Some of you will be attending Careerfest tomorrow. Whether you’ll be there or not, Andrew Pearl has a unique way to think about giving direction to your career search.  Andrew will be our guest lecturer for GEB 3003 on November 14th.


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We’ve all been asked this question from the time we’re playing make-believe as toddlers. We still think about this question into adulthood when choosing a college major and even after entering the working world. For many young children, the answer is simple; they want to be teachers, police officers, fire fighters, doctors, etc.—roles that seem exciting and are easy for growing minds to conceptualize. The problem most adults face is as they develop professional skills, they lack a structured approach to figuring out what they want to do with their lives and how their skill sets apply. Mapping out a career plan can be daunting, but it can save a great deal of time and frustration. There are countless senior professionals and executives who don’t realize that their careers are unsatisfying or unfulfilling until they spend more than 15 years deep in the trenches because they failed to identify and pursue roles that align with their true career values. Here’s an exercise that may help you zero in on future goals and begin to map out an effective career plan. Grab a pen and paper and follow the exercise:


  1. Write down five values that matter most in your next job and as your career progresses A professional value could be a job with a short commute or a role that’s customer service or communications focused. One job seeker may want to work for small or medium companies while another may seek a good work/life balance, a position with the opportunity for rapid advancement, or a high-pressure environment where the challenges are always new. Here are a few other values:
  • job stability
  • flexibility to raise a family
  • top compensation
  • independence
  • professional creativity
  • preferred geographical location
  • easy, predictable routine
  • performance-based incentives
  • corner office option

Some employees prefer sitting at a desk all day, while others prefer a job with a lot of travel. What are your top five values? What motivates and energizes you in a job? Be sure to write down your list of values and then prioritize them from most to least important.


  1. Write down five values that don’t matter or you don’t want in your next job and as your career progresses Some employees find a predictable routine boring while others can’t imagine navigating the unpredictable nature of a startup organization. Some people desire a performance- or commission-based incentive plan, but individuals who lack natural sales abilities or don’t handle stress well won’t benefit from that type of compensation plan. Impressive job titles or a company car might matter to some employees but others may find these values trivial. If focus is an issue, a work-from-home job might be detrimental.

What are values you don’t want in a job? Have you ever worked for a company that didn’t match your values? What was it like and what would you have changed about the company? Give it some thought, write down five things that either don’t matter or that you don’t want in a job, and then prioritize those items.


  1. Compare and contrast your career values lists Review your lists and see how the two sets of values align. If you want to work for a small nonprofit but are seeking a top salary, you may face difficulty, as some nonprofits have limited financial resources. If you want a job that gives you flexibility to spend time with your family but prefer a job with tight deadlines and creative challenges, you may encounter problems, as the two values will most likely conflict.

Take a look at your lists and try to identify which values matter the most to you and which you are willing to compromise. What are the most important values in your career? What values are least important? There’s no position that will match your list perfectly, so it’s important to define and prioritize your requirements, and remember that this may be an ongoing process because life is dynamic. Your priorities now may not be the same as they are in three years, so it’s important to revisit and reassess these values at different phases in your life.


  1. Write down and visualize opportunities Next, select a couple different professional tracks and see how those tracks align with your core career values. What roles match your core values? What are the types of jobs that will satisfy most of your positive values and help you circumvent the negative values? From that list, choose three professional tracks that most closely fit your core values.

After that, visualize each of those roles. What would you enjoy most? What would challenge you most? Also, spend some time thinking about the negatives of each position. There are going to be bad days in any job; what would a bad day in one of your top roles entail and how would you handle it? A bad day at a chemical refinery is different from a bad day at a grocery store or at a police station. What would the position be like when stressful situations arise? What would the professional field look like not just for a day but for years or even decades? How do you think you would feel about this profession when you consider the short-term and long-term ramifications?

Lastly, think about what it would take to land one of your select jobs. Do you possess the necessary skills and expertise? If not, how would you develop that knowledge base? How long would it take you to achieve the qualifications to get this job? What would you have to sacrifice to achieve your goal? What obstacles stand between you and your career goal? How would you stay motivated to excel and what about the profession would keep you interested for the long term?

Once you’ve identified your core values, weighed the pros and cons, and identified potential job goals, you’ll be in a better position to strategically chart your career. Introspection is difficult; many people spend more time planning a vacation than they do actively planning their careers or critically analyzing what matters most to them in their careers. The more time you spend thinking about what you really do or don’t want, the easier it will be for you to pursue a satisfying and fulfilling career.

Andrew Pearl is a Certified Resume Writer and Interview Coach with 9 years of experience in the career services industry. As a partner of Precision Resumes, Andrew has prepared thousands of high-caliber resumes and has helped numerous job seekers achieve interview success. He offers extensive expertise working with IT, finance, legal, PR, and healthcare clientele and possesses a proven track record of success helping government, private, and non-profit job seekers advance their careers through superior messaging, resumes, and interview coaching.  Precision Resumes is the resume partner of the Office of Professional Development.

Andrew was recently published in the book 101 Great Ways to Compete in Today’s Job Market, contributing a chapter about identifying and highlighting employer-focused experiences and achievements on job seeker resumes.

Additionally, Andrew has held sole writing and editorial responsibility for a $30M publicly traded software/HR company’s Annual Report, RFPs, RFQs, and training materials.