Careers

Make the right career move

Jun 02, 2020
John Slattery shares his simple three-step process to help you make a career choice you will not regret.

In adulthood, bar sleep, we spend more time at work than anything else. Our career will have a massive bearing on the happiness, success, and fulfilment we experience in life. It is critical, therefore, that we make the best career choice possible at every professional junction.

Making a career choice is a complex process, and there are many nuances to consider. Inspo’s three-step guide to making good career choices is designed to steer you toward the right decisions for you. The three steps are as follows.

Step 1 Create an uninhibited list of career choices

One measure of success around career choice will be the absence of any regret upon deciding. For this to be the case, we must identify all possibilities that appeal to us as possible career choices. This will enable us to feel confident that we are choosing from a complete list.

You may be able to identify all possibilities yourself. Alternatively, you may need to bounce it off one or more people to help you formulate the list. If so, chat with someone you know who will give you a genuine opinion as to what career options they think would be worth considering.

You must also ensure that you build an understanding of what each role entails. You can then make an informed decision as to whether to pursue or discard each option (more on that in step three).

The end-goal for step one is to feel that you have identified a complete list of career choices and to have an informed understanding of each option.

Step 2 Self-reflect

To decide on the suitability of each option, you must self-reflect. You will use the output of your self-reflection to evaluate each option that has emerged in step one. There are three elements of self-reflection to carry out:

Vision

Positive psychologists Scott Barry Kaufman and E. P. Torrance claim that inspiration is the attempt to realise a future vision of oneself. Making career choices that align with our vision can, therefore, create a sense of inspiration in our professional lives. Research also suggests that making a career choice that is connected to our vision can lead to higher levels of productivity, motivation, and positivity. Therefore, our vision is a critical evaluation criterion.

Strengths and interest areas

This focus area of self-reflection derives from a definition of meaning by positive psychologist, Martin Seligman. He defines meaning as “using your signature strengths in the service of something greater than you are”. Seligman’s research identifies meaning as the most significant contributor to happiness. Strengths and interest areas are a simplified extraction of Seligman’s definition, but tapping into these two areas will give us excellent access to meaning and joy through our work. So, as with vision, strengths and interest areas are crucial evaluation criteria.

Priorities

Our career choices must be grounded in the priorities that exist in our lives at the time we make a choice. They might be personal, such as a desire to travel or buy a house, or they might be related or separate financial priorities. Honouring our priorities through our choice gives us the best chance to meet our goals, ambitions, and desires. It is the final critical element of evaluation.

Our end-goal for this step is to have a clear vision, a sense of what our strengths and interest areas are, and an understanding of our priorities in life.

Step 3 Evaluate, pursue, and decide

In the final step, you first evaluate each option against the self-reflection criteria. For each option, you decide whether you are going to pursue or discard that option. This will leave you with a shortlist of options. From here, you pursue each shortlisted option further by furthering your understanding and actively exploring opportunities related to each career option. As you do this, you check-in with yourself regularly as to which prospect feels like the right one. You continuously repeat this check-in exercise during this final stage of exploration until you feel ready to make your career choice.

I wish I could offer you a process that guarantees success in your career choice. Alas, neither I nor anyone else can do so. What I can say is that I have seen, through my work, that this process helps people make good career choices – and I hope it can do the same for you.

The referendum effect

Career choices are an imperfect process simply because the ‘perfect choice’ is rare if non-existent. So here is a concept I call the ‘referendum effect’ to help define success when it comes to career choices.

Let us look back to the two most recent Irish referendums – the same-sex marriage referendum and the referendum on the Eighth Amendment. In both cases, there was high-quality information available and thorough debate and discussion on the merits of both sides of each argument. This allowed people to make an informed choice at the polls.

In both scenarios, the consensus was that the right outcome was achieved. However, in both cases, more than 30% of people voted against the outcome.

For me, these referendums are a good metaphor for what you should hope for with your career choices – that is to collect high-quality, accurate information regarding your options, to self-reflect, and to discuss the issues with people you trust and respect. At the end of the process, you will hopefully have a substantial majority for one choice. That for me would be the best outcome you could hope for when making a career choice.

There is another side to this metaphorical coin. Consider Brexit – the quality of information shared with the UK electorate was of questionable quality and clarity. In some cases, the information was alleged to be factually incorrect. Voters therefore went to the polls with much higher degrees of uncertainty and a narrow, unconvincing majority voted in favour of Brexit. It has taken Britain several years to make any type of progress on the back of the referendum result and all the while, a vast cloud of doubt looms over the outcome itself. This is a good metaphor, in my view, for a poor career choice – poor or incorrect information, lack of clarity on the options available, and a very uncertain choice.

Given the importance of our career in terms of our overall happiness, fulfilment and success, there is only one approach to take. Take the right one. Given the importance that we’ve discussed our career has in terms of our happiness, fulfilment and success – there is only one approach to take of these two shared in the Referendum Effect. Take the right one.
John Slattery ACA is Founder of Inspo.