When you are trying to figure out what to do with your life, it makes sense to seek out fulfilling careers. That quest may lead you to do an online search for lists of occupations that fit the bill. A seemingly successful search will turn up articles with titles like “Top 10 Most Fulfilling Careers” or “5 Jobs That Will Feed Your Soul.” The problem with these “best careers” lists is that they don’t address the differences among individuals. An occupation that fulfills one person won’t necessarily fulfill another.
If you want a career saving the planet, you will find what you’re looking for on one of the lists your search uncovered. That desire is certainly a noble thing and no doubt many people find doing that very satisfying. But not everyone does. Some people love counting beans and others find great joy in assembling widgets.
So, what do you think would be a fulfilling career? Your response depends on who you are and what is important to you. These 7 questions will help you figure out if the profession you want to pursue, regardless of whether it is a job as a bean counter, widget maker, or do-gooder, will satisfy you.
01. Does It Fit Well With Who I Am?
People who take into account their personalities and interests increase their chances of finding fulfilling careers. Ideally, you should do a thorough self-assessment when you begin the career planning process. Use a variety of tools, including personality and interest inventories to learn all about yourself.
Once you attain this information, you can find careers that are compatible with those traits. For example, if you learn that you are an introvert, you would be more successful in occupations that emphasize working independently.
It is also essential to discover your aptitude. A career that takes advantage of your natural talents and abilities will be more fulfilling since it is very satisfying to be able to perform your job well.
02. Is This Occupation Compatible With My Work-Related Values?
While you are learning about your personality, interests, and aptitudes, you should take the time to identify your core values. These are the beliefs and ideas that inform your actions and make your career fulfilling. Examples are autonomy, challenge, helping others, recognition, and variety.
A career that doesn’t incorporate your most important values is unlikely to satisfy you. Similarly, if an occupation is incompatible with any of your core values, you will be very dissatisfied with it. For example, if it is essential for you to help others, but your job doesn’t involve doing that, you will feel unfulfilled.
03. Will I Enjoy My Job Duties?
Learn about the job duties for any career you are considering and make sure most of them are things you like doing. Performing tasks you enjoy is motivating. It will energize you, and that enthusiasm will allow you to do your job better. A direct effect could be praise from your boss, and hopefully, that will lead to recognition in the form of advancement.
Should you expect to like all your job duties? Of course not. There is probably not a person out there who does, even if they are in a career that is a perfect match for their personality, interests, and aptitudes. All you can hope for is a job that involves doing a majority of tasks you find enjoyable. While not every single day will be wonderful—that is an unrealistic expectation—in general, you will like going to work.
04. Does the Schedule Work Well for Me?
Although schedules will vary from job to job, certain hours are inherent to different types of work. For example, nurses can sometimes expect to have to work nights, holidays, and weekends. Writers and editors often have to work overtime to meet deadlines. In addition to learning about job duties, make sure to learn about a typical work schedule.
You may think of your hours as a relatively insignificant aspect of your job. Don’t underestimate the effect it can have on your work performance and your life. If the occupation you choose requires you to work during times that are inconvenient for you or when you aren’t at your best, or more hours with which you would be comfortable, you will are likely to be dissatisfied with it. It will also disrupt your life.
05. Can I Make Enough Money?
Earning a lot of money won’t make you love a career that is a bad fit for you. However, if you can’t earn a living, even in a suitable occupation, you will be unlikely to find it completely fulfilling. As they say, you gotta be able to eat… and pay rent or a mortgage and other expenses.
Before you decide to pursue an occupation, learn about the median salary of those employed in it. If you line up all the salaries of everyone working in an occupational field, the median is the one that falls in the middle. That means half of all workers in that field make more than that, and half earn less.
Tally up all your expenses. Include spending on any leisure activities you aren’t willing to give up. Decide how much you want to put into savings, perhaps enlisting the services of a financial advisor who can help you with this. Make sure your anticipated earnings will meet your needs.
06. Will I Be Able to Advance?
Career advancement isn’t important to everyone, but for some people, it is essential. To them, for a career to be fulfilling, there must be a lot of opportunity for growth.
Think about whether advancement is important to you. If you decide it is, make sure the career you choose offers you room to grow. You will soon become bored with an occupation that doesn’t allow for it.
07. Will I Have Trouble Finding Work?
Nothing will make a career less fulfilling than if you are always worried about whether you will be able to find a job and stay employed. Accessing labor market information will allow you to answer this question.
You will want to learn how many people work in the occupation you are investigating. Your chances of finding a job if it employs a lot of individuals are considerably better, but you will also need to look at job outlook.
Another thing to learn about is the location of jobs. Jobs in some fields are concentrated in certain regions. If you are willing to relocate, that won’t be a problem for you, but if moving isn’t in your plans, you should reconsider your options.