School of Life Work Course March 2010

School of Life - Work Course Handout
Why Do We Find Career Decision Making So Difficult?
Career choice is a modern phenomenon. Trouble is...our brains aren’t terribly good at dealing with it, and traditional computer ‘matching’ has shown to be little help! But understanding our natural biases and limitations is a good first step to improved decision making. Five reasons why our brains struggle with career decision making1: 1. We’re don’t like too many options. There’s a paradox of choice.
• Read: The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

2. We are negatively biased – and we learn helplessness.
a. Read: Learned Helplessness by Martin Seligman.

3. We’re predictably irrational decision makers.
a. Read: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

4. We tend to think in patterns and have functional fixedness about our own career prospects.
a. Read: Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein.

5. We seek happiness as a goal (and try to avoid negative emotions).
a. Read: The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.

The 3 Stages of Effective Career Decision Making
Stage 1: Who Are You? In the first stage, set some time aside for objective self reflection. What are your skills, interests, values, strengths and personality preferences? To help, try doing some of the following: • To identify your personality preferences and your strengths, try a psychometric test like the MBTI or NEO‐PI (free version here), or you could take the VIA signature strengths test. • To consider values, access the School of Life Values Exercises here. • Keep a Career and Energy Journal – noting the activities that give or take away your energy. • Get feedback from others. They can offer valuable insights into your strengths and personality which you may have overlooked. E‐mail me for a form to send to your friends and family. • Rebalance your negative bias by thinking about your five greatest achievements. What are they? What did you do specifically? How did you change things? What patterns do you spot? • Try the Work Preference Inventory, which helps clarify what you value in terms of work style. To narrow your choices, identify 20‐30 clear criteria that you know to be true about yourself and what you need from work. For example, if you know you are an extrovert you could note the need to work with others as a criterion, or if you cannot live on less than £60k then get this down too. Stage 2: Where Are You Going? Stage 2 is about generating career options, but we need to get round our own functional fixedness. Our possibilities are usually much greater than we think, but we have to allow our ideas space to breathe and mature. Stage 2 is therefore all about nurturing creativity. Some ideas for action: • Note all of your options ‐ get them down in a long list. Ask others for their views and add them.

To see the full presentation, go to:‐paralysis‐new‐bloom‐presentation.html

School of Life Work Course March 2010

• Try O*net ‐ a comprehensive US site listing information on all occupations to generate ideas. • E‐mail me for some creative exercises which will help generate options. Creativity depends on quantity, not quality, so lay off the analysis for now! Finally, once this stage is done, use the criteria you generated in step 1 to evaluate the options you have generated in step 2. Bloom has free templates to help you do this if you get stuck. Stage 3: How Will You Get There? • Thinking about the results from steps 1 and 2, identify your vision. Imagine in detail how you want your life to look like in, say, 5 years. Draw this on a nice piece of paper if you can, with as much detail as possible. What will you be doing, who else will be there, what will you be wearing, how will you feel? • Next, get to grips with your finances. Write down exactly where you spend your money each month. What’s the minimum you would need to survive if you had to leave your current job and make progress towards your vision? Try to play around with different scenarios. • Working back from your vision, put a 5 year plan in place. Reaching goals is one thing our minds are extraordinarily good at, so try to note down what exactly you’d need to do in your plan. Break your objective into smaller goals, and think about the order you tackle tasks. • Change your relationship with anxiety. Most career coaches tell you how you must ‘beat’ or ‘control’ these fears. This is absolutely wrong. They can’t be beaten. Instead, try practicing willingness with an exercise like the passengers on the bus.

Reading List
There are 1000s of career change books out there, these are a few which Bloom uses and recommends.

How to find the Work You Love – Laurence Boldt
This short, simple book does exactly what it says on the tin. Boldt is not a psychologist, but most of the things he says are empirically sound. Above all, you’re left with the feeling that not only is finding work you love desirable and possible, but it is in fact a necessity.

Predictably Irrational ‐ Dan Ariely
Dan Ariely builds on the work of people like Kahneman and Thaler to bring peoples’ systematically irrational behaviours to life. He argues that these irrationalities should be incorporated into economic and decision making models so that they offer more accurate and wise predictions for the future.

What Color is Your Parachute – Richard Bolles
This is a pretty good book if you want to change your career but don’t know how. Much of the advice is based on your own analysis of yourself so you sometimes feel it may lack objectivity. That said, this book is packed full of information and exercises and would be a pretty good start if you wanted to start your career change today.

The Happiness Trap – Russ Harris
Research suggests that many people get caught in a trap – that the more we strive for happiness, the more it eludes us. Further, the more we try to put on a brave face the more miserable we feel. But there is a way out, and by introducing the cutting edge, empirically‐backed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in such an accessible way, Dr Harris shows how.

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