Starting Out in the Work World: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

How to start your life in the working world. Ask yourself these 10 questions.

Let’s be honest. You don’t just want a job that pays the bills; you want something that you’ll enjoy or that will help you figure out what you want to do long-term. Before you run out and jump at the first help wanted sign you see, ask yourself some questions:

  1. How much money do I need?

This will help you determine the wage or salary you need. Create a budget that considers all of your expenses, from rent and food to entertainment costs. (For help, watch this budgeting video.) Then, visit websites such as www.salary.com and www.payscale.com to get ballpark pay ranges for different jobs.

  1. When am I available?

Many jobs have traditional 9-to-5 hours, but your schedule may not allow for this if you go to school part time or have family responsibilities. Consider when you're available and look for jobs that correspond with that time. For example, if you're only available in the evenings, steer away from office jobs and consider positions in retail, entertainment, or dining.

  1. Do I have transportation?

To be a reliable employee, you need to make sure you can get to your job. Before you apply, understand if you'll need a car or if you’ll have access to public transportation near the employer you're considering.

  1. Who can I talk to?
Career awareness and exploration are a critical part of the educational experience.

"Career awareness and exploration are a critical part of the educational experience," says Carlos Viera, district chair of secondary student services for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools student services group. "A school counselor or College Assistance Program (CAP) advisor can be a great ally in helping you learn more about yourself; your strengths and your opportunities for improvement."

Talk to your friends and family members about their jobs, too. Find out what pays their bills and makes them happy, and consider whether it's a path you might consider.

  1. What's the economy like in my area?

Check out what companies are growing and hiring in your region—and nationwide. For example, if you live in a city, you're bound to find many retail and service jobs; perhaps there are large hotels or tourist centers. If you live in a rural area, find out where others work, such as construction companies, shopping areas, or factories.

  1. What do I like?

Think about a job that's somehow related to your interests. If you like animals, perhaps a veterinary office or a pet shop is hiring. If you enjoy reading, consider a book shop, a library, or a school. If you love cars, maybe you'd be well-suited for selling or repairing them.

  1. What do I hate?

If you don't like being social and interacting with people, you probably shouldn't seek a job that requires a lot of person-to-person contact. You may prefer work that involves computers or operating machinery.

  1. What am I good at?

You know better than anyone if you have artistic skills, the ability to get people to talk to you, or a knack for numbers or technology. You can turn those talents into job opportunities.

If you're not sure where to look, try some aptitude tests that will link your interests and abilities to career possibilities:

  • Holland Code: This test helps determine what jobs fit your personality
  • ONET Skills Search: This quiz helps you narrow down possible careers based on your talents and expertise
  1. What am I not so good at?

Not every job is right for every person, so be honest about your limitations.

Job seekers should always be open and honest with themselves regarding their own interests, skills, and aptitudes.

"Self-reflection is a very important skill," Viera says. "Job seekers should always be open and honest with themselves regarding their own interests, skills, and aptitudes."

  1. What do I want to learn more about?

The start of your career is the perfect time to explore and learn more about the opportunities that are out there for you. Not every career path is straight, and not every decision you make will be one you want to stay with until you retire—and that’s OK. Make now the time that you learn about your options, whether at school or on the job.

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]