Guide Making Wise Career Choices

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In my career-change journey, it took me four and a half years to get out of a career that wasn't right for me. As the coach I worked with at the time said, "Richard, it's like you're standing in a forest and you have a number of tracks in front of you. But you're paralysed because you don't want to make a mistake.

And the challenge is: if you don't take any of the paths, you're never going to get out of the forest.

If you take one of them, it may not be the right track initially, but you can course-correct. I enrolled in a part-time journalism course. I loved it, but it quickly became clear that it wasn't for me as a career. I shadowed my friend who worked in PR for half a day. I did the same with a friend who worked as a Japanese yen bond trader in an investment bank. Both fascinating worlds, but neither appealed.

As Seth Godin talks about, I was stepping into different worlds — sparking ideas and, at the same time, crossing off possibilities, rather than leaving them as open questions in my mind. Finally, thanks to an introduction made by my future sister-in-law, Sarah, I walked into the offices of a social start-up — and I knew in a matter of minutes I'd found something that was totally me.

Had I just seen the organisation's website or a job ad in a newspaper, I might never have discovered the connection I had with them. They're attached to people. If you're looking for an opportunity, you're really looking for a person. But they're not the place to start. I'm an introvert. So, you won't find me exuberantly working a room at a networking event. But I am comfortable meeting people one-on-one, or having phone calls.

It took time. There were many 'dead ends', as I explained above, but ultimately it led me to a role in a field I didn't previously even know existed. More than that, this approach meant I avoided the ruthless filtering that happens with conventional job applications. I wasn't 'qualified' to work in the social start-up I fell in love with.

But what I did have was a ton of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. I didn't get the job there through a formal application. I got it because I built relationships with people in the organisation. I did some pro-bono work, which led to consultancy work, which led to an interview for a full-time job.

Oh, and if you're curious to know, I had the worst interview of my life for that role. I so wanted the job that my brain froze, I stumbled my way through the questions, and I left thinking I'd blown it. Or it might had been, had that been my first interaction with the team. But it wasn't and, because of the strengths of the relationships I'd built, I still got the job.

There are hundreds of stories here in our success stories section and elsewhere that show it is. It's about how you feel every morning; it's about how that rubs off on your health and your relationships; and, ultimately, it's about the impact that you can make on the world through being alive in what you do. What have you learned? What actions are you going to take?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Ready to get unstuck and into action? Click here to find out more. Richard Alderson is the founder of Careershifters.

Disillusioned with corporate life, Richard quit his consulting job in search of something more meaningful. View the discussion thread. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life. Yet, I didn't have a clue what else I could do. Eventually, as you'll read below, I came out the other side.


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But it wasn't an easy journey. These are the lessons I learnt along the way. What you need to know If you're stuck in your career change, there are three main challenges — or paradoxes — that you're going to come up against. It's you that wants to make a change, but it's also you that's your biggest obstacle In the depths of my despair about my job, there were signals from all around me that I wasn't in the right place: I was embarrassed to talk about my work with others at parties; I couldn't imagine doing my boss's job nor the one her boss had ; and I was petrified that I'd reach 60 or 70 and not feel proud of the work I'd done in my life.

Does this also hold true for you? Neither of us came up with answers. But still no clarity.

How To Make Wise Career Decisions

You won't find a job by looking for one When I started to look for something different, recruitment consultants were my natural first port of call. But it all just left me cold. It was more of the same. People tend to want to work for organizations that make them feel good about what they are doing on a daily basis.

Look at the following criteria and decide what it is that you need from the company you work for. These criteria are not just for career options outside your current company. Some internal moves may take you to business units that operate quite differently from the rest of the organization, or produce a different product or service. It's important to understand your criteria in these areas regardless of whether your move is inside or outside the company.

Now, download our free worksheet , and print off a copy of it for each of the options you're evaluating. For each criterion, first decide how important it is to you on a scale of 0 not at all important to 5 very important.

3 Important Steps To Making A Wise Career Choice

Next, evaluate how much of the criterion is on offer within the job, using the same scale. Finally, multiply these values together to give the score for that row of the table. This is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of situations. A full explanation of how to use this technique on a more general basis is detailed in the Mind Tools article found here. This type of analysis is very useful in helping you quickly see how well your career options match the criteria you've identified as necessary for your satisfaction. Once you've worked through the worksheet for each of your options, add up the scores and total them for each worksheet.

How To Make Wise Career Decisions - Ventures Africa

This gives you an initial score for how each job fits your needs, looked at on a rational basis. If some of the scores seem a bit wrong, don't be afraid to revisit them. Spend as much time as you need to make a rational, properly considered decision. This is not necessarily a comprehensive list of factors. If other factors are important to you, build these into your analysis. So far, you've looked at the job's criteria and what you need to be satisfied, in an objective manner.

However, it's also important to consider how your decision feels.

You need to get in touch with your inner self and think about how well the career options fit with your overall sense of self and personal fulfillment. Ask yourself:.


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If something doesn't feel right, then you need to understand why. Are some factors of over-riding importance? Or are other factors important that are not mentioned? Take the time to make sure that you're comfortable with you analysis, and that you're confident that you've made the right decision, both on a rational and emotional level. When you have an option that fits both objectively and subjectively, chances are you've got a winning career move. Making a career move is a very important decision. It requires serious thought and consideration. You can think long and hard and still not come up with a solution unless you have a framework to use to help you make a decision.

Using the three distinct approaches outlined here — job analysis, analysis of satisfaction criteria, and emotional validation — you can be confident in your decision. Analyzing each element in this way forces you to consider the multidimensional criteria that go into determining a great job fit.