What is a Career?

careerplanningA career is a series of carefully planned moves that a person executes in order to remain in the line of work they find satisfying. The notion that work should be or could be satisfying is relatively new. It came about with the sorts of people (also a relatively recent invention) who have been able to imagine that they have a choice about the kind of work life they will have, and that they have the right to find pleasure in doing their work.

The idea of a career implies planning; planning implies that you are actively making choices about what kind of work you will do by learning what kind of interests you have and what kinds of activities you enjoy. This means that, these days, people with careers are usually people with a lot of education and a long track record of efforts to surround themselves with the kinds of people with whom they enjoy talking or exchanging ideas.

It is also helpful for our plan to enjoy what we do that pressure on employers over many years (something you may remember from your history, literature, and other classes), as well as stricter work regulation, have improved working conditions for many people. Employers now court desirable employees by offering them benefits and bonuses: parental leave, health insurance, vacation days, sick days, etc. This is a kind of courtship game that makes some employers look much better than others, and sometimes makes it easier to decide between two comparable competing job offers. In the end, benefits prevail.

Fortune magazine compiles an annual list of best companies to work for in the U.S. (In 2013, Google won, for the fourth time in a row. What for, you ask? It won “not just for the 100,000 hours of subsidized massages it doled out in 2012. New this year are three wellness centers and a seven-acre sports complex, which includes a roller hockey rink; courts for basketball, bocce, and shuffle ball; and horseshoe pits.”). They also provide the list of best companies for each state, including New York. As you start thinking about your career plans, you may want to look at the criteria they take into account.


How to Choose A Satisfying Career: What is Your Pleasure?

careersBeing that we are living human beings, and that we have been exposed to a great deal of schooling and popular culture, it is easy for us to get overwhelmed with the number and kinds of things we are interested in. There are many ways to think about how to refine our list of interests into a list of things we could do for a living. A writer who thinks about these things a lot, an ethicist, proposes that “following one’s passion” (a common phrase used to describe how people choose their line of work; some would say “a cliché”) is “the stupidest career advice.” He proposes that one should let the world dictate the problems that we get to solve in our work. That way our satisfaction will be guaranteed because we will know (at the end of the day) that our work was helpful to the world, and not only self-serving.

At the same time, it may be difficult for many to abandon their passion and to forget the kinds of satisfaction they were looking to get when they signed up to get a degree. Sources and kinds of satisfaction vary widely, as do the ways in which individuals decide to pursue their passions. When deciding on what to do, it is crucial to have a clear sense of what it is that you believe you are getting yourself into: your expectations, fantasies, and your ambitions. Many times these expectations and fantasies are colored by ambition, but also limited by the range of experience new job seekers have.

Rather than treat your career ambition and expectations as a kind of lottery, or as a great mystery of the universe, you could answer some questions that would help to flesh out the scene in which you find yourself holding the job of your dreams.


Career Questionnaire

confusionHere are some questions you could respond to so as to paint a clearer picture for yourself of the scene in which you are satisfied with yourself and the way your career is going.

This may also help to refine your list of professions or jobs you would like to join or avoid.


What kind of job do you imagine yourself in? Describe the daily activities in this job.

Who do you imagine to be the people surrounding you daily at your workplace?

How do you think those other people got the jobs they have?

Much of the work life today is spent in electronic communication. Who do you think will be reading your emails? Are you comfortable showing other people your writing?

Do you think you are similar to the people you would like to work with? In what ways?

In what ways would you be different from people you would work with? Explain the details.

Specify the industry this job is in. If there is an industry, there are jobs similar to the one you are describing, which means that there are possibilities for career advancement.

What are the steps you would have to take to get this job?

Do you know anyone who works in this industry? What kind of relationship do you have? If not, where could you meet someone who works in this industry? If you got to meet them, what would you ask them about their job and how?

What is the salary range for entry-level positions in your target industry? Where and how would you find out how much money people make?

How many people do you expect to support on your salary? Do you plan to live with a partner? To have a family? Already have a family? Do you expect your partner to contribute to your family income?

Do you have a number in mind that for you means “good salary” for your first job after college? How much more is this amount compared to what you are making now?

Why do you think you are getting paid more? Why that much more?

What do you plan to do with this income (short term or long term)?

How long do you think you will stay in this job?