Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2004 /29 Elul, 5764

Marty Nemko

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Consumer Reports

How to tell what career you should choose | Over the years, I've asked my career counseling clients hundreds of questions to tease out what they should be doing with their lives.

Recently, I created a new-client questionnaire that includes the questions that most often reveal something important about a client. I now have my clients complete the questionnaire at home, bring it to their first session, and I use their answers as a springboard for our first discussion.

Many clients have told me that simply answering those questions was enormously helpful. It helps them discover who they are, and often, in turn, what they should be doing.

So, here are the questions:

What subject do you most enjoy talking about?

If I looked around your room, what clue might I derive about your interests?

What's an unusual even weird interest(s) of yours?

At work, what do you enjoyably spend a lot of time on?

Outside of work, what do you enjoyably spend a lot of productive time on?

What items do you save?

What was your favorite subject in school?

Which one or two of these are you: a) a word person, b) a math/science person, c) a people person, d) an artistic person, e) a fix-it, build-it person, f) a paperwork details person

What kinds of problems at work do you solve well?

What kinds of problems at home do you solve well?

What have people complimented you on?

What do you have a knack for?

What do you find easy that many people find hard?

What task(s) has brought you the most success?

What's an unusual ability(ies) of yours?

List your life's three favorite completed projects or accomplishments. Not only did they turn out well, you enjoyed the process of completing the work. If you can't think of three from adulthood, go back as far as you want.

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Do you know a wealthy, well-connected, eminent, or highly skilled person who could open an interesting career door for you? (If your answer is no, consider putting yourself in environments where you're likely to meet them: for example, volunteer to serve on a nonprofit board, join a sailing or flying enthusiast's club, write an article in which you interview experts.)

If you didn't care what anyone thought, what is your most deeply held aspiration?

In what way does your behavior not match your true values?

What are the non-negotiables in your next job?

Where do you picture yourself working: an office, at home, outdoors, a school?

How many hours a week is the most you're willing to work?

What is the longest commute you would accept?

Must your work "make the world a better place"?

How pleasant must your work environment be?

Is there a product or service that makes you so unhappy you'd like to do something about it?

Is there an aspect of society that makes you so unhappy you'd like to do something about it?

What's an unusual even weird value(s) you hold?

Write a paragraph describing what you'd like your life to be like five years from now.

Right before you go to sleep and right when you wake in the morning, is there one topic you think about more than others?

What are you afraid to admit, even to yourself?

What's your fatal flaw?

What do you want? What do you really want?

What keeps you from getting it?

Here's how you can use your answers to generate on-target career ideas. First, simply look at your answers. Show them to trusted friends. Do any careers come to mind?

If that doesn't work well enough, go to and click on "skills search." Based on your answers to the above questions, checkmark the skills you want to use in your career, and in seconds, you'll have a list of possibly well-suited careers.

Another approach: Browse a career library's shelves and on-target books' tables of contents. Pick careers that, based on your answers, seem well-suited. Two books that profile lots of careers: The Occupational Outlook Handbook (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.). contains authoritative but dry information on hundreds of popular careers, and my less dry but less authoritative Cool Careers for Dummies, which contains one-paragraph descriptions of 500 careers, including many under-the-radar employment and self-employment options. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.).

A cautionary note: The above process often generates the desire to pursue a highly competitive career: for example, one in the arts, media, biotech, fashion, etc. If so, you must ask yourself, being brutally honest, "How likely is it that I'm talented and driven enough to succeed in such a competitive field?"

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08/23/04: Nemko's Rules: A contrarian approach to career and job finding
07/29/04: Are you lazy?
06/17/04: We already send too many students to college
06/11/04: The case against work/life balance
05/13/04: The Dumbing of America and how to make it (and you) smarter
04/26/04: Do you talk too much?
12/08/03: How Open-Minded Are You, Really?
11/05/03: Driven to an early grave
08/18/03: The Truth About Teaching
05/12/03: Today's #1 hirer
04/30/03: What Are You Good At, Really?
04/10/03: Career advice I'd give my child
03/04/03: Under the radar: The One-Week Job Search
02/11/03: The World's Shortest Course on Managing Diversity
02/03/03: The Good Employer
01/29/03: What do you want to be when you grow up?
01/15/03: Passion Finder
12/18/02: Curing procrastination
12/12/02: The World's Shortest Course on Self-Employment
12/05/02: Men as Beasts of Burden
11/21/02: Beware of going back to school

© 2003, Dr. Marty Nemko