Since childhood, you have probably met with this question: what should I do/be when I grow up? Some of us had role models, either family or friend, who inspired you towards their career. Others met with trials or challenges that they harnessed into motivation towards a cause. If you did not have such experiences (like me), you might lack clarity in your career direction.

Perhaps you chose a popular or prestigious career hoping to get admiration from your peers. Or you decided that being able to make a lot of money was the most important factor. Whatever the choice, the fact that you’ve come here means you have doubts about your choice you hope to resolve. In this first article of a series, I will talk about the broad theory, before diving into each aspect in detail.

Let’s get started!

For a good fit, there needs to be an overlap between the 4 aspects of self and that of your job. These 4 dimensions of self are Values, Interests, Personality and Skills. Let me explain briefly what each of these terms mean:

  1. Values – Refers to qualities considered to be the most important guiding principles for setting priorities. Concepts like job security, advancement, autonomy and work-life balance fall under this category. There are intrinsic (internal motivation), extrinsic (rewards or conditions at work) and lifestyle (how you want to live) values.
  2. Interests – A more abstract area influenced by Values, Personality and social factors.
  3. Personality – Describes who you are as a person, both at work and in your personal life apart from work. Popular examples of personality measures include Carl Jung typology (MBTI®), Big 5 traits and DISC.
  4. Skills – Deals with what you can do as because of your education, training and work experience. For most people, this can be read from a well-articulated resume. If you have skills in many areas, it may be more useful to consider the skills you enjoy using frequently.

Each person has a different mix of these 4 aspects that makes you unique, like your DNA. Unlike DNA, however, your VIPS is not static and will change over time. This is why active career management has to be done throughout life and each aspect re-examined to ensure congruence.

On the flip side, each job has a unique combination of these 4 traits, albeit from the organisation’s perspective. A well-written job description (JD) will contain elements of these. Generally, the parallel elements are:

  1. Values – Unfortunately there’s no section for this. Values are scattered throughout the job description and company profile as there are overlaps with other elements. For example, autonomy is usually “work without supervision” or “independent”, while remuneration is stated upfront. For softer values like culture, it is better to ask current employees or your interviewers.
  2. Responsibilities – This describes the day-to-day tasks required in the role. From here, it is usually easy to tell whether you will be interested in the work. For roles involving teamwork and coordination, the company culture (extrinsic and lifestyle Values) would come into play as well.
  3. Attitudes/Attributes – Usually hidden within the requirements section, these are often worded as non-skill qualities that the company is looking for. “Attention to detail” favours Conscientious (Big 5) individuals while “Creative and innovative” is easier for those high on Openness to Experience.
  4. Qualifications/Experience – Companies are typically explicit on this as they prefer to hire someone who can hit the ground running. In fact, many companies now use applicant tracking systems to perform automated sanitary checks of your resume before shortlisting interviewees.

It is almost impossible to find a perfect match for all aspects between yourself and the job. Typically, compromise and adjustments are required. An introvert who finds it challenging to communicate frequently may still do so because they value the team building effect. For significant conflicts, individuals need to ask whether they can (i) find coping strategies from other aspects or (ii) accept the misalignment.

Hope this article gives you a better overview of the ingredients you need to pursue a better career. In the next few articles, I will explain each aspect and talk about some of my favourite tools and theories for each. See you again!

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