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A Simple But Potent Way to Choose a Career

The "Optometry" Game.

Key points

  • The Optometry Game can be an effective way to help someone choose a career.
  • The game involves following five key steps.
  • Many people over-complexify the process of choosing a career.
Source: Rama Krishna Karumanchi/Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Rama Krishna Karumanchi/Pixabay, Public Domain

The Optometry Game is the most effective of the tools I’ve used to help people choose a career. Here, I adapt it so anyone can use it.

1. Pick two careers of possible interest, for example, relationship coach and substance abuse counselor. If forced to pick one, which would you choose?

2. Now substitute some other career for the one you didn't pick. It could be something related, for example, eating disorders counselor. Or it could be more distal, for example, high school guidance counselor. Or it could be very distal, for example, own a café. Again, pretend you had to choose one: which would it be, for example, "relationship counselor or cafe owner?"

3. Repeat Step 2 until you’ve run out of appealing career ideas. To find additional options, scan the tables of contents of the government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook , which provides authoritative profiles of 300 popular careers and/or of my book Careers for Dummies , which offers more subjective looks at 340 careers and self-employment ideas, including some under-the-radar ones.

4. If The Optometry Game yields one or more careers of interest, Google it, for example, [“HR benefits” career] and review one or more articles and videos that appeared near the top of the search results. Any career that survives may justify your trying to shadow someone in that career—there’s something about watching a person in action that no article or video can match.

5. Because Steps 1 to 4 constitute a fast approach to choosing a career, it can be tempting to explore or ruminate longer. But I’ve found that, if the best-fit career unearthed using The Optometry Game feels good, the time may be better spent looking for quality training and an internship or entry-level job. Then focus on learning and on shaping that off-the-shelf career to fit your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. For example, if you decided to be a dating coach, would you likely be most helpful to clients by specializing in people of a certain age, demographic, or sexual orientation? Would you be happier working for an organization or in private practice?

Tip: Especially if two or three careers or even categories of careers feel equally good, you might opt for the one in which you have a personal “in." For example, let’s say you decide that you’d like to become a counselor of some sort but aren’t sold on a particular specialty, and you or your parents are friends with a manager at an employer of counselors, for example, the large health care provider, Kaiser Permanente. You might chat with that person to see if s/he would facilitate your getting a launchpad job or internship there in whatever specialty.

After a lot of years as a career coach, I’ve come to believe that many people over-complexify the process of choosing a career. A person could do worse than using The Optometry Game.

I read this aloud on YouTube.