Which is the Right Career Field for You
-as You Define "Right?"

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By Don Orlando, MBA, CPRW, JCTC, CCM, CCMC (Col., USAF, {ret.})

Americans "can't get no job satisfaction."

According to CBSNews, only 45 percent of us are satisfied with our work. When the Conference Board completed their survey on this subject last year, they found the dissatisfaction rate was the highest in 22 years.

Only part of the problem is pay. Many find themselves in unfulfilling jobs.

How did that come about and how can you avoid being part of that statistic? Many stumble into a job or are forced to take something they don't want. And most work hard…they have to because their career field just doesn't suit them.

About the time they are ready to give up, the boss notices their hard work and offers them a raise, bonus, or promotion. That takes away some of the pain-until people realize if they work really, really hard, they'll get a chance to do more of what they hate!

It doesn't have to be that way. If you could find honest-broker answers to three critical questions, not only would you have found the field that's right for you-as you define right, but you'll know exactly why it appeals to you. Here are the questions.

Question 1: What must I be able to do on the job to be acknowledged as a top leader in my field by my boss, my colleagues, our customers, and…most important… by myself? Make no mistake. We are not looking for traits.

"Hard working, self-starting, strong people person, great problem solver," you are all these things. And they are the minimum standard for every meaningful job on the planet.

You want those things people can see the best in the field do that sets them apart. These are the actions that make such leaders valuable.

Consider law enforcement, for example. The qualifications are very similar, no matter where the job. This field requires people to investigate crimes, testify in court, build community relations, interrogate suspects, qualify on the weapon, and the like. Now suppose you asked the very best in this field what it takes to be a great cop.

Such a mentor might say: "If you will lay down your life for your partner, you're a great cop! If you won't do that, I will never ride with you. . .ever!" You will never see those words in a job announcement for a policeman or policewoman.

Yet you can decide is that's the field for you based on what that it calls for. This is the acid test. If a field doesn't pass that test, there's little purpose is pursuing it as your career choice.

Question 2: How many opportunities are there in this field? This is more than just the number of jobs available. You're also interested in what advancement looks like. Some people measure advancement by the amount of their paycheck, others by their span of control, others by the prestige the field brings. Choose the answer that's right for you.

Question 3: Ask yourself what the compensation looks like. The financial and benefit portions are, of course important. But please also consider the career field's culture. For example, law is based on advocacy. If that culture appeals to you, it's a big part of your compensation.

Now you can take off the blinders and look at any field that interests you using this approach. But remember: the information must come from the very best in each field you investigate.

Once you've looked into a handful of fields, you'll be able to choose the one that works for you. When you do, you're one of the lucky few who love what they do and are naturally well rewarded for their passion in their career field.