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My New-Client Questionnaire

By Marty Nemko

Most of my clients find my new-client questionnaire very helpful. Here’s the guts of it.

Your Interests

What subject do you most enjoy talking about?

If I looked around your room, what clue might I derive about your interests?

What’s an unusual even weird interest(s) of yours?

At work, what do you enjoyably spend a lot of time on?

Outside of work, what do you enjoyably spend a lot of productive time on?

What items do you save?

What was your favorite subject in school?

Your Abilities

Which one or two of these are you: a) a word person, b) a math/science person, c) a people person, d) an artistic person, e) a fix-it, build-it person, f) a paperwork details person

What kinds of problems at work do you solve well?

What kinds of problems at home do you solve well?

What have people complimented you on?

What do you have a knack for?

What do you find easy that many people find hard?

What tasks have brought you the most success?

What’s an unusual ability(ies) of yours?

List your life's three favorite completed projects or accomplishments. Not only did they turn out well, you enjoyed the process of completing the work. If you can't think of three from adulthood, go back as far as you want.

Do you know a wealthy, well-connected, eminent, or highly skilled person who could open an interesting career door for you? (If your answer is no, consider putting yourself in environments where you’re likely to meet them: for example, volunteer to serve on a nonprofit board, join a sailing or flying enthusiast’s club, write an article in which you interview experts.)

What You Value

If you didn't care what anyone thought, what is your most deeply held aspiration?

In what way does your behavior not match your true values?

What are the non-negotiables in your next job?

Where do you picture yourself working: an office, at home, outdoors, a school?

How many hours a week is the most you're willing to work?

What is the longest commute you would accept?

Must your work "make the world a better place"?

How pleasant must your work environment be?

Is there a product or service that makes you so unhappy you'd like to do something about it?

Is there an aspect of society that makes you so unhappy you'd like to do something about it?

What’s an unusual even weird value(s) you hold?

Write a paragraph describing what you'd like your life to be like five years from now.

Your psychological issues

Right before you go to sleep and right when you wake in the morning, is there one topic you think about more than others?

What's something you're afraid to admit, even to yourself?

What's your fatal flaw?

What do you want? What do you really want?

What keeps you from getting it?

Here’s how you can use your answers to generate on-target career ideas. First, simply look at your answers. Show them to trusted friends. Do any careers come to mind?

If that doesn’t work well enough, go to and click on “skills search.” Based on your answers to the above questions, check off the skills you want to use in your career, and in seconds, you’ll have a list of possibly well-suited careers. Another approach: browse a career library’s shelves and on-target books’ tables of contents. Pick careers that, based on your answers, seem well-suited. Two books that profile lots of careers: The Occupational Outlook Handbook contains authoritative but dry information on hundreds of popular careers, and my less dry but less authoritative Cool Careers for Dummies, which contains one-paragraph descriptions of 500 careers, including many under-the-radar employment and self-employment options.

A cautionary note: The above process often generates the desire to pursue a highly competitive career: for example, one in the arts, media, biotech, fashion, etc. If so, you must ask yourself, being brutally honest, “How likely is it that I’m talented and driven enough to succeed in such a competitive field?”

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