Friday, February 20, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Suggested Career Books for Introverts

Introverts face special challenges not only when looking for work, but also when trying to secure promotions. Our quiet nature can come across as rudeness and we often have trouble with social conventions such as small talk. Luckily, there are several books that target introverted people who want to achieve success in their careers. A few to consider:

1. The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career by Wendy Gelberg
Gelberg, an introvert herself, interviewed successful introverts from a variety of backgrounds. Their advice can be found throughout the book, as well as tips for job searching, interviews, and networking.

2. Confessions of an Introvert: The Shy Girl's Guide to Career, Networking and Getting the Most Out of Life by Megan Wier
Introversion and shyness aren't the same thing, but many introverts are shy and vice versa. (A quiz at the beginning of the book will help you figure out if you are an introvert, an extrovert, or shy). The book contains advice about building confidence, dealing with social anxiety, leadership, networking and self-promotion. I recommend this to any introvert or shy person, regardless of your age or career goals.

3. The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extroverted World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
Although Laney doesn't offer much in the way of career advice, this book is an interesting read about the introvert personality and advice on how to introverts can accept themselves in a society that prefers extroverts.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Common Fears about Pursuing Your Dream Career

Why do people pursue certain careers? I suspect that many choose their careers because they are familiar and safe. Maybe they grew up in an area where there weren't a lot of career options, so they chose something they knew. They are held back from pursuing careers that interest them because they have fears, some of which are very legitimate and some that are not. Some common fears that hold us back when choosing a career:

1. Being judged by friends, family, and society
. If I quit my job/change my major, what will people think? This is what I thought several years ago when I was pursuing a career that I knew wasn't right for me. I was worried about seeming flaky and worried about what other people would think. Changing from a seemingly interesting and secure career path would seem crazy. I was worried entirely too much about what other people thought and not enough about my own future happiness. People change careers all of the time and many college students change majors several times. Stop worrying so much about being "normal" or following a conventional career path. Often, judgmental people have many regrets themselves and are jealous that you have the courage to make a change or do something unfamiliar.

2. Not finding a job in your chosen field. I admit that this is a legitimate concern because demand is declining rapidly for some careers and other jobs have very few openings. If job security is something you value highly in a career, you shouldn't pursue one of these careers. However, don't let demand be the sole criteria in choosing a career. Research careers and how many openings there are annually. Also, how long and rigorous is the training? Jobs that require a professional degree might have a small number of openings per year, but they also have a smaller number of qualified applicants per position. Talk to people working in the areas that interest you and see if they are confident about demand and growth. If you are willing to move where the jobs are concentrated and choose a field with growing demand, chances are you can find employment in your chosen field.

3. Not making enough money to live comfortably. This is another legitimate concern. You have to be realistic when choosing a career. Decide what the minimum amount of take-home pay you need for basics, savings and a few extras you really enjoy. You should also have enough to pay off debt and have some left for emergencies. Making a modest salary in a job you love will probably be worth giving up some luxuries. Also, having a high paying job might not be worth the trade-offs: poor health, stress, and lack of personal time.

Some links to help with your research :
What if you determine that your dream career isn't realistic? Find the next best career based on your skills, interests, personality and values. Take career tests and look for careers that are always near the top. Talk to people currently in those careers and do some job shadowing. You dream career might make a good side income and you may even be able to pursue it full-time someday.

4. Failure. Fear of failure should never hold you back. Failure means different things to different people, so redefine what failure means to you. As long as you keep pursuing your goals (and these goals may change over time), you haven't failed. When you first start out in a career, you won't have a lot of experience and you may feel overwhelmed. This is common, especially among perfectionists who want to be the best at everything. Feeling incompetent and overwhelmed when you are starting out in a position does not mean you've failed. In many professions, there is a steep learning curve where the keys to doing well are practice and persistence.

Fear can be paralyzing and can prevent us from reaching our goals. Don't let irrational fears hold you back and address your legitimate concerns by conducting extensive research. Regrets from not pursuing a career that's right for you can last a lifetime.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Assessing Your Career Values

Values are often overlooked when we choose a career. Most career tests are based on personality or interests. However, overlooking values can mean choosing a career that is unsatisfying. Some career-related values to think about:
  • Security - You want a job that provides steady income and employment. You'll want to choose a career that is relatively resistant to downturns in the economy and one that also has steady or high projected growth. Careers to consider: registered nurse, teacher, computer systems analyst, physician, physical therapist, pharmacist.
  • Social Interaction - Other people motivate and energize you. You may prefer one-on-one interaction or working with large groups of people. Careers to consider: sales representative, social worker, teacher, counselor, human resources manager, occupational therapist.
  • Growth - You want a career that gives you the opportunity for advancement, whether it means moving up within an organization or specializing in a certain area. If you value growth, continually learning and acquiring new skills are necessary aspects of a satisfying profession. Careers to consider: public accountant, attorney, medical scientist, software engineer.
  • Variety - You want work that involves new experiences every day. You would hate a job that never allowed you to meet new people or face new challenges. Careers to consider: emergency medical technician, event planner, social worker, public relations manager.
  • Creativity expression - You want a career that allows to express your personality, talents and ideas. Purely objective work would not be fulfilling for you. Careers to consider: writer, interior designer, graphic designer, web developer, photographer.
  • Independence - You are self-motivated and want control over most aspects of your work. You like working alone and making your own decisions. Careers to consider: business owner/entrepreneur, freelance writer, statistician, mathematician, biochemist.
Identifying your career-related values is an important step in the process of choosing a profession. Write a list of your values (you will probably think of some that I didn't list) along with careers that seem to fit those values. Now you can focus your research on careers that fit most or all of your values.