Before actually deciding what you want to do, some vital steps are necessary.  Here are a few of them.


A skill is “a learned ability to do something well.”  Skills are the currency used by workers.  In the labor market you receive pay in exchange for the skills that you offer and use at work.  Individuals who can describe themselves to a potential employer in terms of their skills are more likely to find the work that they want and enjoy.

If you were asked right now to list your skills, what would your list look like? It might be a short list, not because you do not have the skills, but simply because you have never been asked to identify them and are not accustomed to thinking and talking about them.

Every person has approximately 700 different skills in their repertoire!!  Most individuals have trouble identifying them and if they do recognize them, they don’t feel right promoting them.  However, you cannot afford this kind of misdirected modesty.

Here are the skill types:

  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Artistic
  • Helpers
  • Persuaders
  • Organizers

Realistic – “Doers”

Doers describe themselves as: reliable, self-reliant, competent, stable, straight-forward, honest, natural, practical and thrifty.   Their working style: in interactions with others they prefer to get to the point, do not like lengthy negotiations, want to be know what needs to be done and to be left alone to do the job and do it right the first time.

Sample Educational Areas

  • Architectural drafting, construction
  • Civil, Industrial, Mechanical Engineering
  • Criminal Justice
  • Medical Technology (Radiology Technician, for example)

Investigative “Thinkers”

Thinkers describe themselves as:  Self-determined, intelligent, curious, logical, precise, analytical, reserved, independent and rational.   Their working style: prefer to work alone, ask for and provide a lot of detail before coming to a conclusion, want to know the reasons behind decisions and prefer information to be presented in a logical and linear fashion.

Sample Educational Areas

  • Biological Science (Anthropology, Biologist, Ecologist, Geneticist)
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • Geology
  • Physics
  • Psychology

Artistic “Creators”

Creators describe themselves as: creative, emotional, expressive, imaginative, independent, idealistic, open, original, unconventional and tolerant.   Their working style:  Prefer a creative approach to problem solving and planning, rely heavily on intuition and imagination and enjoy being given a free reign to discover possible solutions to problems.

Sample Educational Areas

  • Art (advertising, commercial, animation, computer graphics)
  • Education
  • English
  • Music
  • Theater
  • Writing (transcription, technical writer, web page designer, journalism)

Social “Helpers”

Helpers describe themselves as:  Helpful, warm, co-operative, sociable, tactful, friendly, kind, generous, patient and understanding.  Their working style: prefer to network to gather information before creating a plan of action, excel at networking to gather information, create solutions and prefer a team approach.

Sample Educational Areas

  • Foreign Language
  • Health Care (nursing, medical doctor, therapist, medical office assistant, health related interests, e.g., transcription, coding, billing, though in these latter, not much direct personal involvement.
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Teaching

Enterprising – “Persuaders”

Persuaders describe themselves as:  Adventurous, energetic, optimistic, agreeable, extroverted, popular, sociable, self-confident and ambitious.  Their working style: prefer to lead a team to achieve a goal, like to focus on the bigger picture and get others to commit to pieces of the plan and are comfortable delegating work.

Sample Educational Areas

  • Administrative Responsibility
  • Advertising
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Marketing
  • Public Administration
  • Real Estate
  • Sales (all kinds of it)
  • Tourism (hotels, restaurants)

Conventional  – “Organizers”

Organizers describe themselves as: Conforming, practical, careful, obedient, efficient, orderly, conscientious, persistent, reserved and structured.  Their working style: prefer to have a clear and structured plan and to follow it, pay attention to detail and take pleasure in putting the pieces of the plan together.

Sample Educational Areas

  • Accounting
  • Computer Information Systems/Technology
  • Economics
  • Legal Studies (paralegal, legal transcription, legal assistant)
  • Mathematics
  • Medical (office management, medical office assistant, medical records departments, medical coding and transcription)
  • Small Business Owner/Entrepreneur
  • Then Identify Your Learning Style

Learning style refers to how people learn. The concept is important; people do learn in different ways. Understanding how you learn can help you to take more effective control of your own career development and learning. To discover how you learn, think about the experiences you have had in your life in which you felt you learned a great deal. Then consider the following types of learning processes and environments:

  • Unstructured or highly structured environment
  • Working at your own speed or working at the pace set by a teacher or group
  • Learning things step-by-step or getting the big picture first
  • Working alone or working in a group
  • Learning in a quiet setting or with sounds in the background
  • Forming pictures in your mind, touching the object or speaking to yourself
  • Engaging in computer-based instruction / interactive multimedia
  • Conducting field work or doing case studies
  • Sharing thoughtful dialogue with others
  • Listening to a lecture
  • Watching videos or films
  • Participating in a role play or simulation
  • Writing in logs, journals or workbooks
  • Reading about something and then trying it out
  • Trying something out and then reading about it later


Over the past decade an increasing number of individuals have chosen self-employment or entrepreneurship as a career option. Those who are self-employed or entrepreneurs are people who create a new product or provide a service, and then proceed to put form to their dream by opening a small business.  More about home business/entrepreneurship will be provided in the HomeBizBook Section of this training course.  Consider the following questions:

  • Do you welcome challenges?
  • Is achievement important to you?
  • Are you confident about your abilities?
  • Do you like to be in control?
  • Do you consider yourself a realistic planner?
  • Are you persistent?
  • Can you cope with uncertainty?
  • Do you usually complete any task you start?
  • Are you willing to take moderate risks?
  • Do you consider yourself to be organized?

If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, you have some of the characteristics of people who are self-employed.

Here is a site with a knowledge base that provides an on-line entrepreneurship quiz (though a little simplified):

The Labor Market

The world of work (or labor market, as it is often called) is very complex. There are now thousands of occupations in the U.S. alone.  New occupations are emerging while others are on the decline. The challenge is: “How do we make sense out of this ever-changing world?”

It is possible to discover career opportunities by learning what it is important to search for and where to search. Before beginning this process, gather your results from Step 1. This material will help you to identify opportunities as you conduct your research.

The “what” includes the characteristics, values, skills and knowledge requirements of the occupational role.  Additional material you will want to know includes:  Duties and responsibilities, working conditions  (e.g., hours, physical demands of job, physical environment and level of stress), salary range or compensation for work, opportunities for advancement, related occupations and future outlook predictions.

Career Objectives

Next let’s clarify your career objectives. If you knew you would succeed, what is the type of work that you would do?

Organize your ideas about objectives into three groups:  Long, medium and short-term.  By having longer-term goals, you will be able to set your course to becoming successful in your career. Then by working backwards to the present, you will be able to take a step at a time toward your ultimate goal.

How much of your total being (body, mind, spirit) do you want to commit to the work you have listed in the “now” column? Will you be able to see this work as part of the big picture, the dreams you have, your special way of contributing to the world?  Receiving pay from an employer means completing the tasks required by the position.  Will the joy you experience doing this be greater than the burden?

This is why your personality and attitudes are the most important predictors of success in your career and in your life generally. You can’t accomplish more than you believe you can. Your thoughts, positive or negative, come into play (self-fulfilling prophecy). How you accept your own abilities will define whether or not you achieve your goals.

The secret of an athlete’s success can be anyone’s.  The trick is to create a mental model (e.g., a high jumper will visualize running and sailing over the bar in the competition).  Use your imagination to create what you want in life. Close your eyes and visualize yourself doing the work you have written in the “now” section. Are you indoors or outdoors? Is there anyone with you? What tools or equipment are you using? What are you saying, writing or thinking? What deadline are you working towards? To be successful in visualizing your work, you need to have a strong desire for the goal to be achieved, a belief that the goal is possible to attain, and a willingness to live with the outcome.

The key words are:

  • desire
  • belief
  • willingness

Complete your visualization with an affirmation (in the present tense of the verb as though it already exists). “I am …”  You can phrase it as a role (e.g., a medical transcriptionist, a coder whatever, or as an activity, such as working with the handicapped or the elderly.  State the affirmation so often that the thought becomes very comfortable and exciting for you. Finding work will be so much easier when you can describe it to others with clarity and confidence!

Personal Objectives

Your life is comprised of several parts that work together to bring the balance needed for optimal wellness:

  • Physical: nutritious food, safe water, healthy air, exercise
  • Mental: intellectual challenges, knowledge, thoughts
  • Emotional: feelings, belonging, security
  • Philosophical: authenticity, spirituality, meaning, attitudes
  • Social: relationships with others, friendships
  • Career: finances, fulfillment
  • Recreational: leisure, fun, sports

An overabundance or a deficiency in one area can affect other components (e.g., overwork in your career can cause physical exhaustion leading to illness, stress resulting in emotional upsets affecting social relationships, and mental inefficiencies impacting decision-making).

Physical fitness has a major impact on your overall wellness.  Employers also benefit through decreased medical costs and improved productivity on the job, two important considerations when more work is spread over fewer people. During the past two years, how many days were you off work or school due to medical reasons? Can you, or do you want to, offer a potential employer the advantages that go with a healthy lifestyle? What changes, if any, need to be implemented to increase your stamina and endurance?

In conjunction with your career objectives, decide upon your goals in other areas of your life: Family and friends; sports and physical fitness; leisure activities including travel; and finances including retirement funding, etc. Community service and personal/career development will also be covered.

Community Service Objectives

Community organizations, whether local, national or international in scope, provide opportunities for individuals to give to society and to build their careers. You should be able to support a community service compatible with your beliefs and geared toward your leisure needs. It is important that you make the same type of commitment to the organization as you would to your employer. The organization will be counting on you to do the job as conscientiously as a paid employee.

List 3-5 organizations or community needs in which you are interested.   Interview the person in charge to determine if your goals and theirs are compatible, and if working together will meet both your needs. When you have made a decision on where you would like to volunteer, agree upon the number of hours, the times you will be available, your specific duties and responsibilities, any training you require, your out-of-pocket expenses, etc. Having a written, signed contract will alleviate any misunderstandings, which might jeopardize your reputation in the future.

Lifelong Learning

“Never stop learning.  As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the mind without culture can never produce good fruit.”

~ Seneca

Change is the maxim everywhere in the world.  Individuals must change to keep pace. That means continuous learning and updating  – an ongoing adjustment to your portfolio of skills and knowledge. Motivation can come from several benefits: increased job satisfaction, better prospects for work, personal satisfaction, and increased pay. Learning environments can include:

  • Ongoing training at your place of employment
  • Learning at home through audio/video tapes, Internet delivery or printed materials
  • Lectures or evening classes in an educational institution
  • Continuing education units now abundantly available

Before you invest your time and money, thoroughly investigate your options regarding quality and suitability to your needs. For some programs you may wish to ask about the people who graduated, what type of work they are doing and their salary ranges.

Goal Setting

“Setting goals for your game is an art. The trick is in setting them at the right level, neither too low nor too high.”

~ Greg Norman

A goal is an “aim or an end towards which effort is directed.”  A goal is where you want to end up.  Developing one requires conscious projection into the future in order to bring clarity to the direction you should take now. This section provides information to design and write your goals so that they will become real.

Key Words:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely

  • Specific means “detailed, particular or focused.”   A goal is specific when you know exactly what is to be achieved and accomplished.  A simple goal is easier to understand.  Imagine your goal as specifically as you can.  Ask:  Who, where, what, when, how specifically?
  • Measurable goals are quantifiable.  Think of the evidence that will let you know you have achieved it.  For example, words like “better” or “faster” are not quantifiable.  “Increase my daily productivity, or my course grades by 10%,” provides a clear measure for a goal.
  • Attainable goals are self-maintained; the achievement of the goal is up to you alone.  There are many aspects of life that involve dependent relations with others.  Your goal should clearly speak to things that you have control over.
  • Realistic goals are practical and possible.  Realistic goals are a balance between what is hard and what is easy to achieve.  They require a “stretch.”  It’s that little bit extra in performance that makes people progress and improve. Is your goal realistic and reasonable?
  • Timely goals mean that “they are scheduled and are met.”  There is a finite duration to your effort, a deadline.  People can put off doing things if no deadline is set because human nature usually finds something else to do on the way.  For example, “by the end of June” is more specific than “toward the end of June.”  However, the most precise statement is:  June 30, 20XX.

Finally, consider the language you use when writing your goals.  Avoid wording goals in terms of, “I hope to have a job in a field related to my area of study.”  Rather, use wording such as “I will complete ___ information applications or interviews in the area I am learning by January 31, 20XX.”

Action Planning

“Most people wish for riches, but few people provide the definite plan and burning desire which pave the road to wealth.”

~ Napoleon Hill

The goal is where you want to be, and a plan is the strategy you employ to get there.  Planning turns goals into tangible “bite-sized” steps of action.  A plan details the activities necessary to accomplish the stated goal.  It organizes your dreams so that you can move forward with confidence.  The biggest mistake next to not having a plan is to be so fixed that new opportunities are missed. Remember, a plan is not a life sentence. As your interests and expertise change, feel free to adjust your plans and goals.

To help you create a road map to accomplish your goals, play with the following form.† Use one form for each of your goals.

Getting Ready to Work

Many job seekers have an unrealistic picture of how much time the job search may actually take.  It is never too early to begin making contacts.  Many students actually begin looking while in the courses.  Many of our students actually have located jobs before they complete the course and graduate.  It is certainly reasonable to commence looking during the last quarter of any course in which you are enrolled.  In the coursework itself, you will be provided various places to look, and will find others on your own.

By now, you should be aware of where your efforts will be directed.  You should understand what is important to you, what you enjoy or do not enjoy doing, what skills you have to offer, and what type of work is a good fit for you. In short, only you know what kind of work you want and what you are best qualified for. Be able to discuss your accomplishments. Employers want to know why you selected them and what you are prepared to do for them.

Also, think about your life beyond this work you are presently looking for. Where are you heading in the future? Now is the time to form the foundation for those future jobs.   What skills will you need to develop or update?  What skills do you want to develop? With a clear focus, you will be able to prepare excellent resumes and letters, and present your strengths in interviews.

Develop a plan to find work

  • Your work search will be more effective if you map out your strategy in advance
  • Set daily and weekly objectives so that you have a concrete way to evaluate your progress

Determine the amount of time you will allocate to:

  • Identify target organizations
  • Research
  • Make contact
  • Follow up

Spend one or two hours one day each week, pursuing and exploring work possibilities.  Record all of your appointments, activities and results

Organizing Support

Support of all kinds is important.  To make ends meet, you may need to take an interim job until the position you would like becomes available.  For instance, to gain the experience you need to work at home, you may have to work outside the home for a period to establish “experience.”  You may need to work at a convenience store for a time.

Second, moral support is very important. “No” will likely reach your ears more often than “Yes.”  Surround yourself with people who are most likely to boost your confidence.  Volunteer  – an organization will appreciate your help. The people there will become aware of your enthusiasm and the quality of your work. Benefits will come as you work and interact with people, since they may be able to give you some information and advice about your job search activities.  Keep in touch with previous professional colleagues, friends in your field of work, and new contacts that you are making each week.  These people can also be a source of great moral support.