ARE we born with our ideal career written into our genetic code? Is a doctor, engineer, stockbroker or businessman born with the predisposition to become one, and is it just a matter of identifying our inborn talents?

The answers to these questions bring us back to the recurrent nature versus nurture debate that raises its head in many scenarios.

If nature alone does not have a predominant role in determining the right career for an individual, then this brings into play a vast range of possibilities.

Upbringing, social environment, role models, opportunities and information access all contribute to shaping a person's inclinations.

This means also that by deliberate choice and exposure to new experiences and training, a person has the potential to make a radical change in his career choice.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), the third president of the United States, distinguished himself also as a horticulturist, statesman, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, author, inventor and founder of the University of Virginia.

He poses a direct contradiction to "purists" who speak against delving into more than one professional pursuit and counsel against pursuing many interests in one's lifetime.

While not many may match Jefferson for brilliance, most would welcome diversity and variety in their lives as an effective antidote to boredom and staleness.

Fulfilling the requirements for a job involves many different aspects, including specific training and skills required, propensity for perseverance and teamwork, workplace climate and the immediate work context.

Differences in any of these variables would impact how people with different personalities are likely to perform in their jobs. Determining whether a person fits the job would have to take into consideration specific characteristics of both the candidate and the job context.

A strong interest in a number of different vocations may pose a challenge to a person who needs to decide on a specific course of training or study to pursue any one of the various interests.

To narrow the choice down at any particular point in time, you need to engage in a process of rational and systematic decision-making.

Weighing options

This involves several sequential steps. The process begins with amassing as much objective information as possible about all strongly liked vocations on your shortlist.

The next step is to make a list of the job characteristics and demands of each job. For each item, you should assign a positive or a negative to indicate whether that item is valued personally in a positive or negative way.

To make evaluation easier, a weightage from -10 to +10 may be assigned to each job item. By tallying up the assigned points, a score can be obtained for each job.

You can then see clearly how the various jobs map out in terms of valued attributes and in total.

Sometimes you are not clear about your feelings about various attributes, or you may not sufficiently understand implications and outcomes of different job requirements.

Talking over the issues with various "experts" in each of the job fields can provide valuable details to make an informed decision.

Sorting out your personal feelings about various jobs can be done with family members, friends or with a career guidance counsellor.

A professional counsellor would contribute some degree of impartiality, which may be more difficult for family and friends who may have an opinion on what you should choose to do.

Jobs can be classified in several different ways. They can be mostly outdoors or indoors, dealing with equipment, documents, people, animals, metals, earth or agriculture.

The nature of the work can be clerical, technical, professional, managerial or trade and business. Training required may vary from OJT (on-the-job) only, to days, months or years of specialist knowledge and skills training prior to commencing work.

Specialist skills required can range from excellent psychomotor coordination (for complex man-machine interface work settings), to a keen nose (for perfumes, wine quality determination), spatial conceptualisation (architecture, structural and civil engineering), mathematical ability and abstract reasoning (for complex decision-making involving multiple factors).

Across vocations, there are certain valued qualities that you can bring to the workplace. These include patience, perseverance, desire to produce a high quality output, capacity for collaborative teamwork, thirst for continuous learning, setting high achievement goals, having an agreeable temperament without compromising on discussion and disagreement where appropriate.

Psychologists have proposed several ways of understanding personality differences. A broad-brush approach separates extroverts from introverts. While it is relatively easy to identify a painfully shy person, and a consistently loud and dominant person, many people fall somewhere in between, depending on the context and the element of familiarity.

In today's global marketplace, you have to be competitive and to win assignments as well as to deliver high-quality output. But it is also important to acquire skills to work effectively in the international arena.

The ability to appreciate and accept different cultural, religious and ethnic practices is also important, irrespective of the career you choose.