How to Figure Out the Work You’re Wired For

The world of work, at its most fundamental level, boils down to four focus areas: Working with peopleideasthings, and data. Most people are oriented to more than one.

The first step in discovering what you’re wired to do best is decide which of these resonate most with you.

PEOPLE FOCUS (leading, caring, supporting, serving, selling)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a people focus:

  • Entertain a Child
  • Listen to a friend’s personal problem
  • Teach someone how to do something
  • Help someone who is sick
  • Lead a group or club activity
  • Run for an office
  • Work with the public

(numbers, facts, filing, procedures, inspecting)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a data focus:

  • Research a topic of interest to you
  • Be a treasurer of a club
  • Work with scientific experiments
  • Work with numbers/statistics
  • Figure out a car’s gas mileage
  • Balance a bank statement
  • Write a computer program

 (knowledge, theories, creativity, insights) 

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have an idea focus:

  • Decorate a room
  • Write poems or stories
  • Publish a newsletter
  • Write lyrics
  • Perform or act in a play
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Invent a new product

 (machines, tools, animals, natural resources, creating items)

 If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a things focus:

  • Bake a cake
  • Repair a car/machinery
  • Sew or make crafts
  • Build something from wood
  • Take care of animals
  • Do landscaping or lawn care
  • Operate camera or video equipment

As you combine categories, it starts to reveal interesting information.

For example, if you like things, such as computers and software, and ideas, then a more creative endeavor would be in order, such as graphic design to develop creative digital content using computers and software.

Alternatively, if you like people as your secondary area of focus to your primarythings focus (using the computer example), then a desk side support technician where you’re working with computers and going to people’s workstations all day, would be more appropriate.

See how the secondary work focus preference changes the primary interest considerably? 

When you combine these four areas of work focus, you end up with six kinds of job content. They are:

Realistic,  Investigative, Conventional, Artistic, Social, and Enterprising jobs.

  • realistic job is where you work with your hands or outdoors (e.g. firefighter, mechanic, contractor).
  • An investigative job is where you solve puzzles, research, detect, or experiment (e.g. police work, scientific research, laboratory technician).
  • An artistic job involves being creative, such as writing, photography, graphic artistry, architecture, or interior decorating.
  • social job involves serving society, such as teaching, social work, counseling, health care, or a minister.
  • An enterprising job is where you would make, sell, and manage a product or service.
  • conventional job is in an office such as management, financial transactions, information technology, etc.

After you’ve identified areas of focus, you can leverage  a tool called the World of Work Map to select job families that fall within your areas of focus to gain ideas of work that’s likely to be most appealing to you. This interactive World of Work Map graphically illustrates how occupations relate to each other based on work tasks.

Here’s an example from the map. I chose the Engineering & Technologiesoption under Ideas and Things:

Once you find options of interest, you can research jobs using O*Net Online, which provides comprehensive information on what those jobs entail, from salary, education required, daily tasks, and much more. In addition, you can speak to people in that line of work to get their assessment of how they spend their day-to-day at work.

For career exploration, I use a tool called the SchoolPlace Big Five Career Guider for students 14 – 22 years of age, and WorkPlace Big Five Career Guider for adults, in conjunction with a StrengthsFinder assessment.

I hope this manual exercise I’ve put together is somewhat helpful to you, particularly to early careerists, or those in career transition.

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