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Career Purpose


the reason for being


In 2001, a clinical psychologist, Akihiro Hasegawa explained a Japanese term "Ikigai" as ‘value in living.’ It’s your purpose, the reason to jump out of bed each morning. It seems simple, however it’s quite difficult to achieve. While your ikigai need not necessarily be related to your career, the popular interpretation of ikigai today has evolved into finding your career purpose (see the venn diagram on the left).


Many people don’t get the balance – some may find joy in doing what they love, but can only earn just enough to get by, whilst others may have successful careers but are unable to find their passion. Though the premise is, if you can find a way to integrate all four of these aspects into your life, you’ve achieved Ikigai – and will feel more fulfilled and harmonious.

Finding your Ikigai - your career purpose

The above diagram can act as a form of self-assessment, thus building a better understanding of what exactly will bring you meaning and happiness.  Explore each segment and take stock of everything in your life that applies to each one, even if they don’t interconnect. You may, for example, be really good at playing chess. It’s unlikely you’ll get paid for that, however including it can help form a pattern of interests and skills that can be applied to your professional life, such as logical thinking and problem solving.


If looking at every area is too overwhelming, another way to do it is by starting small. For example, focus on what you love to do and what you’re good at. By starting off like this, your Ikigai will come to light one day. 


It is very important that you take a piece of paper out and start writing down your thoughts as you explore each area. You will be amazed at what you see when you are done.

What you love

Think of your hobbies and CCAs

  • What hobbies did you have when you were in primary school? Perhaps you have forgotten about them since getting busy in JC. But it was something you loved doing when young. Write down anything. It need not be related to careers.

  • What do you find interesting but never really had the time to pick up fully due to your busy schedule?

  • Since primary school, which CCAs did you enjoy? Why did you like going for this CCA? E.g.

    • If your CCA is Basketball, did you like the teamwork aspect of the game or the competitive aspect?

    • If your CCA is Debate, did you enjoy the argumentative part or did you enjoy the researching part?


Think of the subject you find really fascinating and interesting

  • Preferably think of your JC subjects (as you need them to enter university) but it really need not be the case.

  • Perhaps the stress of exams or a boring teacher may have made you lose some interest in this subject but you do find the concepts interesting and you would read up more on the subject during your free time.

  • Why does this subject interest you?

Do the RIASEC assessment, and do it properly this time!

  • The RIASEC assessment can be found on MySkillsFuture Portal.

  • Alternatively, you could try the ONET Interest Profiler. Make sure you select Job Zone 4 (Bachelor's Degree needed) to filter out careers that are suitable for you.

  • Your top 3 RIASEC letters will give you an idea of what kind of career interests you have. 

  • The career selection that you get here is based solely on what you love doing, but may not necessarily be good at it, nor be well-paid for it

  • After learning your interests, you could further explore job scopes at websites like Linkedin e.g. Job Description Templates

What you are good at

Do a personality test

  • It is quite difficult to change your personality, especially at the ripe old age of 17-18 years. Understand your personality and use your self-awareness to focus on your strengths and target your weaknesses.

  • The MBTI test is one of the best personality tests available. You may wish to try it a few times, at different times, thinking of your personality at school and at home. Read up on the different results yielded and ask yourself, honestly, which personality type really suits you.

  • Based on your true personality type, write down your strengths (and weaknesses, it is good to know them!). You can find the strengths and weaknesses of each personality type on the website.


Think of the subject that you are good at, but not necessarily interested in

  • Why are you good at this subject? What abilities does it reflect of you? E.g. If you​ are good at Chemistry, is it because you can visualise particles at the molecular level or your photographic memory is particularly strong?​

  • If you are generally strong in your academics, why is that so? What skills does it reflect of you? E.g. time management, stress management​​

  • You can refer to this website for a list of skills and abilities linked to various careers. Abilities are enduring attributes that influence your performance with while skills are developed capacities that aid learning.

Think of your hobbies and CCAs

  • Are you also good at your hobby? If you play the piano or paint, do you get a lot of praises from your peers or strangers? 

  • What is your role in your CCA? What do you have to do in your role? What skills does it reflect of you?

  • Do your CCA-mates always run to you for help for certain tasks? Why is that so?

  • You can refer to this website for a list of skills and abilities linked to various careers. Abilities are enduring attributes that you are born with while skills are developed.

What you can be paid for

​Research career prospects

  • Careers in high demand are likely to be well-paying careers. But they may not be perennially in high demand. It is essential to do your research online regularly. 

  • After completing the RIASEC assessment, you can take a look at these infographics to explore the possible careers, the monthly salary and the university course requirements.

  • You can also check out the latest Graduate Employment Survey on or here.

  • List down careers that you feel would provide you with a comfortable lifestyle.

Don't forget work values

  • While getting paid, you also want a work environment that you are comfortable and happy in. 

  • You need not necessarily be happy in the highest-paying job if the working conditions do not suit you i.e. highly stressful, competitive etc. Ask yourself what is the salary that you are comfortable with, yet working in a place that you love.

  • You can try out the Work values inventory in MySkillsFuture Portal.

  • Based on your work values, you can search out matching careers in ONET.

What do your parents wish for you to become?

  • Do your parents wish for you to become a doctor or lawyer? Is it because the job is prestigious and high-paying?

  • List down jobs that your parents hope you can go into because you will get paid comfortably for it

At this point of time, take a look at all your interests, strengths, skills, abilities and matching careers. Are there any common ideas or careers that appear in all three areas? If there are, you have almost found your career purpose! If not, carry on brainstorming and reflecting on your past experiences.
If you have found some matching careers and feel happy with the match, carry on to the last area.

What the world needs

What jobs are hot now?

  • While its not advisable to base your career purpose solely on job market trends, it is good to be aware of them and learn how to position yourself well in a particular market.

  • The World Economic Forum has identified  seven professional areas which may see good job growth in the near future. Read here for more information. 

What would you volunteer for?

  • Which charity would you volunteer for?

  • Which cause or group of underprivileged do you feel strongly for? Why do you feel strongly for this cause or group? Can you trace your feelings to any particular event that happened in your life?

  • Which of the matching careers (in the previous 3 areas) would allow you to contribute to this cause?

You may be thinking that it is not necessary to be in a job which benefits the world. You also may not have any causes that you feel strongly for. That is perfectly normal as you are still young and perhaps lack the experiences that shape your convictions and beliefs. 
Don't worry, as long as the career that you have found can match the first 3 areas, that is good for now. One day, as you become more established in your career, you may finally find a cause that you are passionate for and attain your ikigai. 
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