The 4 Things That Actually Matter When Choosing a Job

Plenty of people arrive at college with a set career goal in mind. They know they will be doctors, run international non-profits, or spend their time writing code. For the rest of us, however, choosing a firm direction can be intimidating, to say the least. But believe it or not, you have all the information you need to begin a job search right now. All you need to do is tap into it.

To do so, I’m going to tell you something that might sound a little crazy: forget about job titles. Forget about specific companies, industries, and the positions within them. Instead, start thinking the specific things that matter to you. It’s going to take some soul searching, but figuring out what what you value–on both a large and small scale–can point you in the right direction. Here are four categories to consider when you begin contemplating your future career:

Environment

Begin by looking at the type of place you’d prefer to spend your working days. Would you like to join a huge corporation? Tiny start up? Do you want to dress in business attire every day, or would you prefer to rock a t-shirt and jeans? Do you perform better when working collaboratively, or do you excel most when left alone? Let’s talk schedule. Do you want flexible hours, or a regular 9-5 work day? These considerations may seem trivial, but they will directly impact your work experience all day, every day.

Interests and skills

Next, think about the things you already do sans paycheck. What are you good at? Make a list, and don’t leave anything out. It’s easy to overlook our own abilities and hobbies as uninteresting or unrelated to a potential career, but you should consider everything you do and enjoy as a potential career direction (not to mention a selling point on your resume). Are you obsessed with sports? Do you play around on Photoshop just for fun? Do you take pictures everywhere you go? Do you tweet religiously? All of these casual interests and hobbies have the potential to set you apart from other applicants. The best part? They can lead you to a job you’ll be genuinely engaged in and excited about.

Impact

What do you want to achieve? Do you want a job that makes people happy? One that solves big problems? Do you want a giant salary? Do you need to produce something tangible, or are you content if your efforts have a more abstract effect? Will your work affect people locally or globally? When you retire, what would you like to be able to say you achieved over the course of your working life?

Instinct

Finally, follow your gut. What jobs stand out to you? Even if you’re not currently looking for a job or internship, browse  through listings with a completely open mind. Any time a post catches your attention, click on it. Pay attention to which job descriptions spark your interest, and which do not. Think about what these attractive jobs have in common, what skills you have that apply to them, and what skills you will need to develop in order to be a competitive applicant. Don’t worry about what exactly the job titles are, and instead focus on what they entail day-to-day.

There is no one right answer to the looming “what are you going to do with you life?” question, and it’s likely that you’ll change career paths at least once in your life. However, as long as you stay focused on finding the aspects of the working world that you consider important, you can’t go wrong.

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Zoë Renauer

Zoë Renauer is a fourth year history major at the University of California, Berkeley. In a perfect world, she would probably choose be an undergraduate forever, but after she is forced into a cap and gown this spring, she hopes her career will take her to an office filled with smart people (and their dogs), where she can use her writing skills and enthusiasm every day.