Laura Petrolino

Career Choice: Find Your Dream Job by Finding Yourself

By: Laura Petrolino | March 13, 2017 | 

Career Choice: Find Your Dream Job by Finding YourselfI always love to hear stories about what people wanted to be when they were kids and their career choice journey along the way.

You learn so much about who someone is as a person and get a great sense of what their strongest skills are in their final chosen field.

I find it so interesting and telling, I often ask it when we interview job candidates.

Career choice is difficult and almost never a linear process.

We zig, we zag.

Situations lead us to the unexpected.

We leverage opportunities and turn failures into journeys.

Experiences push us in one direction or another. And really, that’s what makes it fun.

The other day a conversation popped up among the PR Dream Team.

The super smart and hilarious Lilian Raji and I had a discussion about just this issue.

It turns out we each were influenced in some way by movies.

She watched “The Devil’s Advocate“ and it made her decide not to become a lawyer.

Then she watched “Chicago” and that’s what inspired her career in PR.

I, on the other hand, watched “Pretty Women” and decided I wanted to become a prostitute.

Yes, that’s correct.

Had you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up around 1990 or 1991, I would have said a prostitute.

This was true despite my parents rather panicked insistence that it really didn’t actually work out how it did in the movies.

Because I’ve always been an overachiever, prostitution wasn’t my end career goal. 

I was certain I could leverage it to do whatever I wanted in life AND have a fabulous wardrobe, to boot.

Much to the relief of my parents, I didn’t choose the adult escort field.

Ironically, once I decided I didn’t want to be a prostitute, I switched to a senator.

I’ll let you chuckle privately about the irony in that transition.

Career Choice: Apply Who You Are to What You Do

But I digress.

Even though I didn’t become a prostitute, a senator, or a famous actress, (In high school I was so certain I’d become a famous actress, I insisted I subscribe to People magazine, so I could “keep up with my peers”) there are traits in all my career choices which very much point to my basic personality type, and the kind of career it lends it to.

Public relations, communications, and client service all fit very well into that mold.

Now, when I tell people what I do, I almost always get greeted with a, “Oh, that makes sense.”

My personality fits my job.

Likewise, Lilian didn’t become a lawyer, but as she says:

I use the same skill sets I would have used as a lawyer in the work I do.  And, simply put, lawyers defend their clients in a court of law; we defend ours in the court of public opinion.

I’m a big believer you will always be happiest and most successful in your career if it fits within your personality and passions.

And, while possessing certain associated strengths helps, that’s less important than a personality fit. 

If you are passionate about something and it fits who you are as a person, you’ll find a way to be successful.

Strength tends to follow passion.

Find Your Dream Job By Finding Yourself

A few weeks ago I was on a career day panel for #PRStudentChat with Jess Ostroff and Joe Colon.

One of the last questions was, “What’s the most gratifying thing about your career in communications?”

It was fascinating to see everyone’s diverse answers.

There are many reasons you might choose a career, but I think all of us have one thing that really fuels us.

One thing we base our career—and success—around.

This question really pulled that out for all the PR pros in attendance.

It was a good reminder part of what makes communications such an interesting field: The diversity we all have.

It’s a career molded around who you are and everyone is driven by a certain aspect.

If you don’t know what your part is, or haven’t yet found that niche that excites you, go back to those silly childhood career ambitions and see if you can find some trends.

Career choice isn’t necessarily about what you can do. It’s about who you are.

During the chat I also recommended new PR pros to expose themselves to a lot of different things both in and—ESPECIALLY— out of the industry.

This type of exposure, or purposeful life experience, is essential to figure out who you are and how that best fits your career.

Understand Your Personality for Optimal Career Choice

I’m also a huge believer in taking certain personality tests to help you understand, well, you better.

Some of these might suggest a career choice, but really they are best at helping clearly present your dominate traits, strengths, and weaknesses. 

I’ve taken many, because (obviously) I love learning about me, me, me, wonderful meeeeeeee.

I’m not even going to begin to start to recommend one over the other, but I’ve taken many, including:

Start with Meyers-Briggs, if you’ve never taken any test like this before, and go from there.

Career choice isn’t just a one time event, it’s a lifetime evolution.

To be most successful, you must constantly self-evaluate how you are contributing and how you’d like to be.

You might be in an aspect of PR and communications which doesn’t fuel who you are as best it could.

That’s OK, because there are so many routes to travel.

If you aren’t some place that fits, change it (and beware of the influencer of movies).

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • “Career choice isn’t just a one time event, it’s a lifetime evolution.” I love this so much.

    We should understand once and for all, that as we grow as individuals and professionals, our career evolves as well. That’s why is so important to invest in your education constantly.

    The day you stop learning, you’re dead!

    Now, I am going to take all those personality test you listed. I am so curious!

    • Ohhh…let me know what your results are. They are super fun to take every so often. You see how you change and how you stay the same.

  • paulakiger

    I love this post so much. ((I am reading a book right now where a 14 year old, unbeknownst to either parent or either of the two stepparents in her life, creates a website where the highest bidder to Amnesty International gets her virginity — on the premise that if little girls worldwide are being held victim to human trafficking, it’s not that big a sacrifice for her to do a benefit like this. I guess the difference between THIS and your teenaged Pretty Woman inspired aspirations is the lack of an altruistic motive and the focus on you 😉 ))

    • BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!! OMG! I’m laughing so hard. No, absolutely zero altruistic intent, other than I feel it’s a benefit to society for people to get to admire me dressed up in beautiful designer clothes.

      • paulakiger

        And Instagram didn’t even exist then. If you were that teenager with that career aspiration now, the possibilities for public admiration would be endless.

  • I used to hate that question in elementary school. I felt like the inquiring adult was also asking me to commit to a lifelong career at age eight. So, I often responded – “the first person to walk on Mars.”

  • paulakiger

    Okay, now for my serious answer. I think it is SO important to *try* to gravitate toward the things we do well that ALSO light our fires, for sure. For some reason, I’ve had lots of discussions with attorneys recently who studied law for various reasons (not all of them because they *loved* law) and got around to the point that legal training can be applied to SO many vocations, many of which will make them oh so much happier. // We also need to be open to the fact that our world is changing fast and that gives us opportunities to explore new things that may not have even existed when we started our careers. // My MBTI is usually an E/I mix, ST and strongest J. I took that MAPP thing (the free version) so I could contribute to these discussion and the “free” results were, um, interesting. My favorite passage (which is oh. so. true.) is in the “language” category (go figure): “Paula has a unique motivation to carefully, thoroughly read simple explanatory or instructional statements (like the directions on the label of a soup can) and fully/accurately know what was said. (NOTE: This is not a widely shared trait. Unless the subject attracts the reader’s attention in the first place, reading of elementary instructions is just scanning, and some information is probably overlooked, ignored, or bypassed. Paula should regard this unique asset as vocationally important.” <<<<— BRING ME ALL THE SOUP CANS AND DO IT NOW, PEOPLE! 🙂

    • LOL!! I’m dying. But this is such a relief. Should I ever need a soup can read, I know who to call. Whew

  • You know what’s the most interesting part of this? You and I are COMPLETE opposites, personality wise, but we’re also so similar. I suppose that’s why it works. That and you’re hilarious.

    • So, you mean you never had career ambitions in the adult escort field?

      Hahaha! But you are right, we are the most similar opposite pair ever!! It really is kind of fascinating and it IS why it works. We see things from different perspectives, but in terms of the same vision. And we are like the best comedy team ever!!!

  • Emma Kaser

    I took the Meyers-Briggs test and I wasn’t super surprised with my results – which is good as to what I want to pursue career wise. I agree with your assertion that we should first find ourselves before a career, it makes me a lot less stressed out about finding niche!

    • That’s great Emma!! And the great part is one fuels the other, so each role you have will help you learn more about yourself, which in turn will help you direct your career!

  • Tyler Niles

    As a soon to be grad, this is a refreshing post that helps ease my mind as I embark on the ever so stressful first job search. It will be important for me to keep myself in mind while looking for jobs as well as what the employer is looking for.

    • Hey Tyler! And congrats!!! Honestly, my best advice is to use your first several jobs to learn as much about as possible. Be super proactive, try to get involved in as many angles of the role as you can, and rest easy in the knowledge your career will take many twists and turns and they will all make you a better professional (if you let them).

      Good luck!

  • Melissa Barnes

    This was so helpful. I’m a PR student who’s still trying to find her niche, so some days I feel a little out of place. I’m definitely going to take The Myers-Briggs to help me out.

    • Oh I’m so glad Melissa! Definitely take Meyers-Briggs, and as I said during the #PRStudentChat try lots of things. Experience a lot, read a lot, do a lot in the industry, but also outside of it. You’ll stumble upon opportunities and things you love, which you never would have imagined. Good luck! Hope we see your face around here often so we can follow your journey!