Careers

How to Choose a Career: 4 Questions to Ask Yourself

When choosing a career or switching careers, you may be tempted to apply to every single job listing in the hopes that one will work out. While this method may work for some, it’s best to narrow down your picks based on your own interests and skillsets. This will help you set more feasible and concrete goals during your search, which help ensure that you not only find a job, but a job in a field you enjoy and are good at. Here are four questions to ask yourself when starting your job search:

1. Do I have the right background?

Many people who don’t have college degrees or are trying to make a career switch may be discouraged to apply to jobs that they don’t have the “perfect” background for. In reality, there is no such thing as a “perfect” background. Applicants to job listings will always have a large range of backgrounds, personalities, education, experience, and skillsets. Therefore, not having a degree or relevant experience should not stop you from trying to land an amazing job, because you still have so much value you can offer. To read more about the steps to take to get your dream role without a “perfect” background, click here. 

2. What’s my personality like?

There are many different personality types, but it’s easiest to break them down into 4 groups:

Type A:

  • Pros: Goal oriented, fast paced, ambitious, good under stress, and risk taking.
  • Cons: Workaholic, impatient, stubborn.

If this sounds like you, you may be most interested in roles that offer you some ownership in your work, such as being a sales agent, a business owner, an entrepreneur, and other roles within different industries that are fast-paced and have many changing responsibilities day to day.  

Type B:

  • Pros: Relationship-oriented, outgoing, enthusiastic, persuasive, spontaneous.
  • Cons: Unrealistic at times, short attention span, arrogant.

If you relate to this, you may be best in roles that offer some sense of relationship building and being creative, such as being a customer service representative, working in public relations, working in a communications role, and more.

Type C:

  • Pros: Detail oriented, logical, prepared, accurate, creative, critical thinker.
  • Cons: Skeptical, can appear unsocial, doesn’t meet high personal expectations.

If you think you are Type C, you may find roles that are very detail oriented and creative most interesting, such as being a research or data analyst, and working in design, technical support, engineering, accounting, or programming, among other roles.

Type D:

  • Pros: Task oriented, cautious, stable, reliable, compassionate.
  • Cons: Could be taken advantage of, uncomfortable with change, less assertive.

If this sounds like you, you may find yourself gravitating to more stable roles in terms of day to day work and career progression, such as being an HR manager, an insurance agent, working in financial services, or being a customer service representative.

Of course, not everyone will fall into one specific personality type, so if you relate to more than one of these types, that is totally normal and may even serve you in your career search. To learn more about these personality types and related careers, click here.

3. What am I good at?

Now that you’ve assessed your personality type, it’s important to take a closer look at your skillset to narrow down interesting career paths.

Every person has a unique set of skills they are either innately good at or gain through experience, education, and practice. Skills are more than just professional training -- they include knowledge, abilities, personal traits, experiences and other qualifications that are beneficial or even necessary to do a certain job. Understanding what you are skilled at can help guide you to choose a role that best suits your qualifications.

There are two main types of skillsets, with many people having some combination both:

Hard Skills

Hard skills are the type of skills you may gain from learning, practice, and experience, such as being technical, analytical, good at math, having accounting knowledge, understanding product design, and more. These skills are the type you can write on a resume, as they are quantifiable and can be learned, although some may be better at learning specific hard skills than others.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are skills that are not as easily quantifiable or taught, since they have to do with interpersonal abilities. In other words, soft skills are skills you demonstrate when working with other people, including communication, collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and more. While these are harder to describe on a resume, they shine through in your interviews, and can even find a way into your cover letter or references.

How to match your interests to your skillset

There are three main groups of jobs you will probably see over and over again during your job search: tech, marketing, and finance.

Behind almost every company is a product or service. There are many moving parts to creating, selling, and keeping track of the finances behind this product or service, which is where different job types will appear.

Each industry will have different preferred skillsets, so here are the top skills among each one:

Technology:

  • Computer skills (Java, Python, C++, etc.)
  • User interface/user experience knowledge
  • Design skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Management skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Collaboration and communication skills
  • Critical Thinking

Marketing:

  • Strong knowledge of industry trends
  • Story-telling skills
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Understanding of design
  • Creativity
  • Persuasion/negotiation skills
  • Public Speaking
  • Project Management

Finance:

  • Technical skills (Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)
  • Accounting knowledge
  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Time management
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Leadership skills

Of course, skills vary by role, meaning you don’t need every single one of these skills to fit into these industries. Also, there are certainly more skills not listed that different roles within these industries may demand. Its best to use the skills listed as some guidance in narrowing down what job type you are looking for.

4. What am I interested in?

To examine your own interests ask yourself:

1. Are you interested in developing, enhancing, designing, or managing products? If you are, you may be interested in a role in the

Technology Industry:

Technology professionals are typically the people behind the creation and management of a company’s product or service, be it a website, online store, an app, software or hardware. Developing and upgrading products requires ideation, data analysis, design, implementation, and management.

Jobs in technology include product management, software development, User Interface or User Experience (known as UI or UX) design, information security, data analytics, and more. The background of these professionals ranges from high school diplomas, to bachelor’s degrees in computer science, math, statistics, design, or business, to master’s degrees in information science and statistics.

If you don’t fit this background perfectly, there are still many routes to getting a job in tech, with job requirements ranging in educational background and skillsets that are very technical to not at all technical. Plus, there are so many online courses and certifications out there on data analytics, computer science, and design which you can use to prove your experience and expertise to a hiring manager. If you are interested in learning more about different roles in tech, their salary ranges, and background/skill requirements, as well as some of the courses and certifications you can take, click here.

2. Are you interested in creating the story behind the product, building a brand, or increasing product sales? If you are, you may be interested in a role in the

Marketing Industry:

Marketing professionals are the people who ensure a company and its products or services stay true to the company’s brand and values. This brand is used to attract and retain customers that drive sales for the company. Working in marketing means working on advertising, content creation, brand management, and more.

Jobs in marketing include public relations representatives, market research analysts, brand managers, advertising sales agents and representatives, digital marketing strategists, and more.

The background of these professionals ranges from high school diplomas, to bachelor’s degrees in marketing, design, or business, to even masters of business administration (MBAs).

As with technology, there are entry level marketing that don’t require these exact backgrounds, and there are online courses and resources that could be used to hone your skills in marketing. To read more about this, as well as specific job descriptions, salary ranges, and desired skillsets, click here.  

3. Are you interested in the finances behind a company and their product or service? If you are, you may be interested in a role in the

Finance Industry:

Financial professionals are people who handle the money that a company processes when selling products, purchasing necessary pieces of production, buying other companies, and/or taking on debt. In some cases, financial professionals also work with their company’s clients to manage their own money and transactions. Working on the financial side of a company means taking account of company cash flows, managing investments, financially analyzing potential opportunities, and more.

Jobs in finance include financial planning and analysis, accounting, commercial banking, investment banking, and various investing-based roles. The background of these professionals ranges from high school diplomas, to bachelor’s degrees in finance, accounting, economics, or business, to masters of business administration (MBAs).

While most roles in finance do require higher education through undergraduate or graduate studies, there are entry level positions, such as bank tellers, that require high school diplomas or GEDs. These entry level roles can potentially lead to promotions down the line. To learn more about the different roles in finance, their salary ranges, and preferred skillsets, click here. 

So, now what?

Now that you are equipped with some knowledge on matching your interests to your skills, I encourage you to read more about the specific industry you are interested in to learn more about job types, salary ranges, and preferred background.

If you feel you don’t yet have the background you need to get the job you want, read more about how to land your dream job without the perfect background here. 

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Leah Musheyev

Nasdaq

Leah works on content creation, project management, and digital strategy on the Digital Team at Nasdaq.

Read Leah's Bio