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How Do I Choose My Next Career?

Q: "I've decided it's time to leave my current job and look for a new one, but I'm not sure if I want to stay in the same career or make a change. Before I head for the job market, how can I figure out what I want?"

A: You've already made a good first step by pausing before you plunge. Most people compose a resume, which lists their past titles and experience, and circulate it to everyone and his dog. Then, they are surprised when they land in the same job, different company.

To avoid relegating yourself to a "been-there-done-that" career path, expand your horizons. Instead of looking for what's familiar, start fresh. Put together an ideal job description. While you probably won't find a perfect position, you're a lot more likely to get at least 90% of what you want. To develop your benchmark job, ask yourself these questions:

1. What transferable skills or activities do I want to use every day? Transferable skills include activities such as planning, creating, listening, researching, organizing, etc. Because they are a part of you, they automatically go wherever you do. To identify your motivated transferable skills, think about the ones you've used in your most satisfying paid and unpaid experiences.

2. What products, services, issues or subjects do I most enjoy? Some people love fashion; others think ecommerce is the place to be. If you have a strong preference for an industry or would love to work for a particular company, go for it.

3. Which of my personality traits and values are most important in choosing the right job and employer for me? If you are outgoing, you'll want a lot of people contact. If you're an introvert, you'll need time for quiet contemplation. Look for an environment that takes advantage of your natural traits and everyone will benefit.

4. What about the geographical location of my next job? How far are you willing to commute? Do you want to move to a warmer climate or by the sea? Choosing the right location will help you make sure your personal life is just as satisfying as your career.

5. What are the characteristics of my favorite colleagues? How would you describe the people with whom you'll be interacting on a daily basis?

6. What is my ideal company culture? What are the most effective ways to manage people and get things done? If you could write a mission statement for your ideal company, what would it be?

7. What do I want in my compensation package? Because benefits and perks typically make up 25-33% of your total compensation, it's important to consider both the taxable and nontaxable elements of your package. While you may not get everything you want, it doesn't hurt to ask, especially when you are the number one candidate for the job.

8. What career path would be most satisfying to me? Where would you like your career to be in the next three to five years?

While these questions represent a lot of thought and may take you a few weeks to answer, your future is worth the effort.

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