The first lesson for personal finance basics is about you, your job and your future.
Why People Work
People work to meet their needs, wants and goals. Some of us also work out of a sense of duty to ourselves, our families or just our fellow men and women. We need food, shelter, clothing. We want vacations, cars, diamonds and McMansions. And we also want to know we’re helping someone other than ourselves.
But we work for more than even material possessions, sustenance and charity. We also work for a sense of identity. When I was in high school, I was a fast food worker. That line of work identified me as a different class of worker than an office clerk, a doctor or a CEO. While in college, I also worked in fast food, but I was first and foremost a student. People, including myself, would think of me differently than if I was just a fast food worker. Being a student was my main identity for over 6 years of my working life (counting high school).
When people ask you “What do you do?“, how do you usually answer? For me, I almost always say “I’m a systems analyst” (or something like that since I’m called many things professionally). So my work has become part of me. I don’t say “I’m a personal finance blogger” because it’s not my main source of income. I don’t say “I’m a volunteer at church” because I don’t get paid and it’s doesn’t occupy a large amount of my time. In essence, your job is your main identity (even though that’s a sad prospect).
Making a Career Choice
Whether you’re a high school or college student ready to graduate, or someone already in the working world, you need to assess several qualities about you and prospective careers. When you’re young, you feel like you’re ready to do anything. The world is your oyster and so on. But as you progress through school and into the “real world”, you’ll learn more about your skills, aptitudes and qualities that will help match you to your future career.
Determining your next career, whether you’re just a student or already have a job, should not be taken lightly. Remember, this is your main identity we’re talking about. If you choose unwisely, then you’ll either stay unhappy or be right back in the same boat of assessing your career options again.
The following are just some of the attributes of career selection:
- Values: By assessing and understanding your values, such as personal beliefs and ethical standards, you can begin to gauge what types of careers may be of interest to you. For example, if you feel strongly about protecting and serving animals, then perhaps nature study, environmental protection or zoology are right careers for you.
- Lifestyle: Do you come from a wealthy background and wish to remain wealthy? Or are you fine with living a transient lifestyle with almost no possessions to call your own? How you think you want to live your life plays a major role in determining your career options. For example, if you like work in a clean, comfortable, air-conditioned office, then joining the Peace Corp and heading to sub-Saharan Africa may not be the best career choice for you…yet.
- Interests: Of course understanding what you’re interested in is a huge step in picking out your next career. If you like computer hardware, perhaps the next step is being a network engineer, or working for the Geek Squad. If you like napping, then well, tell me when you find a job where I can do this.
- Aptitudes: So you want to be a rocket scientist, do you? Are you good at math and physics? No? You get straight C’s? Well then you may need to rethink your goals and understand what you’re good at before choosing a career that doesn’t match up to your aptitudes. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, astronaut or even burger-flipper. We all have special traits and skills that will help us to excel at different careers. Find out what your skills are.
- Personality: Lastly, your personal traits will help direct you to a career that matches you most closely. If you’re outgoing and personable, then you’re better equipped to work in a customer service or sales environment. If you’re not very organized, then perhaps you should rethink becoming a wedding planner.
But these attributes are only part of the full picture. This is meant to help you to understand you. In the next article in the series, we’ll talk about career planning, which takes these attributes and begins to match them up to potential careers. We’ll need to start looking more into potential jobs and their attributes and characteristics before the matching can really begin.