The Best Careers

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Looking for the best career for yourself, a family member or a friend? Given our natural talents, acquired skills, circumstances and interests, there is likely to be more than one "best career" for each of us. Whittling the choices down to manageable size and assessing the available opportunities requires consideration of many factors: compensation, engagement (creative, intellectual, emotional, social), locality, benefits, advancement potential, time flexibility, and, critically, one's own personal gifts, motivations and aspirations, to name some of the most important.

Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there to help. Career advising centers,career-related websites, job boards, government programs and data, help from recruiters, other professional job coaching (e.g., workshops), and hard-copy publications offer the tools and assistance to find a best talent-job match for you or someone you know. With the information and guidance these provide, the "quest for the best" can pay off in both real and ideal ways, and land a dream job-maybe even the dream job.

What exactly are the best careers, allowing that for each of us there may be more than one "best"? This is of course a subjective issue, as different people have different ideas of what makes a good career. For some, financial reasons come first, in which case, the best jobs would refer to those that pay the most and do so in a stable, long-term way.

For example, the perennial favorites in the top-paying careers list will include professions such as doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, pilots and senior managers or chief executives. In general, these professions are well-paid because the practitioners often have to invest years of education and training first in order to acquire the necessary skills and experience. These daunting costs contribute to the relatively small numbers of such professionals, which in turn means a scarcity of talent that can therefore command greater remuneration.

To acquire the specialized knowledge in their respective professions, they often have to forgo years of earning power (and earnings that are actually deferred, because recovered later, in successful careers) and undergo rigorous testing before being certified as professionally competent. As for management-level professions, their high remuneration is an acknowledgement of the critical role played by their management duties and skills in determining the success of an organization.

However, these well-paid professions might be exactly the wrong career for someone who seeks something else besides high pay and advanced management opportunities. For example, a person who prefers to make a different kind of difference in other people's lives might choose to go into a career like teaching, nursing or other forms of public service, especially those with highly personalized one-to-one or small-group interactions. While these careers might not make the practitioner rich or allow the kind of policy making associated with high-level management , they can be fulfilling in other ways.

Alternatively, given a different set of criteria, such as a good work-life balance, some might not find toiling in a law firm or a corporate cubicle for years, notwithstanding the high pay, an appealing prospect, especially if highly analytical work requiring rapid absorption and organization of huge amounts of information is equally unappealing. Hence, as mentioned earlier, the best careers for a person will largely depend on his or her values, which will define both the value of the job and shape his or her value to the company or project.

When exploring different career options, it's important to develop a holistic, multi-dimensional, practical view of the entire career path. Make sure you understand the full ramifications of a career path before you embark on costly training or professional development. The best careers for you should involve your particular skills, sensibilities, and traits as well as meet your expectations in terms of work-life balance, compensation, schedule, and advancement opportunity.
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