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The more people try to consider career options, the more confused they can become which in turn can be the source of a lot of anxiety.

“This specific challenge does not discriminate; from undergraduate students to vastly experienced professionals, a common theme tends to be: ‘I have absolutely no idea what I want to do,’” explains Shay Nolan, careers adviser, University College Cork.

A good careers consultant will facilitate a process that will ultimately lead to students being able to work out for themselves, the career direction they would like to take, and there’s much to think about.


“Let’s begin with personality and how your personality might impact on career choice. Personality is a very useful indicator of your suitability for a particular career, and yet not many people consider its influence.

“I know a graduate who works in Sales & Marketing. If I can generalise for a moment then I think it’s safe to say that we all know there is a ‘type’ that fits a role like this. You know the one; the bubbly personality and confident communicator that can walk into a room full of strangers and never be out of a conversation.

“This graduate is not that type; she is a more reserved type that enjoys people but in a very different way. She recently admitted that if circumstances allowed then she would love to study to become a Children’s Nurse, which as a career is undoubtedly a million miles away from the world of Sales & Marketing.

“You could accuse this example of outlining an overly simplistic view but it makes an important point: any individual is a much better fit for some careers more than others based on the type of person that they are.”

Shay Nolan, Careers Adviser, University College Cork.
Shay Nolan, Careers Adviser, University College Cork.

So where does this leave us?

For sure, it suggests that coming to a better understanding of who we are has a lot to say about the careers we should be looking to develop. A natural reaction at this point might be to feel that we all know ourselves very well and there’s nothing new to learn – but do we really? And do we know how this relates to a career?

Careers Interest: Love & Compromise

“Over the years I have met many clients who will say that they don’t know what career interests they have. My instinctive reaction to this claim is that I don’t believe them.

“Of course, they are not lying, but I certainly believe that deep down each of us knows more than we might imagine. Rather than not knowing, I think for most people it can be more about not understanding how to find answers or where to even begin.”

Another common complaint that clients present with is that they can’t find a job.

“Of course I will always enquire what the person is doing to find work and typically the responses involve various combinations of trawling through jobs and recruitment websites, newspapers, LinkedIn, and so on.”

But what is it that you’re looking for?

The response to this important question is all too frequently met with ‘I’m not sure’.

“Without meaning to sound too clichéd here; how can you find what you’re looking for if you don’t know what that is!?”

So what does it really mean to be interested in a career? On the one hand, that seems like a very straightforward and simplistic question; on the other hand, it can feel for many like one of life’s most unsolvable problems.

“I have my own take on it of course and I think the short and very simplistic version is that the best predictor of success is a love of what you do. This I believe is good advice but it is not just as simple as ‘doing something you love’ as there are real-life constraints that can affect us all to the point that some careers are not always realistic choices and at the very least there needs to be a compromise.

“While I would like to tell any individual to follow their dreams and never give up, I also know that there are practical realities that exist in all our lives. Career development can be influenced by a variety of factors such as finances, location, personal and family commitments among other considerations. With this in mind, there is an important balance to be found between what we want on one hand; and what’s possible on the other.”

 The Value of Values

And so to values. What is it that you really want from a career; what’s most important to you? Is it to make money, and plenty of it (and there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way!)?

Is it to do social good and influence the lives of others by dedicating your work to a particular cause?

Or is it to achieve a particular lifestyle? Whatever it is that you’re looking for, what is most important is that you develop an awareness and understanding of your core work values because they too can have a significant say on the career area that is right for you.

“Bear in mind though that work values are quite complex in the sense that particular values mean different things to different people. There is no right and wrong, there is just what is most right for any one individual.

“Take lifestyle for example. Some people value career to the point that their work takes centre stage; working 12 to 16 hour days is what makes them happy, and it’s what makes them money to enjoy their lives outside of work. For others, working Monday to Friday 9 to 5 with weekends off where they can leave all thoughts of work aside is their primary motivation. There is of course everything in between also and I think this illustrates really well how intricate your core values can be.”

Connecting the Dots

At this point, it is really about connecting the dots, and a good careers consultant can help you to do this so that you will arrive at some logical and well-informed conclusions.

“As for what comes next; well it depends on the conclusions that have been drawn. For some, the career direction identified will involve further study; for others, it will be about preparing themselves for the application process.

“A good Careers Consultant can also provide support here in helping to develop an online presence, a professional CV, and good interview skills. To get to this point is not the end. Instead, it hopefully represents a new beginning to your career direction.”


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