I 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:
- Meyers-Briggs (good to take every few years. I’ve stayed ENTJ my entire life);
- Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator; and
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).