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How to Explore Careers That Fit Your Design

How to Explore Careers That Fit Your Design

by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck
National Certified Career Counselors & Life Calling CoachesSM

So you are ready to make a career change...but you don't know what you want to do. You can probably readily list all the jobs you don't want to do, but perhaps have only a couple of options in mind. (And maybe you aren't too excited by either of those!)

If you are like most people, you may have started your "career planning" by looking at job postings on the Internet. If people don't see anything they like, or they don't have the qualifications for jobs that appeal to them, they may get discouraged and conclude that "there's nothing out there," so they may as well stay where they are (even though they really dislike going to work everyday).  Don't despair...there is a better way to discover work that you will enjoy doing!

Start with Your Design

Making a wise career change usually doesn't start with looking at job postings. It starts with you-with your God-given design.  Your design-the skills you enjoy using, your interests, your personality type, your spiritual gifts, and more-provide critical clues to what God has created you to do with your life.  For best results in making a career change, you need to do a thorough, systematic assessment of the "puzzle pieces" of your design, so that you can then see what types of work options will utilize your design. You will be most fulfilled and make the best contribution in work that uses who you really are!

Find Jobs that "Fit" Your Design

Most people have "tunnel vision" when it comes to knowing about career options. They are only aware of a limited number of jobs based on the type of work their parents, friends and family members have done. Although they may have developed a somewhat wider view of the world of work through reading, traveling, talking with people, and the media, most people still have a limited view of how they might use their skills and interests in various work options.

Doing good career planning involves investing time in enlarging your vision of potential career options. (One career resource lists more than 20,000 different job titles! How many of those do you think you could name?) You can only, after all, choose from the jobs of which you are aware. Your choices are as limited-or as extensive -as your knowledge about the world of work.

"Reality Testing" Job Options to Avoid Mistakes

Another purpose in researching career options is to "reality test" possible jobs, meaning that you get sufficient "real world" information about them so you can make an accurate assessment of how well they fit you. Most people begin "reality testing" their career choices the first day on the job! Once hired, they then begin really looking at the job to see if they'll like it and if it's a good fit for them. Unfortunately, people often discover that the job is much different than they thought it would be and that it isn't a very good fit. This realization could come after four (or more) years of education or after an expensive training program preparing them to get into a particular area of work. Obviously, you want to do your "reality testing" well before you make career decisions or complete education in preparation for a particular career.

How to Identify & Explore Career Options

Here are four ways to identify and explore potential occupations of interest: creative brainstorming techniques; using various written career resources; informational interviewing; and, "shadowing" someone on the job. (These last two methods, particularly, are key ways of "reality testing" options.)

Creative brainstorming involves generating a list of potential work options. The "input" for the brainstorming comes from the assessment stage: information about your skills, interests, values, personality traits, etc. With our clients, the information is organized into their Life Calling Map, which is a document that organizes key information from their testing and assessment results. Testing and assessment gives you a lot of information to use in brainstorming options that would uniquely fit you. (Our book, Live Your Calling, contains six self-assessments and a version of the Life Calling Map for self-directed career planning. It also has directions and suggestions for doing creative brainstorming.)

For example, we helped brainstorm several options with one of our clients. One of the ideas was to help inner-city youth develop entrepreneurial skills. Upon prayerful reflection, our client decided that this was the type of work he felt God was calling him to pursue since it was a way to use his business background and skills to make a significant difference in people's lives. Although there were no advertised job openings for doing this, through some creative research we discovered a non-profit organization whose mission is to help youth develop and run their own businesses. And they "just happened" to be looking for a director. (We find that when our clients are being faithful to taking the steps they need to take, a lot of things "just happen." We believe these things are evidence of God's willingness to be our partners in our quest to use our gifts fully to serve others.)

Our client applied for the position and was selected from over 200 other candidates. One of the reasons he was hired was that, because he had completed testing and assessment work, he was able to communicate very effectively what he had to offer in this position. None of this, however, would have happened without his doing some visionary brainstorming. That was the key beginning step that led to him developing his dream, and finding a position in which he could make his God-given dream reality.

Using career resources on the Internet is a second tool for career exploration.  Here are two resources that are particularly valuable:  

The O*NET OnlineThe O*NET system serves as the nation's primary source of occupational information, providing comprehensive information on key attributes and characteristics of workers and occupations. The O*NET database houses this data and O*NET OnLine provides easy access to that information. (Live Your Calling provides detailed information for how to match your interests with O*NET job families, and how to utilize the O*NET database effectively in your career planning.)

The Occupational Outlook Handbook: This reference is updated every two years, and describes the 250 jobs that are held by 86% of the American workforce. Each description covers: the nature of the work; future employment outlook; earnings; related occupations; training/advancement; employment opportunities; and, sources of additional information. The OOH's addendums include summary data for another 80 occupations covering another 5% of the workforce.

A third method of career exploration is informational interviewing, which is a technique to "reality test" career options by talking with people who do the type of work you are considering. For example, if you are seriously considering becoming a lawyer, you would talk to three or more attorneys (preferably in different types of practices) and ask questions such as what they like best and least about their jobs, what a typical day/week is like, what advice they would have for someone considering the field, etc.

A fourth strategy is "shadowing" someone on the job. Shadowing means spending a few hours (but preferably a whole day) on the job with someone who is doing the type of work you are considering pursuing. It may mean simply observing someone or it might entail volunteering your time to assist with various activities. Following our previous example, someone interested in becoming a lawyer could observe what a "typical" day in the office was like, plus perhaps observe a court session or other relevant activities. This method is most appropriate when you have narrowed your options to two or three career options that you are seriously considering.


Using these four methods for career exploration and reality testing will expand your vision how you could use your skills and abilities in work, and provide you with the information you need to make the best possible career decision.  Allowing yourself sufficient time to research various career options thoroughly will help ensure that you find the best career choice for your unique, God-given design.

If you would like assistance with identifying the "puzzle pieces" of your design and finding career options that fit your skills and interests, professional career counseling/coaching is available to help you discover the work you were designed to do. You can schedule your free consultation session today!


© Article copyright by Kevin and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors,, and  All rights reserved. The above information is intended for personal use only. No commercial use of this information is authorized without written permission.