When you're feeling confused about which career path to take, it's often because you're asking yourself the wrong question. Good questions can be very powerful when used in the right context and at the right time. They can open your mind to areas you’ve never considered and can cut through the barriers that stop you moving from where you are to where you want to be.
If you're a parent, you could do worse than drop some of these questions into your conversations with your son or daughter. And guess what, they're fun and non-confrontational. This means that you won’t be starting World War 3 when you approach the topic of "next career steps" with your child!
If you could redesign any of your favourite subjects, what would you do more of?
This is a great question, especially if you're planning to go to university and you're not sure what degree subject to research. It will help you to identify and isolate those topics that really grabbed your interest. For example, you may prefer human geography over physical, or human biology over plants and animals. You could even break it down further to a more specific interest such as the brain function.
What problem (in your community or even the world!) would you like to help solve?
If you think about it, all jobs are related to solving a problem. This could be the problem of how to transport an individual from one side of the world to another, or managing the finances of a business. Rather than the standard "what do I want to do when I grow up?" identifying a problem you want to help solve can not only lead you to your ideal job field, but also your passion, a vital ingredient in job satisfaction.
If you could do someone else's job for a week, what would you do?
This is all about your ideal work experience placement. It doesn't have to be someone you know. It could be a job you happen to be aware of, or curious about. By answering this question, you're not committing yourself to this path, but at least it gives you something to investigate further.
You're going on a long haul flight and you're running late. You dash into WHSmiths to buy a magazine or two. What would you buy?
This is all about identifying what you have an interest in i.e. you are actually choosing to spend your spare time delving into this topic. What does your answer to this question say about you? Think outside the box. If you're topic is sport, this doesn’t mean that you should commit to becoming a professional sports person. However, it could suggest that you may be interested in working within the sports industry, but in a role related to another interest such as finance, marketing or journalism.
If all jobs paid the same, what would you do?
Answering this question takes away the attraction to job roles based on prestige or high salary. There are plenty of people in well paid and prestigious roles who are unhappy in their work, so there is no guarantee that they will make you happy. It all comes down to your values. Your answer may not mean that you should be a marine biologist swimming with dolphins, but it will tell you what you feel is really important to you.
What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
Quite often we dismiss job ideas because of our limiting beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar? "I'm not clever enough", "people like me don't do jobs like that", "they'll all laugh at me" or "my parents won't approve". Sometimes you might not even allow the idea to settle in your mind and you dismiss it so quickly that you forget that you even had the idea in the first place. This question allows you to dream. Many great careers have been launched as a result of a crazy dream.
The follow up question to all of the questions above is, "how can I find out more?" Here are some actions you can take to answer this question:
- Speak to your Careers Adviser
- Reasearch your job idea online
- Find someone who works in the sector and ask them questions
- Arrange work experience related to this work
- Complete a psychometric assessment to find out how well suited you are to a range of jobs including the ones you have in mind. Then you can discuss your report with a qualified Adviser
Mark Anderson is a Careers Adviser from Kickstart Careers Coaching, working in a range of schools across the south east. He is passionate about helping young people to find a career path that brings out the best in them.