(Last Updated On: 20/03/2017)

How to Develop a Clear and Specific Career Target

As with everything, if you don’t know exactly what you want, you are less likely to get it. As I tell people, just like dating, the “I’ll take anything approach” seldom works out.

Picture yourself on a plane ride (or a subway, concert ticket line, etc.) and the chatty person next to you ask what you do for a living (odds are, they will). Maybe you have just graduated, maybe you are underemployed and seeking something more in your field of interest, maybe you are just plain unemployed. Regardless giving anything short of a concise, specific answer maybe cost you a missed opportunity.

Right now, if I could jump through the screen and ask you this question, what would your answer be?

What do you do for a living?

People who are seeking positions most often like say things like:

  • 1. Helping people
  • 2. I’m thinking about going to Law school (most common response from undecided students)
  • 3. I don’t know yet, I’d like to travel a bit
  • 4. I’ll really take anything I can get at this point

All of these answers are conversation killers. Imagine that the person next to you does what you want to do. You’ve missed an opportunity. Imagine that the person next to you is related to someone who does what you want to do. Imagine that the person next to you has a well- connected network and knows someone who does what you want to do. Missed opportunities!

How to develop a clear and specific career target


You need to know one to three career fields of interest. If you do not know this then you are not yet ready to develop your career target, let alone conduct a successful job search. (I’ll be posting about the steps to take prior in the next three blog posts).

Now that you have one to three career fields of interest, you need develop language to help you translate these into Career Targets. Having one to three clear Career Targets helps you better communicate with those in your professional network and with potential employers.

WHAT do you want to do?

Use action words to describe exactly what it is you want to do.

Don’t just list a job title. Don’t be vague.

With WHOM do you want to do it?

Is there a certain industry or population that you want to work in or with?

Be specific.

Instead of this: Something to do with clean water

Try this: Create safe water supplies, sanitation facilities and hygiene-related facilities for rural villagers in developing countries.

Instead of this: Helping people using my listening and communication skills

Try this: Represent the rights and interests of crime victims as a victims advocate in the county court system

Instead of this: Something to do with green business

Try this: Industrial level recycling of post-consumer electronics and global trade in such materials

Instead of this: Something using my reading and writing skills

Try this: Write strong brand-on copy for an educational publishing firm with a focus on competing in new and emerging markets and mediums

Step 1: Identify your interests, skills, and work values

In order to decide which career field is most suitable for you, you must first determine your preferences. Self-assessment is a very important step in helping you identify majors and careers that might be a good fit. After all, how can you find what you are seeking if you don’t know what it looks like?

  • Interests: what you enjoy doing
  • Skills: what you are good at doing
  • Work values: what is important to you in a career

Interests: what you do in your spare time

Examples: Hanging out with friends, Hearing in-depth stories about peoples’ interesting lives

Write down 10 interests of yours

Skills: what you do well, what others tell you that you do well

Examples: Good listener, Reliable and action-oriented

Write down 10 skills of yours

Work Values: qualities important to you when considering a career

Examples: Helping people, In leadership/decision-making role

Write down 10 work values of yours

Step 2: Define your key criteria

When making a decision, it is important to keep your work values and interests in the forefront. Write down those factors that are essential to you. Use themes from your lists of interests, skills, and work values.

Based on the interests, skills, and values you have determined, develop your own key criteria for selecting career fields that support your desired lifestyle.

Answer This Question:

What are the top qualities I need in my career for it to be satisfying?

List the top 8-10 qualities you need in your career for it to be satisfying

Personal qualities

  • Working with people
  • Working with things
  • Working with data
  • Working with ideas
  • Solving complex problems
  • Selling ideas/being persuasive
  • Working outdoors, indoors

General qualities

  • Cultural opportunities
  • Distance from family/friends
  • Type and size of location (urban, suburban, rural)
  • Any other location qualities (by water, mountains, woods)

Employment qualities

  • Future demand/job outlook
  • Earning potential
  • Opportunity for advancement
  • Leadership
  • Prestige
  • Socially responsible

Step 3: Research career fields based on your key criteria

It’s critical to conduct research into various careers that interest you. The more research you do, the more likely a career path will become evident to you. Research various occupations and learn about the nature of the work, working conditions, training and educational requirements, earning potential, future job outlook, and more.

Research career fields online

Evaluate Your Career Fields

Referring to your Key Criteria listed above; evaluate each of the career fields.

Choose Your Top 3 Career Fields