Self-Assessment: Step 1 in an alternative career search

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You, and only you, can decide what you want to do with your life. The minute you decide that you are ready for a change, you will ask Where are the jobs?

STOP. Self-assessment is the most important part of a search and it is the step that people want to skip. Why? Without knowing where you are going, you will put the cart before the horse. When you don’t know what you want, you can pass up what could have been a great opportunity.

Three questions control career development. Answering them will keep you from ever skipping assessment.

1. What kind of problem solver am I?

Do I like numbers? Do I hate numbers? Do I work well in a group? Do I want to work in a room all by myself? Do I want to be the leader of the band? Would I die if I were the leader of the band? Am I a big picture person? Do I love to dwell in the details?

The Problem Solver question leads you to traditional self-assessment tools (Myers-Briggs (and its clones), Strong-Campbell) and lists of questions to ponder in some good articles, including Find Satisfaction in the Law (Mark Byers and Ron Fox), Launching your career with self-assessment tools (Kathy Brady), and Self Assessment Questions (Harvard Law School Bernard Koteen Center for Public Interest Advising).

While none of these tools or questions will tell you to be a fireman or a teacher, they force you to think about your preferences, personal style, and relationship to work

2. What kind of problem do I want to solve?
This question moves you closer to a job search, but forces you to consider your skills and interests. What issues and problems do you want to deal with all day long? Where do you want to sit at the problem-solving table?

For example, in the Problem of Crime, the traditional seats for lawyers are as prosecutors, public defenders, and judges. If your interest is crime but you don’t care for a traditional seat, consider parole and probation, jury consulting, court reporting, court administration, legislative drafting, policy analysis, forensic accounting, arson investigation, counter-terrorism analysis, emergency management analyst, fraud investigation, loss prevention consulting, substance abuse counseling, rape crisis center management, victim-witness services, social work, family support services for incarcerated people or for crime victims, or law enforcement (local, state, federal, international).

Just as there is rarely one solution to any problem, there are multiple career paths that you can take to solve the problems that are meaningful to you. Some of those paths may require additional training which will require time, money, and sacrifice. The choice is yours.

3. Who can pay me to solve the problem? This is the money question. Where are the jobs? Knowing that there is no Job Monster Alternative Legal Careers Board gets you back to the research that will need to do on your target career. Wherever there are professional organizations, there are job postings. By noting the authors in the literature and reaching out, you can connect yourself to the Big Thinkers in the industry who are likely to have some useful insight into employment possibilities. In the 21st century, you have access to Find your people and follow them.

Once you begin to address these three questions, you will have taken some serious steps toward your alternative career.

Tomorrow: Smart research for alternative careers (Step 2)

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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