Finding the Right Fit: How to brainstorm career ideas

The majority of workers are unhappy with their career. The tough economy and a sense of insecurity regarding jobs does not help. According to this recent article from, New Survey: Majority of Employees Dissatisfied, Right Management conducted a survey last year in the spring with low results for job satisfaction – only 19% said they were satisfied with their jobs. Another 16% said they were “somewhat satisfied.”

We spend a majority of time at our jobs and as a result it is critical that we enjoy it. It makes us better parents, happier people and as a result better employees. I often find that professionals who want to make a career transition or that want to determine a new career direction have a hard time defining their direction and brainstorming possible ideas.

Unfortunately, there is no website out there that lists all the job possibilities in the world, or a test that can easily give you this answer. However, there are several things you can do to brainstorm and identify possible career paths that would be a fit for you.

Here are a few tips that I use with career coaching clients:

First is the “two heads are better than one” concept. You should try to uncover as many career ideas as possible. I suggest brainstorming with supportive people who know you, and with people who don’t know you as well. Here’s why. Getting firsthand information from others often adds helpful insights. Those who know you can pinpoint your skills and suggest how to use them. They can review previous jobs and how you handled them. They have a history with you and they know your personality. As long as they remain supportive and do not try to pigeonhole you, they can be incredibly helpful.

One of my clients, David, had 5 friends over for pizza one night, they brainstormed for an hour. He walked away with 30 new career ideas. Another client, Shirley, was looking for a new career path and told one of her friends she was considering becoming the director of a non-profit. To her surprise, her friend said, “I always thought that was something you should do.” You never know what they will say!

As part of talking with others, you should also speak to those who don’t know you as well. Some examples might be, a career coach, participants in a coaching group, or former co-workers you were acquaintances with. They can provide a more objective opinion. My experience is that in every coaching group I’ve had, someone has said something I would not have thought of. These suggestions have helped my clients and some have gotten their best career ideas from other participants in the group.

Second, spend some time writing what I call a Career Contrast List. Many people have trouble identifying what they want in a job or a career, but they certainly can identify what they do not want. In fact, my clients usually have a laundry list of complaints based on previous experiences. Make a list of the things that you have liked and disliked about previous jobs and use that list to develop a simple list of wants.

Third, take that list of wants and identify specific keywords you can use to conduct online research to brainstorm career ideas. For example, if one of the things on the list is financial analysis, database management, or marketing communications, use those as keywords on Google (for example: “careers in marketing”). Also use them as keywords on websites like, and These can all help you find additional career paths you might enjoy.

This process takes time, and unfortunately there is no magic wand. You must be methodical about your searching and be organized. Take your time with it. It is worth it and will pay great dividends. Having a job you enjoy is critically important to your overall satisfaction with your life.


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