Friday, January 18, 2013

Exploring Your Interests

Once I made the decision to leave the world of insurance, I came face-to-face with the big question many of us haven’t considered in decades (if ever): what do I want to be when I grow up?

When I graduated from college with a degree in Art History, all I knew for certain was that I wanted to be a mother some day. I had never really considered what to do with myself until that time arrived. Vassar in the mid-seventies was a hotbed of feminism, and many of my classmates had well-considered plans for graduate and professional school. However, the sad truth is that an equal number of us had no particular career goals. We had more options than our mothers but few role models. Also, the country was in the middle of a recession (remember the gas shortage and lines at the pumps?), and jobs were scarce. I took the first job I was offered, and it set the course for the next thirty-seven years.

Now, however, everything has changed. It’s much easier to get information about every occupation and activity imaginable. The rainbow of choices is literally blinding. The problem is narrowing them down to the best one or ones for you.

The place to start is with self-knowledge. If you’re in your fifties, you probably have a good idea of the things you’re interested in and enjoy doing, but how well do you really know yourself? Now is a great time to do some in-depth exploration. And it’s fun! It may confirm what you already suspect, but it might also present you with new possibilities you’d never considered. To help set you on the right path, I‘d like to share a few books I used to hone in on what I really want for The Second Half.

At this point, you may know whether you want to look for a job in a new field, go into business for yourself, or try a new volunteer opportunity. I didn’t. When I started my search, all I knew was I had to get out. So it’s no surprise I started with Escaping Career Prison: Three Keys toBreaking Free and Finding Work You Love, by Amy Van Court. The title alone is liberating, and the tone of the book is supportive and encouraging—just what I needed when I was in the throes of work misery. The ebook version also includes a link to the author’s website where you can download and print a very helpful workbook. By the time you read the book and complete the workbook, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want from work and life.

Next, I picked up Career Match, by Shoya Zichy with Ann Bidou. Based on the work of Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, and the Myers-Briggs personality-type Indicator, Zichy has devised her own color-coded system she calls Color Q to help match people with compatible occupations. Using a self-assessment questionnaire, she assigns primary and secondary personality types to four color groups then applies the introvert/extrovert filter. I determined I am a gold/green introvert, which was supported by the interesting list of possible job choices at the end of the section.

For confirmation, I checked back with a book we’d had since OG did some career exploration several years ago—Do What You Are, by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. This classic has been around for twenty years, and with good reason. Also based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, it offers detailed insight into the science of personality typing, as well as the sixteen personality types and suitable occupations for each. I highly recommend it even if you aren’t interested in career guidance. I have used the basic descriptions to help with character development in my fiction writing for years.

There are many other excellent books available in the field of career selection, and I’ll try to bring more to your attention as I come across them. Are there any that have been particularly helpful to you?


  1. Good for you, Alison! Way to be pro-active about this whole change in your life. My problem is I know exactly what I want to do - I made the executive decision I was going to write romance novels when I was still in high school. Now to make it pay - the next step in the journey.

  2. Maybe we can figure out a way to make it pay together. The more income I can make from my writing, the less pressure on anything else I decide to do.