Exploring Options and Determining Fit
How do you know which health career path is going to be a good fit for you? With so many options, how do you choose just one?
To help find a future career in a health program that is a good fit for you, think introspectively and reflect on what you want. What interests you most? What skills you do you have or can develop? Consider your values and ultimate goals and think about your own style and personality.
Use the sections below to help you learn more about yourself and what health careers are a best fit!
Skills and Interests
First, think of a few things you are naturally good at. These are your current skills. Education, practice and/or training can help you develop these skills and build new ones. While many skills are acquired through academic education, others are gained through experiential opportunities. For example, working in a clinic may enhance your competency in working across language barriers.
Next, think about how you spend your free time. What would you choose to do on a completely free day? What kinds of topics do you enjoy reading about? What projects are most rewarding to you? These activities are most likely aligned with your true passions and interests. Ask your friends, teachers, supervisors, and co-workers what they have observed to be your strongest skills. They may see qualities in you that you may not see in yourself.
Assess your skills and interests and how they align with careers. To the right are some resources you can use to investigate and assess your skills and interests, and see how they match up with different occupations. This is not an exhaustive list, but a starting point.
Checkpoint: What do you do if your interests and skills do not match the profession you're most interested in?
- Assessing your skills and interests allows you to identify and evaluate areas that are challenging for you. Know that circumstances beyond your control may influence your path as well. Ask yourself these questions, before deciding on a career path:
- What are the specific challenges/barriers to pursuing my career of interest?
- How can I strategize to overcome these barriers?
- What are possible alternate plans to my career of interest?
Examples of potential barriers may include:
- Competitive admission pools. Many health professional programs have a larger number of applicants than there are slots for admission. As a result, some well-qualified students may not be offered admission.
- Challenges with math and science courses. Almost all health professional preparation programs require strong competency in math and science.
- Emotional resiliency. Health professionals are often required to work under stressful conditions and with vulnerable people. How can you learn to remain positive and energized in this kind of environment?
- Proximity to people. Many health professions will require you to deal closely with people who are ill. This may involve handling blood, body fluids, needles, etc. Will this be a challenge for you to overcome?
Style and Personality
Your personality and interpersonal style are important aspects to consider as you move forward in making your career decision. Your work will be more enjoyable and rewarding when your responsibilities and work environment align with your natural tendencies, preferences, interpersonal style, and personality.
Think about the following questions. Your preferences will help you determine which profession is a good fit for you.
- Do you prefer to interact with others one-on-one, or as part of a group?
- Do you prefer to work on specific tasks, or look at the big picture?
- Do you prefer to work from a detailed schedule, or have flexibility in your work day?
- Do you like to have a predetermined workload, or have lots of variety in your work from day-to-day?
Identify your personality and interpersonal style using available resources (listed to the right). Use assessment tools to help you understand yourself, how you relate to others, and how your work environment can be aligned to your natural tendencies and preferences.
Determine the personality and interpersonal style characteristics of your chosen profession. Start by reading through the descriptions of the different health professions to see if your personality and interpersonal style are congruent with your intended health profession. Next, talk to professionals who are practicing in your area(s) of interest, to understand the daily roles, responsibilities and daily work environment of the health career you are considering.
Checkpoint: How does your personality align with your chosen health career?
To get a taste of the daily roles, responsibilities, and work environment of the profession you are considering, gain some experience in that area by volunteering or working in a health care setting that features the profession you are planning to pursue. To get started, look at the employment and volunteer opportunities listed through GoldPASS, the University-wide job posting service. Check the listings often, as they are continually updated.
Values and Goals
Values are a set of underlying beliefs that often drive what you do and the choices you make, including the career you choose. You might not be conscious of the values you have or even how you got them. Values are passed along from earlier generations in your family. In addition, your own life experiences can shape your values. Over time, your values may shift, change and/or be reprioritized.
Some common values are shared by health professions includes values such as empathy, diligence, commitment to human service, and compassion. Even the term “care” is a value in itself; when you care for someone, you put their needs before your own.
Identify what you value by examining your thoughts and your actions. Here are some interesting and fun ways to learn about your values:
- Make a list of what you think you value. Next, ask people who know you well to identify your values, but have them make their own list without looking at your list. When they're done, compare the two lists. Values can often be most easily recognized by others who know you well. They may identify values you had overlooked and took for granted.
- Write your own personal eulogy. By identifying what you want people to say about you when you are gone, it can give you great insight into the things you value most. It can be a very telling exercise to help you illustrate your true values.
- Make an "Activities vs. Values" list. Start by making two columns on a piece of paper. In the first column, identify how you spend your time in a week, such as percent of time spent working, studying, hobbies, etc. Put the activities you spend the most time doing at the top of the list. In the second column, make a list of your values. Prioritize your list of values from most important to least important, putting the most important ones at the top. Next, compare the two lists. Look at the value with the highest priority to the place you spend your most time. Are they in alignment? This will help you recognize if there are gaps between your values and your behavior. If any gaps exist, ask yourself what changes you can make to better align your values and behavior.
Checkpoint: Do your values align with your chosen career?
After you have explored your values, it is important to understand how those values align with the career options you are considering and pursuing. Explore the values identified for different health careers to see if your values are similar to the profession(s) you are interested in. Another way to learn more about the values in specific fields is to talk with professionals in the field. What do those individuals identify as common and important values?