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Recently I was asked, “What's the biggest mistake people make when it comes to their career?”  What a great question!

As someone with a fair amount of experience in the field of business coaching, consulting, and career advising, you might think I would have had the perfect answer … but I didn't.

A Google search on “Biggest Career Mistakes” revealed over 2.5 million results; many included lists of the Top 10, 8, 5, etc. career mistakes ever made. And while I suppose each had some validity, what struck me was that there were so just many … mistakes.

So I decided to turn the tables on the question and ask myself, “What's the biggest mistake I ever made in my career?” Boom, easy! My big mistake was that I didn't pursue a career that fit my interests, skills, and work values earlier on in life.

It's been said that if you find a job doing what you like, you'll never work a day in your life.

Early in my career, the main goal was to make a living. I was brought up in an era in which a person worked to make money, not be fulfilled.

Never did I dream that work and fulfillment could be united. I don't recall ever thinking how the two could, should, or might coexist; just wasn't part of my thinking.

I “made a living” primarily in the construction business and a bit in sales. I eventually started my own businesses. I was successful enough, and although I received a measure of fulfillment in a job well done or in meeting the needs of my clients, I can't honestly say I ever felt passionate about my work.

Then, about 12 years ago, I was asked if I'd like to work for an organization where the first day of the workweek would be a day to be looked forward to, not dreaded. Hey, who wouldn't?

That was when I got into business coaching and consulting. With over 20+ years of experience in business, it was a great fit. Plus I'd always enjoyed training and helping others improve themselves. So I earned a senior business consultant certification and later became a Global Career Development Facilitator.

Career development is a lifelong process.

When I joined Kuder, I discovered via the Kuder Career Interests Assessment® (KCIA) that my Holland Code is SEA (Social, Enterprising, Artistic), and suddenly it all made sense.

The SEA code indicates that my interests lie in helping others by informing, training, and developing them through personal interaction – the “S.”  The “E” part of my personality points toward strong interpersonal skills and being a bit of a risk taker which manifests itself in being comfortable in a number of situations that many others are uncomfortable, i.e., speaking in front of a group. The third piece of my Holland Code, “A,” shows up in my independent and self-expressive ways.

As an international professional development instructor for Kuder, I can honestly say that each day is an adventure and I completely enjoy what I do. I'm thankful that I have the opportunity to help others find how they can be and do better each and every day.

Paying it forward.

My biggest career mistake – not identifying my interests, skills, and work values early on in life – resulted in a string of jobs that paid the bills but didn't bring me joy. Had I found a job straight out of college that aligned with my personal interests, skills, and work values, I would have been a lot happier.

The good news is that I've found my passion and you can too, by discovering your unique career interests, skills confidence, and work values and identifying jobs that truly fit YOU.

Don't waste another day wishing things were different when you can start today to make a different – and better – tomorrow!

Need help with your career planning?

Kuder Coach® offers students and adults personalized, real-time support to help identify your personal interests, skills confidence, and work values, set and achieve education and career goals, and more.

About The Author

J. Clayton Kennedy

J. Clayton Kennedy is vice president and instructor of professional development for Kuder.  

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