Month: June 2022

Reasons Why Young People Struggle to Find a Successful Career

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In my work, I encounter many youth struggling to find a successful career direction. In this situation, I am not talking about finding and obtaining the right job. Finding and obtaining the right job involves a successful job search strategy. I am talking about choosing the right job. From my perspective, finding a job and choosing a career are entirely separate aspects. Let me explain.

I remember one very specific call. The client was a younger individual who had just finished completing her teaching qualifications. She recently started a teaching position, providing high school instruction to youth. During the call, she very definitively stated that she hated it. I asked her why and oddly enough, she mentioned that a lot of the kids were “unmotivated”. We spoke for a while longer and discovered that she could not quit the position, due to a large outstanding student debt. She was clearly upset and frustrated with her job but was forced to stay in it. This young person found a job but chose the wrong one. Since then, I have encountered many young people who have taken the wrong programs, have completely switched their majors or struggled to establish a strong and successful start to their career. Needless to say, this is detrimental to their career progress, not to mention very costly.

Generally, many early job seekers and young people fail to consider the many career options that are available to them. Many students identify careers that easily come to mind that they might enjoy and pursue them. However, there is no career development process, strategy or deeper exploration. Without deeper exploration, students can make very erroneous decisions. At the same time, all the many job possibilities can be overwhelming, as there are a seemingly infinite number of career choices. There are many reasons why people struggle to get a strong foothold when beginning their career. These need to be considered, if they are going to get a strong start in their career. If you are a younger person, you need to understand the 4 following major factors that will greatly impact your important career decisions.

Influence and Impact of others

Students are typically surrounded by a network of people who significantly impact and influence their career choices. I have spoken to many young people who have been influenced by those closest around them. These individuals can include parents, family members, teachers, counselors, mentors and friends. In general, most of these people are very supportive in a person’s life. Research supports this. Studies have found that these individuals can positively influence a students’ education and career decision making. An American study discovered that family members were the greatest source and had the highest percentage of influence on a student’s career decision. Teachers were cited as the next group, for influencing a student’s decision. The last source of influence was school counsellors.

Indeed, there are many students that follow their parents’ recommendations, generally finding work in the career fields that their parents wanted for them. For students making a critical career decision, it can be difficult to separate what people in their close network want for them and the career they would like to choose for themselves. This difficulty in separation comes from a process termed internalization. Internalization happens when values, patterns or beliefs within oneself are acquired through learning or socialization, as conscious or subconscious guiding principles. Both children and youth have a strong tendency to internalize career values from others around them, especially their parents. As such, the influence of others can hinder a student’s ability to envision their own distinct career path or independently choose their career direction. As a young person, you will need to take the required time to adequately reflect, meditate and plan your own career choices, separate from those around you.

No Direct “Real-World” Experience

There’s a saying I typically mention to clients that I serve, and it’s, “Passion cannot be discovered through thought.” I will use my own personal experience to explain. When I left high school, I wanted to go into aerospace engineering, as I enjoyed the sciences, especially physics. I imagined myself designing and building really cool jet fighters. I knew very little about the engineering field before I got into my program, and I failed to account for one major factor. Everything in engineering revolved around design, drafting and mathematics. There was a lot of math equations! It was only when I faced the non-stop daily grind of performing seemingly endless chemical, math and physics equations and problems that I thought, “Woah, enough!” In high school, I studied many other subjects, and had not experienced the intensity of mathematics and sciences every day, until I got into my program.

Real passions do not evolve out of thoughts, they are a product of experiences. Most people have tendencies to “think” about their passions, instead of taking direct action and trying something new. We habituate our minds to analyze, rationalize and figure things out. However, this is the main reason why many people buy exercise machines that eventually end up sitting in a corner of their homes. The thought of looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger is exciting and great, until a person has to put in the consistent and hard work to develop a body like Arnold. Finding a successful career is about directly immersing yourself into many experiences, actually trying them. Without tangible and concrete knowledge, you will not know what you are truly passionate about and love.

If you are early in your career, it’s well worth to try as many activities as possible, gaining direct experiences. Participate in volunteer work, additional training, hobbies and leisure activities, along with joining internships and extracurricular activities.

No Priorities; Not Knowing What’s Important.

Ask yourself this question, “Have I identified, planned and taken real action on a really important goal that will move my career in a positive direction, significantly moving it forward within the next year?” Unfortunately, when I ask this question to clients, it’s a very difficult one to answer. Most people have a tendency to choose jobs and centre their career around immediate and personal circumstances and situations. People’s careers can be very reactionary. In the case of younger people, the main reactionary situation in their lives is leaving high school. When school ends, they are forced to make very quick and pressured decisions about what career they want. This time crunch can be very challenging, because how does one choose quickly? It can take time to get to an understanding of what’s going to be important in the next 5, 10 or even 20 years into the future, as priorities constantly evolve. As a young person, it is critical to take the time, energy and effort to define what you want and what you consider a successful career. Create, develop and work on a career vision for yourself. Otherwise, like many people, you could end up stuck in job that you seriously dislike and even hate, while become so immersed, it will be difficult to pivot or change career direction.

Your Own Psychology

Career decision making is one of most important aspects of career development, even perhaps the most critical. Unfortunately, despite people’s best efforts, they make wrong choices. These errors in decision making are less about intelligence and being “smart”, as opposed to knowing how your mind specifically operates and the types of operational processes that are integrated into the decision-making process.  

Heuristics are processes by which humans use mental short cuts to arrive at decisions. They are strategies that are part of the operational processes of the mind, being incorporated when making judgments, evaluating decisions and finding solutions. These processes are used to find answers that are most likely to be correct. However, they are not always right or even the most accurate.

There are many different types of heuristics. However, I will provide an example of one specific type, termed the Representativeness Heuristic. This heuristic was first researched by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the 1970s. Like other types of heuristics, making judgments based on representativeness is intended to operate as a mental shortcut.  However, it can lead to significant errors. In a classic experiment, Tversky and Kahneman gave research participants a description of a person named Tom W. They described him as orderly, detail-oriented, competent, self-centered, with a strong moral sense. Participants were then asked to determine Tom’s college major. The researchers found that the description led them to use the representativeness heuristic, resulting in the belief that Tom was an engineering major. This of course were only the perceived conclusions drawn by the participants, and occurred, despite the fact that there was a relatively small number of engineering students at the school where the study was conducted.

Heuristics can lead many people to false conclusions about certain occupations, influencing critical career decisions. We all have opinions, perspectives and judgements about specific types of jobs. However, your own psychology and thought processes will greatly impact your decisions. These decisions will eventually lead to significant career consequences. An effective educational planning and career development process can help you to make more accurate career judgements and conclusions. It supports by enhancing your awareness when using heuristics, incorporating deeper reflective processes and applying greater logic and rationality. Overall, it will be beneficial for you to gain a deeper understanding of your career decision-making process and own psychology.

Do You Have Both Fulfillment and Career Success?

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If I asked you if you were okay or satisfied with your career, I bet many people would say that they were. However, if I asked if your career was truly “successful”, what would you answer? There are probably hundreds of internet articles on ways to achieve success, either in a job, career or business . However, even though there is plenty of advice and guidance on ways to achieve success, for many people it can remain elusive. Achieving success can be challenging, because it can be complicated. First, there are obstacles preventing a person from reaching goals that he/she would like to achieve. Whether the goal is a certain salary level, promotion, specific job role or particular company, they may be stopped by multiple challenges. However, I think what is more challenging than even getting to an intended goal is whether the person reaching it will see it as a “success”. Sometimes, people create and achieve many goals, but they do not feel as if they are successful or fulfilled. Ultimately, they can be unclear about what success means to them. I believe that this lack of clarity in defining success is one of the biggest career challenges, and yet some people never take a deep dive into exploring and clarifying it.

Some time ago, I became very intrigued with the concept of career success from watching a 48 hours episode. The specific episode was titled “Kiss of Death and the Google Exec”. The episode was about a 51-year-old executive, Forest Hayes. From an outside perspective and by all accounts, Hayes had a very successful life and career. He was hired as a top executive to work at Google X, one of the company’s most technologically innovative and imaginative division. Hayes could be described as “high-powered”, as he had lots of assets that included a $3 million dollar home in California. He had one prized possession a 46-foot-long yacht valued at $200,000 dollars. It had a high-end security system, and even had a captain’s chair estimated to be $8,000 dollars. He also appeared to be happily married for 17 years to his wife and had five children.

I don’t think that anyone would have guessed that he would die alone on his prized possession, the 46-foot-long yacht. Hayes was left dead on his yacht through a fatal injection of heroine, after an encounter with an escort. The entire story is really quite sordid and tragic, and I will not recount the actual details of his passing. You can Google the complete story, if you so choose. The details of his death are not relevant to this discussion. More importantly, the  significant question is, how does someone who seemingly has everything, end up dead under such scandalous and seamy circumstances? From an outside perspective he seemed to have it all. Hayes had a family, money, respected career and many personal assets, and yet he sought out drugs and paid companionship.

I realize that I have used a very extreme example to discuss career success. However, I wanted to really drive home my main point. It is this. There are many people who strive and work hard for the type of success that Hayes had and for many of these people this type of success is very fulfilling, and for others such as Hayes, it is not. A person may have all the external success but still be internally miserable and unsatisfied, even feeling hopeless with their life. There are people who seem to “have it all”, and yet, they may not view themselves as successful, feel happy or be joyous. Sometimes, these people’s stories end in sadness and tragedy. Forest Hayes certainly wasn’t fulfilled, even though he attained a significant level of professional, personal and material success. He still sought after something elusive, in an attempt to reach a greater sense of fulfilment.

The irony is that most of us know that success is highly subjective, being defined uniquely and individually, by each person. True success is defined independently of other people, as only you can define your own success. However, many people still seek the opinions, expectations and perspectives of others around them. To be able to find real and authentic career success you must go through the process of clarifying it, for yourself. I am not saying that if you don’t define success that your life will end in tragic death, as Forest Hayes did. However, if you never define success for yourself you might wind up in a career that is completely unfulfilling, unsatisfying and miserable. I give you four ideas to ponder, when reflecting on your career success:

Clarify Your Definition of Success

Clarity sorts out confusion. If want to head in the right career direction, then you need to have vision. Having no career vision is similar to jumping on a plane for a vacation and not knowing where it is going. Ultimately, you are making no decisions, and you will not know where you are heading. This would seem ridiculous to most people, however, it’s simply astounding how many people do this with their career. They simply apply to whatever job opportunities are available and take the first job that meets their life needs and necessities, instead of planning and mapping out their long-term career focus. No clarity means having no real control over your own career outcomes and future. So, begin to think and reflect on what career success means to you. Start to clarify your own definition of career success.

Ensure Your Definition of Success is Authentic to You

There’s a quote by Harry Truman stating that “If you don’t have your own goals, you’ll be doomed to work toward someone else’s.” Yet, we have tendencies to be guided by those around us. Everyone has recommendations for our career, such as our parents, friends, family, co-workers, bosses, priests, hairdresser, mechanic, plumber and even the news media. It’s easy to rely on the opinions of others when we are unsure of our direction. However, instead of looking externally to others, it’s important to begin an active internal reflection and mediation. As the saying goes, “The heads thinks. The heart knows”. Rely on authentic parts of yourself to help you guide your career decision making and direction

Prioritize Areas of Career Success

Finding career success means determining what is truly important. There are many things in your career that you may want to succeed at. You will have many goals and achievements that you would like to attain and accomplish. However, there is one element that will stop you from reaching all that you would like to achieve: time. Time  

always marches forward, and it will be continuously running out on you. You must pick the most important goals, if you want your career to feel successful, while also leading to greater happiness and fulfilment. You must not waste time on things in your life that don’t matter or contribute to feeling successful. When you waste time on things that are not important then it can lead to major regrets over not achieving the essential goals that you deeply wanted to reach.

Choose What Makes You Come Alive

In a previous blog, I discussed that it’s important to find passionate and interesting career activities, as these are major contributors to a positive life. These activities will support your overall well-being, while helping you to reach your highest potential. Many successful people love the work they do, using intrinsic motivation to overcome big obstacles and reach very challenging career goals. Unfortunately, there are many more people who choose work that is ordinary, mundane and dull. These days of monotony turn into months, which eventually turn into years of boring and never-ending work. It’s difficult if not impossible to feel that your career is a success when you are not engaged and interested in it. However, it’s surprising that people never ever search for passion in their work over their entire lifetime. Will you?