Career Transition Confusion?

• Are you in Career Transition?
• Confused about your career direction?
• What career will make you happy?
• What are your extrinsic and intrinsic needs, your unmet needs?

• Have you ever had a high paying job, where you were miserable?

Most career tests only access your extrinsic needs and ignore intrinsic needs. Read on to learn about career motivation factors which impact your career transition.

As a business career counselor, I help clients explore their career choices and uncover career paths which meet their needs. Career testing is an important part of the process. Choosing the correct assessment tool and having it interpreted by a qualified person is essential. This process will help you uncover career options and expand the range of potential careers which you can consider. Most people do not even know the entire range of jobs or job titles which they are qualified for. They may only apply to a limited number of jobs and may be stuck in a rut. A thougthful approach to career transtions can help you determine your industry, sector, job category, functional role and job titles.

Career Testing: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

If you are confused or unclear about your career direction, this confusion can ruin your chances in an interview. A counselor who is experienced in your business sector, can also tell you if your career choice is realistic and help you explore labor market trends. You do not want to jump into a new career sector, only to have it go belly up in the next six months. When considering what would make you happy at work, consider what motivates you and what your needs are. What will motivate one individual, may not work with another.

Virtual Counseling, Choosing a Qualified Counselor

In graduate school, my professor always said “Career Counseling is Personal Counseling.” You cannot help someone with the intimate details of their career without knowing who they are as a person. In addition to testing, a skilled counselor will also access your lifestyle needs, personality, motivators, family responsibilities etc. These are factors which are not usually included in most career tests. Our social, emotional and psychological needs will impact our happiness and satisfaction with a particular work role. Your career path and career needs are unique.

I’d like to share a story about friend of mine from University. We both studied Psychology at the University of British Columbia, and then went on to graduate school. We completed our Clinical Psychology internships at a Drop in Addictions Clinic, for the Canadian Federal government. Our job titles and job duties were identical. We were both assigned roles as junior counselors had to counsel clients suffering with addictions, provide relapse prevention workshops and conduct clinical and psychometric testing. What I loved the most about my job was meeting with clients, talking through their issues and helping them problem solve. What I liked the least about my job was completing all of the government paperwork in triplicate and the bureaucracy associated with a Federal job. In contrast, my friend dreaded meeting with clients and she preferred working with the clinical data and doing research. She would get incredibly anxious before meeting with a client or before presenting and would endlessly rehearse what to say. As much as possible, she avoided meeting with clients and did as little of this as she could.

We both completed our internships and then proceeded to our first, job search. My friend realized that she didn’t want to work with clients directly; she wanted to do psychological or gerontology research in a laboratory. She was much more comfortable working with data and devices than people. To avoid going into a counseling practice, she immediately went on to do her PhD. I couldn’t wait to begin my first job and work with real clients. I loved counseling, teaching and writing. You couldn’t pay me enough, to work alone in a lab and sift through reams of statistical data. You couldn’t pay my friend enough, to present lectures to 500+ students and counsel individuals on a daily basis. Our education and experience is similar; yet our career paths are quite divergent.

When considering your career needs, you will need to differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is internally driven and comes from inside an individual rather than from any external or outside rewards. The motivation comes from the pleasure one gets from the task itself or from the sense of satisfaction in completing or even working on a task. Extrinsic motivation refers to the tangible rewards you receive from your work such as salary, compensation etc
The chart below was created for clinical, counseling work. To see the original chart go to  However, I have adapted it for use in a career counseling context. I use this chart in client sessions and together we sort through these motivators. Each of us will have different set of requirements in a job and different variables which we enjoy. There isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to career exploration and there isn't an 'ideal personality.' However there are personality traits and skills which are more suited to a particular job and will make it easier for you to excel in a given environment. Choosing a career and job is a very individual and personal process. If you are in career transition, I’d encourage you to explore the relevance and strength of each of these motivators below.

Use a SWOT analysis, to determine your strengths, weakness’ and your competitive advantage.
SWOT Analysis of your Competitive Advantage

Author: © 2010 -present. All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Counseling Psychology, CPRP.  Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist. Atlanta, GA. "Helping business professionals, reach their career potential!"

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  1. Nice piece, Sharon. Great to see someone add the "Spiritual" considerations too. May God bless you in all that you do and are doing for others.

  2. This is very helpful.

  3. I love reading your blog good information here

  4. Thank you.

    As an Adlerian counselor, I use a holistic approach to counseling and seek to understand people as individuals. Finding a good career match, entails exploring all 7 categories of motivational needs.

  5. Hi Sharon, Great insight, and like to comment how astonishingly little people focus on instrinsic motivation for such an important time consuming activity such as a Job!. This reminds me of the very helpful Career Anchors by Edgar Schein. Well understood, these anchors give insight into motivation, preferred environments, and expected benefits vs. acceptable costs/downsides.