What’s the right career path for you?

Guest blogger Victoria Schulman explains how an in-depth skills assessment can help you decide the correct career path for you as part of her career exploration series.

To begin exploring alternative career paths, first consider what aspects of research you find the most – and least – enjoyable, and let these preferences guide your career search.

For example, if you love experimentation, troubleshooting, and making discoveries but hate writing reports and/or presenting data, a research position at a pharmaceutical company would be a good fit for you.

Alternatively, if the opposite is true, a career in science communications would be ideal. Many pharmaceutical companies hire researchers to brainstorm and test new ideas, but they’ll outsource science writers to ultimately compose a publication or a press release. This divides the tasks, allowing you to focus your attention on the aspects of research that you enjoy most.

Identifying the activities you enjoy can be challenging. Fortunately, there are free self-guided skills assessments available that will help you identify your strengths and define careers that match these skills.

1) Careerealism

Careerealism is company that helps job seekers find great job fits by identifying their professional persona from the eight they’ve defined: 1) Mentor, 2) Researcher, 3) Warrior, 4) Superconnector, 5) Educator, 6) Builder, 7) Optimizer, and 8) Visionary.

Each of us possesses a variety of skills. The key is identifying which skills are your strongest.

Each of these personas has different strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, they are not defined in the literal sense. For example, an ‘Educator’ isn’t necessarily a teacher/professor, but rather someone who excels at communicating information – in emails, documents, oral presentations, and so on. For more details about each persona, visit their webpage.

You may relate to more than one type of persona. This is natural, as each of us possesses a variety of skills. The key is identifying which skills are your strongest.

Careerealism’s short, 20-question, ‘would you rather?’ quiz can easily pinpoint your strengths. With this, we can see where our preferences and tendencies lie.

Once you know your strengths, you can more easily identify ideal careers for you. For example, you may discover that you are equally an Educator and a Visionary. Knowing this information may help you redirect your career search, focusing more on leadership roles that require effective communication to get large groups of people to work together on long-term projects.

This service can open your eyes to strengths you didn’t realize you had. You can then begin researching jobs that specifically require those skills.

2) Oystir

Oystir is company that asks you to identify your skills and the degree to which you have mastered these skills, and based on your self-declared skillset and skill level, Oystir generates a list of jobs that are seeking candidates with your qualifications.

First, create a free account and select a category on the left, for example, ‘Biology Skills’. Within each category, you’ll find different topics. If you have experience with a given topic, such as ‘Bacterial Culture’, select that topic, and in the next view, define your level of expertise with this particular skill.

For example, 1) I have no/very limited experience, 2) I’ve learned the basics, 3) I have experience but need help, or 4) I execute complex experiments by myself. After selecting the most appropriate statement and clicking ‘Complete’, you’ve added this skill and skill level to your skillset.

After completing the assessment, which includes experiment- and non-experiment-based skills, Oystir filters out jobs that meet your qualifications. Select the ‘Job Matches’ tab to see the long list of jobs that are seeking candidates with your specific expertise. Click on the jobs that interest you to learn more, and either go straight to the application or save the job in your ‘Favorites’ for later.

It’s that simple.

What’s the difference?

Although both Oystir and Careerealism provide similar assistance for identifying your strengths, there are a few key differences.

Depending on your personality, one approach may be better for you.

1) Oystir uses specific skills to identify good job fits for you, whereas Careerealism works more in the abstract to describe features of a position that would suit you. Depending on your personality, one approach may be better for you.

2) Oystir is specifically geared towards helping PhDs and other scientists make the transition from academia to non-academic positions, whereas Careerealism is a universal service for all job seekers regardless of their background.

3) Oystir is ultimately a database of jobs; thus, after completing the skills assessment, you will be matched to specific job listings, whereas Careerealism does not provide this additional application.

Despite their differences, both Careerealism and Oystir provide excellent services that can help researchers explore alternative career paths by highlighting their strengths. Many individuals have limited success in non-academic job searches because they are applying for positions that are poor job fits; thus, the employer chooses another candidate. Better prepare yourself by first performing an in-depth skills assessment and letting this assessment guide your alternative career search.

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