If you’re trying to figure out how to pick what type of job to do next, whether you’re starting your career or making an change during your career, Richard Bolles’ “What Color is Your Parachute?” book are a great resource.  They’ve been updated and printed annually every year for many years.  You can pick up a copy from your local library or on Amazon.  Thanks to my great friend Mark for recommending this exercise to me — it’s been incredibly valuable for me.

There’s lots of great career planning/getting your first or next job advice in there, but my favorite part of the book by far is the “Flower Exercise” in the middle of the book.  He defines a flower with 7 parts to help you  better identify types of jobs you’d want to pursue — separating the different parts of jobs/career paths into.  The list of the parts of the flower are below — the exercise is to brainstorm items for each section, then prioritize them into a top 5-6 things in order.  Then you’ll have a one-page summary of the types of jobs that you would be great fit for you.

Center of Flower: Skills I Enjoy and am Good at (Transferable Skills)
  • To identify these, you can use various lists of skills (the book provides some)
  • You can write down stories of times you did something in your life you’re proud of (e.g. planning a big family vacation, leading a big project at work), and then pulling out all the various skills that you used from that story
Petal 1:  Fields of Fascination
  • It’s important to separate the ideas of roles (which are composed of multiple skills) and industries (or fields) — people often forget to separate these.  You can be a project manager, graphic artist, software engineer, data analyst, etc. in many different fields (e.g. Hollywood movie industry, Automobile/Car Racing companies,
Petal 2:  Preferred Places to Live
  • Identify the characteristics (e.g. close to bike trails) of the places you might live, before thinking of specific cities/areas; so you can avoid limiting places you might enjoy
Petal 3: My Preferred Kinds of People to Work With
  • A great thing to consider in career brainstorming/selection is the kind of people you want to surround yourself with in your career.  You’ll spend a lot of time with people in your career path.  The Flower Exercise recommends thinking about that by identifying the top 3, prioritized in order, types of people using Holland Codes, that you enjoy spending time with
Petal 4: My Values
  • Think about the core values that are important to you — people value all kinds of different things.  This reminds of me Jim Collins’ great point in “Good to Great“, where he makes the point that great organizations all have an opinionated culture about something — even though they’re all different.  Pepsi, BMW, and Walmart value in people and organizational culture very different things; but great companies can come out of a wide variety of cultures.  Think about what those values are for you.
Petal 5:  My Favorite Working Conditions
  • Think about the working conditions you enjoy (reflect back on previous conditions that you’ve enjoyed or disliked).  A few examples:  Do you enjoy a collaborative environment? Do you want to be left alone to solve tough problems?  Do you want a loud, fun bunch of people who socialize after work?  Or quiet, professionals?
Petal 6:  Preferred Level of Responsibility / Salary
  • Think about how much money you need to make, and how much you want to make (which should be very different amounts).  Some people have a much higher minimum or target salaries than others, and that certainly should affect picking a career path
  • Also, think about the level of responsibility you aspire to — that responsibility could be if you want to manage people, how many people you’d want to manage, how much responsibility you’d want in your actions at work (e.g. a surgeon has much more impact/responsibility than some other jobs), etc.

Flower Exercise

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