Today, many people think that career interests are all about their 3 letter RIASEC code. This is an oversimplification I want to dispel upfront. As mentioned in the article on Personality, RIASEC was created to explain why people chose certain jobs. It talks about our unique vocational “personalities” that cause us to enjoy certain types of tasks. Although our personality does contribute to interests, it is not the full picture.

Among the 4 dimensions, career interest is the most abstract, being heavily influenced by other dimensions. There are broadly 3 sources of career interests, which I have illustrated in the image below. Vocational personality is but one part of your interests. In a perfect world where everyone can be themselves, people will generally choose a career matching their vocational personality. Of course, this is rarely the case, which is where social influence and personal values come in.

Career Interests in a nutshell

Social influence is more evident in Asian communities, where parents often shape the choices for a child’s career path. Even your friends and the education you receive can affect what choice you make. In Singapore, less academically inclined students (e.g. Normal – Technical stream) have a limited selection of arts/humanities to choose from. This makes them less aware of career options in humanities and the arts, thus constraining their choices.

Values have already been covered in another article, so I won’t go into detail here. A simple way to understand values and their effect on your career interests is through life experiences. For example, why would a lawyer who enjoys his work make a switch to the health food business? Perhaps he suffered a health scare due to a poor diet, causing him to realise the importance of health food. This prompts him to switch career so that he can help others avoid the same fate.

How to find interests

You can use the tests shared on the values and personality pages to find your interests. I have reproduced them here for easy reference:

Values
  1. 123test – Rank in order of importance
  2. Barrett Values Centre – Select words/phrases describing you
  3. O*Net Work Value Cards – Print, cut out and sort into: Essential, Important or Not important.
  4. MySkillsFuture – For Singaporeans
  5. Knowdell’s Career Values – Card sorts like #3 but not free
Personality
  1. Truity – Rate how much do you like doing each task
  2. Online Personality Tests – Tick if you agree with the statement
  3. 123 Test – Kid friendly
  4. MySkillsFuture – For Singaporeans
  5. Knowdell’s Occupational Interests – Card sorts

There’s no standard tool to identify social influences as people are less self-aware of this source. A trained career coach, counsellor or psychologist will be able to identify social influences through targeted questioning. If you would like to discover sources of social influence on your career interests, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have my parents ever discouraged me from certain jobs or subjects? Have they advised me to make decisions for certain courses or jobs? How did I feel about it and why?
  • What kinds of jobs/subjects did my close friends do/study? Did I follow them or take a different path? Why?
  • Was there anyone I admired when I was growing up? Did I want to be like them? Did they share any advice about courses or jobs that I have remembered and/or followed till today?

When to use interests

Given its abstract nature, most readers will probably not need to discuss interests in depth. Knowing your vocational personality, values and skills should be more than enough to help you make a good career choice. I would only bring this up when the 3 sources of interests are conflicting and causing confusion and frustration. The question to ask would be: which interest(s) best represents who you are? Having said that, there is still value in synthesising and distilling your career interests into a broader statement.

Beyond serving as the perfect headline/summary for LinkedIn, it can function as a compass to guide your future career moves. This will help you to make better decisions when opportunities come your way for a long time to come. And as always, remember to revisit your career interest statement over time. See if it still resonates with you and represents who you are, otherwise it is time for a review!

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