Choosing a Career: Pain Points and Possibilities

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December 16th, 2019 No Comments Features


The easiest way to shrug off the pressure of career choice is to realise you don’t have to choose one career. What interests you and pays the bills now may not be the same thing that interests you and pays the bills in ten, even five, years. With the rise of technology and the rapidly shifting job landscape, it’s time to adopt a different mindset and choose careers (plural) based on a more future-focused set of criteria.

How to Make Career Decisions

Motivational coach Tony Robbins writes about career identity as a major factor in one’s professional journey. Career identity, or “the degree to which an individual has a clear sense of his or her career path,” can have a huge impact on a person’s overall life satisfaction. If there’s dissonance between your identity and your current path, that’s when you’ll tend to slip into dissatisfaction.

Robbins writes:

“Individuals with clear career plans tend to prioritize their fit with the job’s tasks, whereas individuals with unclear career plans prioritize fitting into the job’s culture. This dichotomy makes sense, since having clarity of purpose dictates the skills you would want to develop in any given role. If you don’t have clarity of purpose, it’s less important where the skills you’re building take you, so culture fit takes priority.”

He recommends a few things—including prioritising fulfillment, valuing your gift, understanding your working style, and refusing to give up—to help you find the right path at this point in your journey.

Another useful tidbit from American entrepreneur James Clear is the concept underlying the Helsinki Bus Theory. In Helsinki, several bus lines begin at the same station and follow the exact same route through the city before finally branching off as they get about 1.5 km from the station. This is a metaphor for artists, entrepreneurs, innovators—people trying to differentiate themselves from everything else that’s out there, constantly reiterating and giving up one brilliant idea for another brilliant idea that will be “the one.”

The lesson is that nearly all of us begin on the same path; it’s not until later, after time and mastery, that we naturally develop our individual identity and trademark. His advice: “Stay on the bus.” Do what you love, and eventually you will stand out from the crowd as your work matures. “It’s not the work; it’s the rework,” he says, urging us to stick with the same idea and let it evolve.

Planning for the Future

If you want to know what the future of the job landscape looks like, take a hint from Generation Z. After all, the future isn’t predetermined; it’s shaped by today’s youth.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, Gen Zers are “less likely to take risks, seeking stability and security in their jobs and finances.” They are also “less likely to prioritize a work-life balance, with only 38% of Gen Zers saying it’s important compared to nearly half of millennials.”

Why? Well, it’s pretty logical when you think about the circumstances surrounding their childhood: Raised at a time of global economic stress, Gen Zers have grown up less idealistic than the millennials who preceded them.

“Many Gen Zers are keenly aware of the need to save for the future and see job stability as more important than a high salary. They already show a high preference for regular employment rather than freelance or part-time work, which may come as a surprise compared to the attitude of millennials, for example. According to a new survey, 42 percent of Gen Zers from 17 to 23 years old are already gainfully employed in either full- or part-time jobs or as freelance workers—a high percentage for people so young.”

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have ideals as far as career choice goes.

A whopping 93 percent say their decision to work in a company is “greatly influenced by the organization’s impact on society.” To prove their point, 30 percent claim they are “willing to receive a 10-20 percent pay reduction just to work with a company that shares their causes.”

Another Gen Z trend, which we started to see among millennials, is collaborative consumption, specifically generating additional income through the gig economy.

“Another aspect of the gig economy involves consumers who take advantage of their existing relationships with companies to generate additional income by working temporarily for them. Some companies are already embracing the implications.”

When you look at professional life this way, “career pressure” applies less than career opportunity. Future generations are opportunists, and the rest of us should be too.

Staying Open to Possibilities

Regardless of whether you choose one career or many, the decision-making process will always come with its challenges. How do you know if it’s worth investing your time in a course on programming or UX design or digital marketing? Should you choose your institution based on which ones offer VET in schools? Will any of it pay off in the end?

For those suffering from decision paralysis, it may offer some solace to keep in mind that no matter what you choose, it’s never a waste of time and you’ll get something out of it in the end. You just might not be able to imagine what that something is right now. This is one student attitude that will get you farther than dragging yourself through law school when you know you’re not meant for it.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be intentional about your education, though.

Entrepreneur and podcast host Tim Ferris puts it this way: Whatever project you set out to tackle, whether it’s a new business venture or a career change, make sure at the outset that you’ll develop two things along the way, even if you don’t succeed the way you’d imagined: 1) valuable skills and 2) valuable relationships. That’s the kind of sterling advice you probably didn’t receive in your career counselling sessions in secondary school.

The bottom line is that staying open to possibilities and expanding your skill set now will save you trouble in the future. If there’s a course that piques your interest—whether it’s nursing or social work or child education—go for it whether or not it’s perfectly aligned with your career trajectory thus far. The best thing you can do now to “future-proof” yourself and stay employed and inspired down the road is to branch out, broaden your horizons, and embrace what presents itself to you.


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Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or Facebook.

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