At Next Step Careers, we view “purpose” as an approach or mindset more concretely defined as "taking action in accord with one's values, passions and preferences."

When we acknowledge there is no one perfect job for us, and start taking steps simply in the right direction, we open ourselves up to learn, iterate and make impact authentic to our true selves throughout our career journey. We shift from seeking purpose to living purpose. 

Follow our two-page career direction diagnostic below to help you:

  1. Discern your values, passions and work preferences (VPPs)
  2. Translate your VPPs into job search insights
  3. Prioritize the direction(s) you'll explore and define concrete steps to get moving


Take 30-45 minutes to answer the below 10 questions

Our values are our most core motivators, defined as one’s judgment of what’s important in life. When our work enables us to live our core values, we know we’re moving in the right direction. 

The challenge is to nail down these values which can shift over time, and determine which we want to fulfill at work vs. outside of work, and which we would prioritize over others. Few work situations allow all our core values to play a leading role in our lives, and clarifying up front what’s most important helps us refine our job search parameters. 

1. Use this exercise to identify and rank your top 7 values: 

2. From your top 7, consider which values you most want fulfilled on a daily/weekly basis:

  • Highlight the values you want fulfilled at work
  • Underline the values you want fulfilled outside of work
  • Star your non-negotiables

There is a danger in conflating passion with purpose. Passion's Latin root (pati) means "to suffer," hence, passions are things for which we’d suffer. Discerning our passions can guide which industries, products / services, roles or causes would most inspire us.

3. List the issues, hobbies, organizations, knowledge areas, individuals, and other passions that makes your heart race:

4. From that list, consider which you might pursue at work vs. outside of work:

  • Highlight those you could consider focusing on in your work
  • Underline those you want to be able to pursue outside of work

Work Preferences:
Our work preferences can be boiled down into the 4 P’s, Process, People, Pay and Place:  


5. List the specific skills you enjoy using on a daily or weekly basis, and then the specific skills you do not enjoy. Reference your resume and/or this list for ideas and be as specific and exhaustive as you can:

  • Enjoy:
  • Don't enjoy:


6. Rank these organizational culture factors from most to least important to your fulfillment at work: 

  • Quality of coworkers
  • Balance / flexibility / hours
  • Compensation & benefits
  • Brand prestige of the organization
  • Opportunities for growth / advancement
  • Stress / pace of work 
  • Mission of organization aligns with personal values/passions

7. What else is important to you about the culture you join (e.g. size of organization, size of team, stage of organization, leadership characteristics, etc.): 


8. What do you need to earn vs. what do you want to earn in your next position:

  • Need to earn (based on monthly expenses): 
  • Want to earn (be reasonable based on current salary, education, etc.):

9. If you left your job tomorrow, how many months could you cover your current financial obligations without new income:


10. List the city / cities where you’d prefer to work, in rank order: 


Based on your above responses, answer the following questions: 


  • What can you conclude about the job titles, role characteristics, or responsibilities that may be most fulfilling to you? 
  • Any specific roles you'd like to explore or pursue? 


  • What can you conclude about the types of organizations or organizational characteristics that may be most fulfilling to you? 
  • Any specific organizations or organization types you'd like to explore or pursue? 


  • What can you conclude about the industries, products, services or issues that may be most fulfilling for you to focus on in your work? 
  • Which industries, products, services or issues are you already experienced in professionally, educationally or through volunteering? 
  • Any specific industries you'd like to explore or focus on as you begin your search? 


Choose 1-3 direction(s) you most want to pursue or at least start exploring as you ramp up your search.  

Keep in mind: You can always shift course! Most importantly, just start stepping in the right direction. Whether it’s scheduling an informational interview, catching up with a mentor, taking an online course or volunteering, or committing fully to go through the job search process, each step you take brings knowledge and connections that help you iterate on your search – and propels you forward with purpose. 

List at least one concrete step you’ll take towards each direction this week to get moving:

Direction #1:
First step:

Direction #2 (if applicable):
First step:

Direction #3 (if applicable):
First step:



Read the full article: 10-Question Career Direction Diagnostic