Tuesday, August 17, 2004

SMART SKILLS
Motives & interests dictate work choices
Usha Albuquerque

Usha Albuquerque
Usha Albuquerque

THE decision of one's career is the most important decision of our life. Yet, often it is made on the basis of unrealistic professional aspirations, inadequate knowledge, parental and societal pressures and emotional factors that should rightly be irrelevant to this decision.

It is important to have a realistic approach to the choice of career. Success in a career depends on aptitude and interest. Where there is interest, there is involvement and motivation. Examine yourself on the following points:

Your motive to work

There are several motivating factors that influence the choice of career, and your atti tude to work. Some people are in their jobs primarily for the money, but they also live for the recognition it affords or the intellectual stimulation it provides. Others choose to work for social contact and self-identity, and still others, for the power status and the opportunity it provides to exert influence over people. So, it is important to test your reasons for wanting to work, and rank the motivators according to their level of importance to you

The environment you like

Not everyone is immune to the environment in which they work. It is important, therefore, to identify the environment you prefer to work in. This means determining the ideal physical environment, which includes the arena, whether in a business, government, academic or non-profit organisation; and the type of industry, which could stretch from the corporate world, medicine, fashion, and entertainment to hoteliering, trading or education. Each has its own aura and attraction, and you should identify the one which makes you most comfortable, for unless you are, you cannot enjoy your work.

The size of the organisation is another factor to take into account. Some people are happy in large, prestigious, formal organisations, while others prefer the intimacy of a small office. Once you know where you want to work, it is easier to plan the direction of your career path.

Our work arena is also decided on the basis of a certain intangible environment - the culture of an organisation, who and what we would like to work with. Are you comfortable in a research or academic area, dealing with information and data, and if so, what kind of information and data? Are people your forte, or things. Here too, you need to identify the type of persons with whom you would be interested in working, and the kind of things.

Your range of talents

Each person possesses a range of talents, interests and skills any of which could be the basis of a worthwhile career. You need to know what you do well, so you can choose to use those abilities and develop the necessary skills in a career that require them.

A lawyer needs strong reasoning abilities and communications skills, an engineer, on the other hand, should be technically competent. Fine-tune your best skills and make intelligent decisions about acquiring any additional skills that may be required.

Your interest inventory

Many people believe that interests are those activities they do well. This is not necessarily so. You could be very keen on rock music without being able to sing a note.

If you always enjoy interacting with people you cannot be happy working by yourself, or with test tubes in a laboratory. A person who enjoys working outdoors with animals cannot get used to sitting at a desk in an office all day long. Your love of reading and books - the world of information - could lead you to become a para-legal, or an editor in a book publishing company. Or if animals are your pet fascination - a career with a wildlife park or the World Wildlife Fund may be the options you should pursue.

To choose work that will be satisfying to you, it's important to know which interest categories attracts you the most and match it with the work of the same category.

Your soft skills

In addition, one needs to acquire some basic job skills essential for every career. There are a range of other skills that are learnt or developed over a period of time. They could be technical skills such as computer, language, gardening or cooking, and personal skills like communication, leadership or management skills. Sometimes, it is important to have these skills as they enhance your career prospects. Computer skills are required today for practically every job. Those who want to join the travel or airline business would benefit from learning a foreign language. Communication skills are important whether you are a teacher, computer programmer, manager, or a doctor. And if you plan to become a chef, your cooking skills will certainly come in handy.

Once you know your career potential, your preferred skills and needs -

  • Make a list of the job options that attract you and see which match your aptitudes and interests.

  • Read about the career/ job you would like to get into . Find out as much as you can about it, the abilities and skills required, and talk to people in that field.

  • Check the work environment and see if it suits your personality.

We can only build a successful career when we know what we can do well, and are able to equip ourselves with the key to making the right career decision.

The writer has authored The Penguin India Career Guide and The Essential Career Guide