persuasive Entrepreneur, Business, Manager, Lawyer
Conventional (C) Detail-Oriented, Fact-Driven, Works with dates, facts, and figures Accountant, Editorial Assistant, Court Reporter

Your profile can be described as a three-letter code, which is an acronym of the first letters of your interest types ordered by dominance. If you are very conventional but also realistic and somewhat enterprising, your Holland code would be CRE. But, if you a hardcore realist, fairly enterprising, and a bit conventional, your Holland code would be REC. 

Considering the Facts when Doing Career Evaluations

Say that you are enterprising, are interested in recognition, and law appeals to you. But you are thirty-years-old, have four children, and six bills that were due yesterday. 

“Should you pursue a degree in law?”

A career decision cannot be based on your interests alone. Some of the practical considerations to think about include:

  • What is the average salary of the profession? 
  • Does it offer the potential for growth and advancement? 
  • Is it difficult to obtain an entry-level job in the profession?
  • How many years of education and training beyond what I already have, will I need?
  • Will it require more than 40 hours of work per week to be successful? 

Balancing Career and Financial Needs

There becomes a time where a lucrative profession with immediate cash flow becomes a necessity. One way to do so is to accept an entry-level position to provide immediate cash flow and experience in the field while attending school at night. If you aspire to become a nurse, you may work as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) by day in order to obtain both experience and immediate cash flow. 

  • Esther enjoyed working a 9-to-5 job until she had a baby. She needed flexibility as a mother, so she opted to turn her hobby of writing into a career. Something she enjoyed and did well. She now has the flexibility to be with her family but still have an income with a career she enjoys.
  • Denise was a registered nurse that worked forty hours a week. She worked the night shifts and weekends so she could spend weekdays with her children. As her children grew up, she found she had more free time and was able to go back to school. Just as her daughter was about to graduate from high school, she also graduated with a Master’s degree and is work to become a licensed nurse-midwife.

Not weighing all the aspects of career decisions, can result in other issues like what I discuss in the blog I Can’t Stop Worrying.

Time for Introspection

Yes, it may be true that “everyone” is going for the acceptable jobs, It may be the path of least resistance. But you are not “everyone.” You have needs, interests, and practical considerations.

Evaluate your personality and research your options. You may choose to do so with a career counselor, or you may choose to do so on your own. Evaluate all the facts and evaluate if you will be happy with your new decision. Your future, job, and family satisfaction will all depend on it.


Special Note: Career guidance and evaluations are not covered by insurance plans.

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