Career Key

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What motivates you in choosing a career?

Job dissatisfaction? Having trouble paying your rent? School graduation? Some events triggering a career decision may be in your control – like school graduation. But others, like layoffs or disability, are not. Either way, you can make progress towards choosing a career that meets your needs by looking at what motivates you.

First, make sure you do the suggested exercises in our article, “Learn More About Yourself.”

Second, think about how your career needs fit into respected psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. This diagram of the hierarchy, courtesy of Wikipedia, may help you prioritize and put your career criteria in perspective.

To give you some ideas, I applied career choice to Maslow's hierarchy, from the bottom up:

Physiological: physical and mental ability to do the job, income helps you meet your physical needs (food, water, shelter)
Safety: positive job outlook and security, doing what is morally comfortable
Belonging: being part of a team, professional network, community
Esteem: pride in your work, your career, and confidence in your abilities
Self-Actualization: reaching your potential and maximizing your life experience

See how your matching career options fit with Maslow’s 5 categories of needs. While no career is perfect, your final career choice should meet your needs in all these areas.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Software Engineer Jobs and Holland’s Investigative Personality Type

My guest post this week is from CEO Boris Epstein and AskBINC contributor Tawny Labrum at BINC, a Professional Search Firm specializing in software engineer jobs and the software engineering industry. They know the Investigative personality type and what software engineers want in their careers. (Disclaimer: I’m married to a software engineer, techies check out his C++/D blog and Linux debugger Zero Bugs; I can’t agree more with BINC’s observations)

I asked BINC to talk about their experience with Holland’s Theory and how it relates to job and career satisfaction for their software engineer clients and employers.


The saying, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is used when people with similar characteristics or similar interests choose to spend time together in business and in social scenes. This also seems to be true in the employment industry.

Take for example the Software Marketplace, in which BINC specifically works. We have the opportunity to deal with some of the most intelligent people in the scientific community. They compete with one another to have the honor to work together as a team. And as Dr. John Holland has shown, people who are most successful and satisfied with their careers tend to work with other like minded people.

If you look at the six different personality types of Holland’s Theory described on Career Key’s website, the Investigative personality type screams to those who are employed as Software Engineers:
"- Likes to study and solve math or science problems; generally avoids leading, selling, or persuading people;
- Is good at understanding and solving science and math problems;
- Values science; and
- Sees self as precise, scientific, and intellectual.”
If you ask any of the recruiters at BINC to describe a true software engineer and their ideal opportunity this is the type of result you would get:
  • A position that will promote intellectual growth and high level thinking. Software Engineers are extremely analytical individuals who would rather deal with problems that require thought and have a proven answer. This ability to study and solve problems makes software engineers invaluable to their employer because the word of technology is changing rapidly and engineers need to continue to seek new answers or better methods.
  • A position where they are inspired and the work they are doing somehow is contributing to the greater good of society. Software engineers often have tasks that are mind-numbing to anyone who doesn’t love what they do. Staring at code, creating and solving mathematical problems, repeating processes without the passion to do so can be wearing, but great software engineers thrive in such an environment.
  • Engineers are passionate about what they do and they possess a true love for programming, they strive to be around like minded people. Very rarely is there a job where we place a software engineer in by him or herself. Very often they work in teams and the dynamic has to work or the employer is robbed of the creative energy and passion to get the job done. A successful software engineer seems to thrive in environments where they fit in culturally and their investigative personality type is put to use.
  • Engineers look for a supportive working environment with a vision, where ideas can be heard and their paycheck serves as a bonus, not a primary motivator. Part of our job at BINC is to find that right fit for engineers and employers to enable their strengths and provide an atmosphere they will love working in.
As you can see the Holland Theory matches closely what we’ve seen in our day-to- day experience. Software engineers, in general, love solving problems, they love math and science, and they’re passionate about their work. These are the type of people we’ve found thriving in their workplace and loving their careers.

Discovering your passion may seem like a daunting task, but the long-term benefits of investigating your personality, your abilities and your talents will go a long way to helping you find the perfect position. If you’re interested in more of our tips and tricks please visit our blog - or visit us at

NOTE: Career Key thanks BINC CEO Boris Epstein and AskBINC contributor Tawny Labrum at BINC for this great post. To see more careers of the Investigative Personality type and the other 5 personaltiy types, read our article "Match Your Personality with Careers."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Best Internet Resources for Choosing Education Careers and Education Jobs

Whether to choose a career in education is a difficult but common decision. Many people are interested in education careers. After you match your personality with careers, narrowing your choices based on high-quality career information is critical to making a good career choice. But it takes work to find high-quality information on the Internet; so I've started it for you.

Having worked as an adjunct professor myself and raised by a college professor and a public school librarian, I know a little about education careers. With few exceptions, they are political, not well-paid, enjoy iffy job security, and often suffer from a lack of resources. All that said, with the right job fit, education is one of the most rewarding careers in the world. I feel fortunate to have grown up and worked in this environment.

Education is undergoing enormous change from technology, fluid government involvement, college “business models,” and demographics. A few examples of trends:
  • the growth in distance learning and Internet based education,
  • charter schools and changing public school system funding & structure,
  • accountability required by No Child Left Behind and state laws,
  • changes in the college professor tenure system, and
  • the growing diversity of the American student population.
So whether you are a high school career planner or an adult planning a career change, you need to more about what an education career is like before you leap. The resources I recommend are just a few to get you started, to show the variety of quality career information out there.

Before I recommend these career info links, don’t forget to:
  1. Talk with people working in the jobs that interest you – their information will be much more accurate, especially about your geographic region or specialty than any Internet source. Yes, it’s more work but it’s worth it. Learn more about career specific networking.
  2. Use your public or school/college library for free subscriptions or links to websites the general public has to pay for. See more tips for taking advantage of the library.
  3. Be skeptical of website sources of career information selling something – what is their bias? Where does their information come from? That includes The Career Key. You can learn more at our site about our mission and philosophy (we don’t accept reciprocal linking agreements or advertising).
To start, look at job descriptions, certification requirements, salary, job outlook, and related occupations and websites in the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Preschool and K-12 Teachers
Post-Secondary (College) Teachers
Education Administrators

Higher-Ed (college, post-secondary)
  • (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • Chronicle also offers a great academic blog list focused on academic life and careers.
  • For a “real world” perspective on 2009 trends in technology and higher ed from a college IT VP, read this post from “Bytes from Lev
Secondary School (K-12)
Early Childhood Education & Preschool
Any suggestions and feedback on this post or any others is appreciated. This is my second post in a series about challenging but rewarding career choices, and finding the best Internet resources for career information. Click here for my first post about women interested in science careers.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

5 Questions You Need to Ask About Career and Job Outlook

With such gloomy job loss numbers, what should be the next move for someone choosing or changing a career? Is any career path safe or secure? Are the “job outlook” numbers published by the government even accurate anymore? See my previous post on tips for evaluating job outlook.

Mulling these questions over for weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that in the current crisis, you cannot rely much on the advice of economists and labor statisticians to help you make a good career decision.

One thing we know for sure: matching your career with your personality is still the scientifically proven road to job satisfaction. The economic crisis is completely unrelated to the need to identify your values, interests and strengths.

But when you need to narrow down your matching career options, job outlook matters a great deal. Planning exactly where you want to go is more critical than ever. You don’t want spend time and money preparing for a career only to find there are few jobs in it.

To avoid a dead end career choice, here are 5 questions to ask about the top 2 or 3 careers you are considering:
  1. Are job opportunities in this industry disappearing for good? According to the New York Times, some jobs are not returning – at least in the near future. Examples: jobs in Financial Services, Housing (Realtors, mortgage brokers, construction and architectural services, etc.), Hospitality (hotel managers, travel agents, etc.), Manufacturing, and Retail. If technology advances, government regulation, drops in consumer spending, and outsourcing are hammering the industry that interests you - find out why. Only then can you predict how permanent the losses might be.
  2. If the answer to #1 is yes and you want to still pursue it, what will be your strategy for getting one of the jobs that remain? Is there an industry sector surviving this downturn? How can you organize your education, training, and networking to be successful in that sector?
  3. If this industry is not in turmoil, to what extent is this recession impacting it? Where are the opportunities? What is your plan for making yourself stand out from other applicants? List out new skills, volunteer or work experience you can get, connections you can make – and how to achieve them.
  4. If government funds this industry (teachers, police officers, social work, etc.), are you prepared for the ups and downs for job security? Politicians are notoriously short-term planners; just because "stimulus" is a hot concept now doesn't mean money will rain from government trees for long (if ever). Do you have a private-sector and self-employment fallback position? If inflation eats away at your government paycheck, will you need to supplement it and how?
  5. Double-check your sources of information. Are you only considering information that supports your desired conclusions? Have you talked to people actually working in the career you want to choose? Make sure you consider all the negatives of your career options - all options have them.
Answering these questions is a great way to narrow down your matching career options. And the information you gather will do more good than any you get from “experts” making job forecasts. Planning and a smart process for making a decision will help you make a good career choice, one you won’t regret.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Family Loyalty vs. Career: It’s not just for The Godfather

Keeping your priorities straight, even in a recession, is an important part of being a Career Free Agent. Your long term happiness and job satisfaction are at stake. Tips for being loyal to yourself and your family are part 5 of my 6 part series on The Free Agent Outlook on Work.

Loyalty is such an unused and forgotten words these days. It seems counter intuitive and impractical to think about putting yourself and your family before your job in a recession. But if you truly consider your daily routine and your long-term sanity, you’ll see how this makes sense. Whether your “family” is just you and close friends or two kids, a spouse and a dog – the loyalty principle holds true.
  • Know what is important to you and what you value – and protect and nurture them. If you need to write your own eulogy to figure this out – do it. Hint: relationships are probably first. Not sure if your current career conflicts with your values or your personality? Learn more about yourself and how that impacts career choice.
  • Don’t wait until there is a crisis – a job loss, a divorce, a health problem; maintain your relationships (professional, personal) in good times.
  • Follow the ACIP model of decision-making when you need to make a tough call that you won’t regret. Do you need to find another job to avoid an unethical boss – but you’re worried about the financial consequences? Do you need to quit your job ASAP because it’s so stressful that you have physical symptoms – yet your job options elsewhere are slim?
  • Have a life outside of work. Develop personal relationships and satisfy your interests in activities unrelated to your job. Heard of “diversification”? It’s not just for investments. That way, if one part of your life suffers a blow you have another part to rely on.
Still to come, the 6th and final Free Agent Principle: Think “Right” Thoughts. And no, it will not involve stimulants (except a fancy caffeinated beverage, maybe).

For the previous posts for this 6 part series see:
The 6 Principles of the Free Agent Worker
Principle #1: Know and Strengthen Your Marketable Skills
Principle #2: Stay Mobile
Principle #3: Watch Your Company and Industry
Principle #4: Do Your Job Well

Monday, March 2, 2009

Plan carefully, do what you can, and hope for the best...

Finally the sun has come out here in the Pacific NW – as the East Coast is being hammered by a huge snowstorm. A little spring fever is just what the doctor ordered for me.

All weekend I’ve been working on marketing and publicity for The Career Key’s new products – a giant hole of time, energy and money – that marketing stuff. But a necessary ingredient to success. If you help run a business, like I do – you know how this works. You plan carefully, do what you can – and hope for the best!

Sounds like running the biggest democracy on Earth, eh? I think I'll stick with The Career Key...

And to think people still have time to “tweet” on Twitter! But I confess I did get a little Hulu time this weekend. I love 30 Rock...

Stay tuned for our news about Career Clusters, Career Key Canada, and our newest eBook, “2009 What Job is Best for Me?” – that, by the way, is a huge success. Thanks to our customers who have emailed me with praise and suggestions.