Selecting a career or changing jobs is an emotionally draining and intellectually difficult undertaking. Not everyone knows the vocational or professional direction they want their life to take after completing high school or college. Compounding this difficult situation is that job security, regardless of your field, seems to be far less than it has been in many years. Therefore, changing jobs as well as changing one's vocation or profession should be viewed as perfectly normal. After all, as human beings, don't we continually change throughout life? So, the question arises, how do I select a vocational or professional direction or how do I go about changing directions with minimal turmoil?The initial steps are the same for both situations. First, examine your perceived needs. Are you more materialistic than idealistic? Are you social status oriented or do you find more contentment from within yourself and your relationships with others? One theory of career selection focuses on matching the worker to the work environment. Some people, for example, hate to sit behind a desk. Put them in an office and they get irritable, anxious, and certainly unhappy. But, take this same person and put her/him in a setting outside the office where he/she can interact with others or use their technical skills and they flourish. Not everyone knows themselves well enough to make a meaningful career choice. Getting to know yourself might involve seeing a career counselor and possibly taking certain vocational tests to help you more readily identify your interests and capabilities. These tests in conjunction with proper guidance could help you to more efficiently identify a vocational or professional direction that will fulfill your needs and make you a happier and more content person. Some counselors might guide you toward matching your personality characteristics to a particular field. Underlying this approach is the idea that if the work is properly suited to your personality you will be more content and more apt to succeed in the work place. Proper career choice can help you fulfill your individual needs. Just think how frustrating it would be to work every day in an environment where you could not express your personality. On the other hand, think how enthusiastic you would be about going to work each day if you knew that you could be yourself and not have to "fake it" every day. In addition to providing economic security and emotional fulfillment, a satisfying work environment can make us feel more worthwhile and even enhance our own self concept.

In the past, career selection generally represented a "lifetime decision." Today we believe that career decisions are made throughout one's life. No longer do we think of age 20 as the magical age for making a decision about one's career. Career choice in the 21st century is reversible. Today, in more than 42 percent of marriages both husband and wife are employed. For the first time in our history half of the work force is composed of women. In essence this means that the selection or changing of a vocation or profession will not be based upon gender biased opportunities. Also, the decision to change one's career direction has become a process that involves both husband and wife (and sometimes even the children). One must therefore consider all of the available options and resources available in order to make a meaningful and productive change. Finally, keep in mind the old adage that "the purpose of working is to maintain a lifestyle, not necessarily to be the lifestyle."

Dr. Allen Silberman, Ed.D., LPC

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