Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Match Top Business and Best Small Business Ideas to Your Personality

When choosing a small business to start, what's the smartest way to use popular lists of "top business" or "best small business ideas?"
  • First, know how your personality relates to starting a business and choosing the right small business to start.
  • Second, match top businesses that interest you from your favorite lists to your Holland personality types as part of your science-based, 3 step action plan to make an informed business decision.
Many people do Internet research about “starting a business,” “business opportunities,” and “home based business,” few people research how to choose the right business type for their personality. That's a big omission from the business start up process. Obviously everyone wants to start a business that will make money. But the best business idea in the world is not going to work for you if your personality is at odds with either the reality of starting and running a business, or at odds with the type of business you choose.

Earlier this year I wrote a very popular blog post about matching your personality with the “Best Career” lists that get published every year. Similarly, you can narrow your search for the best business ideas to ones in areas that match your personality. Periodically, business media outlets publish online lists of hot or best business ideas. See for example (we have no business relationship with these sources):

2008 Hot List: Best Businesses, Markets, Trends and Ideas,”
Top 20 Home-Based Businesses,”

Here's a step by step way to match your personality with the current “best” business ideas:
  1. Take the Self-Employment Key (SEK) test, and select the businesses for your personal job options list that you'd like to explore further for your top two Holland personality types,
  2. Select business ideas that interest you from your favorite “Best” list,
  3. In addition to using your SEK test's personal job option list, assign each business idea that interests you to a Holland type you think matches. Be sure to also look at Career Key's full online list of jobs, organized by Holland type,
  4. If you don't find the exact same business or occupation title, look for similar ones (see my method below).
For example, using three entries from's list of best businesses, I show below the corresponding Holland personality type letter (RIASEC). Remember that you are very likely compatible with more than one type of working environment. As you can see, although there are some minor differences in job title, you can still find the right business type. To find alternative job titles and industries, search the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook and the Career Guide to Industries whose terminology we use at both the Career Key and Self-Employment Key websites.
You can use the same method with any other “top” or “best” business idea list. All these job title links provide a wealth of information about the industry you're researching, and you gain the additional advantage of knowing how compatible your personality will be with the people working in that business. Our exercises for learning about yourself will also help you flesh out your options.

Please let me know how this matching process works for you. I welcome your questions and suggestions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Don't be Blind to Family and Friends' Influence on Career Decisions

When you have trouble making a career decision, you may rely on family members' and friends' reactions to break a "tie." How can you include their reaction and input in your decision to choose a career, make a career change, or start a business? You're going to get their feedback anyway so you might as well wisely use it. That means considering the "Consequences" of your different career options by looking at:
  • The gains and losses to significant others (e.g., parents, wife (or husband), other family members, close friends, or groups you value: social, political or religious).
  • Whether important people (see bullet above) in your life would approve or disapprove of your choice.
You can write down your thoughts about these issues on a free "Decision Balance Sheet" you can download from our website, along with other suggested activities, so that you won't fall into the trap of making a decision you'll regret.

One of my favorite columnists, David Brooks at the New York Times, published a column today on "The Culture of Debt" that describes most decision-making in a realistic way:

"... people are driven by the desire to earn the respect of their fellows. Individuals don’t build their lives from scratch. They absorb the patterns and norms of the world around them.

Decision-making — whether it’s taking out a loan or deciding whom to marry — isn’t a coldly rational, self-conscious act. Instead, decision-making is a long chain of processes, most of which happen beneath the level of awareness. We absorb a way of perceiving the world from parents and neighbors. We mimic the behavior around us. Only at the end of the process is there self-conscious oversight."

The key to making a good career decision is to avoid the blindness and lack of self-awareness Mr. Brooks describes. If you do that, you'll be more likely to accept or reject friendly advice on a more rational basis. There is nothing wrong with or abnormal about considering other people's opinions and advice in making a career decision; just consider them as part of a larger process. The suggested, scientifically proven steps described in our website article "High-Quality Decisions" will help you make a good decision.

Monday, July 21, 2008

5 Tips for Choosing a Career Test

Choosing the right career test is part of making a good career decision. A valid career test helps you learn accurate information about yourself so that when you look at your job options and make a decision, you act on the best information. A high-quality decision made this way likely leads to job satisfaction.

The following tips will help job seekers choose the right career test:
  • Consider taking a high quality career interest inventory. The best valid interest inventory will do four things: help you understand yourself better, match you with careers that are likely to lead to satisfaction and success, suggest careers you had not thought of, and give you comprehensive information about each one. Through this process, you learn about yourself, the pros and cons of each job option, which helps you make a successful career decision.
  • For a serious career decision, choose a serious, valid test. Quizzes, games, sorters, profilers, and finders that assess and match you with jobs are all career tests. To be helpful, they must be valid measures. But few of them are. For a test to be “valid,” there must be published, scientific evidence that it measures, in fact, what the author claims it measures. If you want accurate information about yourself and job options that fit you, take a valid test.
  • Make sure the test website contains information about the test's validity. It should mention specific studies or offer a professional manual you can see. A manual will describe validity studies; for an example, click here. If no such information is available, avoid using it.
  • Look beyond credentials, links, and endorsements. A Ph.D.'s endorsement or authorship does not make a test valid; anyone, with or without a Ph.D., can create an invalid career test. Links from schools, government and professional organizations are well-intentioned, but often unreliable.
  • Seek the help of a professionally trained career counselor who recognizes the importance of test validity. They can help you choose the right test and help you interpret your results. The National Career Development Association provides helpful consumer guidelines on selecting a counselor and CounselorFind of the National Board of Certified Counselors can help you find a certified counselor near you.
No test can tell you what to do. But choosing the right test, one that gives you comprehensive, accurate information about yourself and your career options, is a step on the road to job success.

These tips also appeared in
a recent post about career tests and The Career Key on MSNBC columnist Eve Tahmincioglu's CareerDiva blog; please visit her site for more helpful career information.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stop watching the news

Whether you are choosing a career, making a career change, or deciding whether to start your own business, this is admittedly an unsettled and uncertain economic time. We have Presidential elections coming up with two candidates with completely different ways of dealing with the recession. Little economic news seems good. And grocery shopping makes me personally depressed - apple prices have risen to $2.39/lb from $1.99/lb 6 months ago, here in Washington state no less. But don't let the uncertain economy derail your decision-making process.

Time to stop watching the news. Stop thinking "macro" - the big picture and start thinking "micro" - what is the status of my current situation, my industry or industry of interest, and my region? How people and careers are doing varies widely based on these factors. If the "big picture" news is causing you to hesitate or be extra nervous about making a big career or business start-up decision, turn it off and focus on your local situation.

For example, for most people here in the Pacific Northwest, unless you are starting a spa (discretionary services people usually cut back on during tighter times) or looking for a job in real estate, big career and self-employment decisions are largely unaffected by the economic downturn. Personal cash flow is tighter because of higher prices, but if you're trying to decide which Investigative occupation appeals most to you, say a nurse or a doctor, your decision is basically unaffected by current conditions. The need for doctors or nurses is not going to change much soon. However, for someone considering a farming career in the midwest, the overall economy may impact your decision - depending on what crops are grown locally (wheat, soy, or corn) and future fuel and food prices.

Your most accurate sources of information to help you make your decision don't come from the news media, they come from talking with people actually working in the jobs that interest you. Information interviewing, networking, and reading blogs written by working people will give you practical information you can use. Realistic perspective about the economy, unlike the "sky is falling" news spin from major media, comes from the people who actually live in it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Proposed Increase in Federal Funding for School Counselors

According to the American Counseling Association, the Senate Appropriations committee has preliminarily approved an increase in federal funding for school counselors; a $3.4 million increase from the previous year to a total of $52 million.

Congress will likely delay final action on any appropriations bill until after the election because of President Bush's veto threat. The ACA also reported:
We are very pleased that the full Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations subcommittee chose to reject, for the eighth year in a row, President Bush's request to eliminate all funding for the school counseling program.
Hard to understand why school counseling is such a consistent budget target given its importance to the success of our young people. Once again, we can count on the hard work of both the American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor Association (among others) to promote support for elementary and secondary school counselors.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Health Insurance and Career Choice

A major factor in making many career decisions is health care, such as obtaining or keeping health insurance. It plays out in many ways. Like me, you have probably heard comments like these:
“I would really like to start my own business, but I can’t afford to lose the health insurance I now get through my employer. Buying it on my own is just too expensive.”
“I made a mistake going into accounting, but I’m afraid to go back to school to become a counselor because my wife can’t get health insurance where she works.”
“I know I need to get this hernia repaired, but we have no health insurance. We can hardly afford the operation. And what will happen if I stop working as a carpenter, while this is going on?”
Is affordable universal health care coverage possible in the U.S.?

A report this week on National Public Radio gives me hope. “Most Patients Happy with German Health Care” describes one of the world’s best health care systems. And it does not fit the negative stereotypes often associated with systems like this -- high taxes, socialized medicine, rationed care, etc.

Yes, we can have universal health care. We don’t have to sacrifice job satisfaction and success -- our dreams -- out of fear . . . . Let’s work hard to ensure that this November we elect people that will make this possible!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

4 Career Freedoms to Celebrate as an American

#1: Freedom to choose any career. Some choices are easier than others, some require hefty student loans or years to fulfill, but they are choices.
#2: Freedom to open up your own business: no bribes, long waits, or excessive paperwork required. And no, a 5 page master business license does not count as "excessive." Talk to Europeans about what "excessive" means.
#3: Free public education. It may not be perfect, and depending on where you live, it may not be great, but everyone can go to secondary school and graduate.
#4: Freedom to choose types of training, colleges, and college majors, without a single uber-test determining your lifetime eligibility for a career. SAT and GRE don't count. Many countries have strict entrance requirements with one time exams, when you are 16 or 17 years old, determining your working future - no "do overs."

So celebrate choosing a career in America. We may not always be happy with the financial or time requirements of our career choices and are sometimes overwhelmed by the number of them, but at least we have them.