15 Most Important Career Questions to Ask Yourself

Updated: October 11, 2010

Firstly what's the difference between a career and a job? It seems a common question that people ask. Typically a career is something that takes you into the future - you build up skills and knowledge that take you onto higher paying and higher status opportunities. You typically stay within the same career over longer periods of time.

A job is something you go to each day, normally to put money in your pocket, to get the job done and go home. You tend to live more in the moment and may change to a number of different jobs over time. A job might allow you to fulfill other important opportunities, or plug a gap in your career.

The average person will work from the age of 25 to 65. They will work around 48 weeks each year and 37.5 hours each week (probably more in today's working climate). During that time the average person is likely to:

  • Spend 40 years at work
  • Work 1,920 five day working weeks
  • Spend 9,600 days at work
  • Work for around 1,800 hours each year
  • Spend 72,000 hours at work during that 40 years

In comparison during the same period the average person will:

  • Have 3,840 Saturdays and Sundays (or 4,160 for the full year)

With all that time at work - are you doing what you really want to do?

If you have less than five years of employment, here are fifteen questions for you to ask yourself:

  1. What are you really good at? - interpersonal, knowledge, skills
  2. What do you really enjoy doing (again, and again)
  3. What do you know that you really want to avoid in your job/career
  4. What would people who know you well say you are good at?
  5. Where are you now? What have you achieved so far (education, courses, training, experience)?
  6. What are the 'must haves' for you in your career? For example - money, satisfaction, a career path, values, people, location, type of work
  7. Who/what influences your career choice? For example - family, money, peers, you, other? What influence do they have over your choice? What do you think of that?
  8. Thinking more broadly, and about all the people you know, are related to, or admire. What careers choices are available?
  9. What would you be happy to spend the next 25-40 years of your life doing?
  10. What is your ideal job or career? Write down your ideal job or career with all the reasons it's ideal for you
  11. What do you still need to do to achieve your ideal? Who do you still need to speak to? What resources do you have available to help you achieve what you still need to do?
  12. If for any reason your ideal job or career is not achievable right now, what can you learn from what you've written so far and how can you apply that to a different job?
  13. What do you need to do in order to ensure you make the right choices?
  14. Who should you be speaking to next?
  15. What do you think you are able to achieve if you put time and effort into working towards your job/career?

If you are more experienced, such as my client example above, here are fifteen questions for you to ask yourself:

  1. Why do you work? List all of the reasons you work or have a career or job - for example to have a fulfilling career, to pay the rent/mortgage, following a family legacy, because I've always done it, to earn some extra money etc
  2. When you started your working what was your dream job? How, if at all has that changed?
  3. How do you feel when you hear the statement - This is what you'll be doing for the next 25-35 years?
  4. What are you most proud to have achieved in relation to your job/career? Why are you proud?
  5. If I were to pick three important people from your career, how would they describe you?
  6. What are you motivated by in relation to work - ambition, fear of failure, money, relationships, loyalty etc
  7. How are you relevant to the market - have you kept yourself in line with what the market is looking for, up to date with your knowledge and skills?
  8. Can you easily call on a wide range of people to help you out? What do you regularly do to maintain your network
  9. Is it possible to do something you love for your career, or is it just a pipe dream. Does it matter if the job or career you have isn't something you are passionate about? What do you think about how those statements apply to your situation?
  10. How much risk are you prepared to take to find the right job or career? To push beyond your normal boundaries and to think creatively about approaches to your search.
  11. How much effort are you prepared to put into finding the right next step? How much of a priority is it for you and how important is the next step?
  12. What three things do you want a potential employer to hear or read about you from your resume/CV or from other people? How will you make sure that happens?
  13. Are you in a job, or in a career? Where do you want to be?
  14. How do you want to describe yourself in relation to your job or career when you meet someone new?
  15. What's the first step you need to take to get the next great career or job move?
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