Important Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of Your Career



Jun. 2 2014, Published 1:34 p.m. ET

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As a young woman still new to the game, it is easy to lose sight of the difference between a job and a career. Luckily, the internet can lead us to knowledgeable informants, such as writer Trent Hamm, who can bring us back to reality.

Unlike your average job, Hamm reminds us, “A career is a series of connected employment opportunities, where you build up skills at earlier employment opportunities to move you into higher paying and higher prestige employment opportunities later on.”

When researching career fields, most listed information includes facts, such as job responsibilities, annual salary, and important character traits. But how realistic is a specific job when placing it in scope to the rest of your career?

To help put your goals into perspective, here are four inquisitive questions to ask yourself when starting out your career:

Will I be content with the lifestyle that my career provides me?

As a career and executive coach, it’s no surprise when clients tell Forbes’ writer, Kathy Caprino, that they are discontent with their careers. Even further, it’s no surprise when people tell her that they are discontent with- yes, you guessed it right- their salary and work-life balance.

If you’re the type that likes the luxurious life, such as fine dining and million-dollar homes, you’re going to need the right career to afford it. Or maybe you’re happy with the simple life- staycations and dinners at home. Will your career allow you keep up with the activities and relationships that make up your social life, or will you have to trade those in for late nights at the office? Whatever you choose, know what kind of life your career will allow for and be content in the decision you have made.

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To get an idea of how much money you’ll need to for your lifestyle of choice, take this lifestyle quiz created by LearnVest.

Will the work I’m doing now help contribute to the rest of my career?

When heading out into the real world, it can be tempting to pounce on the first job offer we receive. A job is a job, right? If you’re working towards a career, that isn’t always the case. Human resources consultant, Jeanne Meister, says that “job hopping is the ‘new normal’ for millennials,” and recruiters are on the lookout for these types of applicants. Meister writes:

“For years, experts have warned that recruiters screen out chronic job-hoppers, instead seeking prospective employees who seem to offer longevity. Talent acquisition managers and heads of Human Resources make a valid case for their wariness of resumes filled with 1-2-year stints. They question such applicants’ motivation, skill level, engagement on the-job and ability to get along with other colleagues.”

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It makes sense, doesn’t it? She continues and says, “These hiring managers worry they’ll become the next victims of these applicant’s hit-and-run jobholding…losing an employee after a year means wasting precious time and resources on training & development, only to lose the employee before that investment pays off.”

While Meister may depict job hoppers as criminals, she proves a good point- learning new skills and becoming proficient in them takes time. Leaving a job one to two years after starting will not only look suspicious on your resume; you may also be moving on before you’re ready to.

When searching for jobs to jumpstart your career, apply for opportunities that will teach you the skills and experience needed to help get you to where you want to be. Also, know that with whatever job you choose that you’ll be happy there for the time being. Ask yourself, “Can I see myself here for four years or longer?” If not, you might want to reconsider your options.

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Am I willing to put in the work?

Let’s face it- it’s pretty unlikely that your first job will be your dream job. Oftentimes, newbies are required to take on entry-level positions just to get their foot in the door; then it’s up to them and their performance to move up from there. Even for exemplary woman, Ursula Burns, it took her thirty years to move from intern to CEO at Xerox. When sharing with Marketplace about her progression through Xerox, Burns states:

“As I got up in the career, obviously there were things that I could polish off and [Xerox] helped me with that, but it was all about content. It was all about, ‘I’m going to give you an opportunity and if you can work hard enough and learn fast enough and really be driven and focused, you are going to go a long way.”

Obtaining your dream job won’t be easy; it will require dedication and hard work. When thinking about what career to pursue, ask yourself, “Is this something I’m willing to work towards for the rest of my career?” If not, it might be time to figure out exactly what is.

Am I choosing this career for the right reasons?

There are many reasons a person can feel pressured to pursue a certain career. Again referring to Caprino’s article about job satisfaction, factors such as work-life balance, money, skills, meaning, and respect all contribute to what is considered a desirable career.

People want to know that their strongest skills are being put to use and that there is a sense of purpose in their work. Even further, they want to know that the world respects what they are doing.

Whatever the reason may be, know the truth behind your decision to pursue a specific career, and don’t feel afraid to wait out for the opportunities that you truly desire.

Ambition Delivered.

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