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What made you follow the career path that you have chosen?

The key to answering questions like this, questions that seek to determine your motivations, is to know the answers. The time to choose a career or to determine why you’ve chosen a career is long before the interview. Be prepared. That also helps you find a job that you can enjoy.

In tough economic times, or for certain people and certain jobs, the answer may be a simple one. “I’ve chosen this career because it matches my skills.” Good communicators may choose sales or marketing, math geniuses may choose engineering, people good with their hands may choose carpentry. This is a perfectly good answer – it’s honest, and it shows a dedication to the job because it’s something you love, at least as far as work life is concerned.

Make sure you understand the job requirements and know something about the company. Responding “I love solving problems on my own, without worrying about being bothered by people” doesn’t really work for a customer service job.

Even if your job is jack of all trades, moving between industries as a contractor or consultant, you have a career. In this case it might be expressed as “I really enjoy the challenge of learning new things, meeting new people and solving new problems. I don’t like long routine. This job let’s me jump in, get the job done, then move on to the next one.”

Other good answers include:

Family Field:
“My father did this, and his father before him did it. I was raised to work in this field. I don’t know any other kind of work, and more importantly this work satisfies me. I wouldn’t want to work in any other field.”

Matches Skills:
“I loved math as long as I can remember. I was always way ahead of my grade level in school. When someone told me I could earn a living with numbers, I couldn’t believe it. There are challenges all the time, something I really enjoy as a problem solver.”

Tried Many Things:
“My parents told me to try different things to see what I liked. After all, work is somewhere you spend most of your week, so it should be something you like. I tried all kinds of different jobs through my late teens and 20’s. I liked this the best, I’ve been motivated to work hard at it, so here I am.”

There’s often a follow up question like “What steps have you taken to follow this career.” So be prepared to give concrete examples of where you’ve been, and where you’re going in the career.

Leaving it to chance usually doesn’t cut it. “I wrote down a bunch of careers on a paper stuck to the wall. This is where the dart landed.”

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