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Is more career choice a good thing?

SupportDid you know in the pre-industrialised world there were around 30 different jobs to do? You might well have made things such as barrels, worked leather, a potter or looked after horses.  You get the picture, most were pretty straightforward jobs to earn a living.

However today and at the last count, there are approximately 12,000 different jobs, career and occupations (Krznaric 2012). So it’s no wonder people feel confused about how to find a job or career.  A career that is fulfilling that will match our values, talents, identity and passions etc.

Our working life and career paths have taken on greater meaning to us all. Maybe wrapped up in status anxiety (Botton, 2009) and the power we may feel we need in our lives. Moreover the inflated sense of status we associate with certain roles, titles and career choices. Perhaps all this business of careers is just a modern “middle class” neo-liberal conceit? As when the bills and a mortgage need to be paid any job will do right? Tricky sociological & philosophical questions to answer and certainly one I am not willing to explore here.

Paralysis through analysis

Clearly, we have more and more choice in our careers and working lives today. Though the paradox of more choice is that we tend to become more risk-averse and paralysed about making the wrong choice. For me, just choosing biscuits at a supermarket is the ultimate paralysis through analysis. Is it price, chocolate content, brand, dunk-ability and so on and so on. Exhausting just reflecting on that dilemma.

Statistics show we spend 2-3 years in one job before moving on.  Thus putting us in a perpetual career/work transitional phase and having to re-invest ourselves time after time. If this is the case a good career strategy is a must. Younger people tend to expect to move career & jobs on a more regular basis and are generally looking for different things from a job or career. Just check out any of the numerous infographics on what the Millennial group are expecting from a job or career.

So how do you find a job or career that has a good match for where you are in your working life? Perhaps you are starting out and just wanting to get onto the career ladder, or at a stage where you are looking for something more meaningful to do with your time? Do you specialise, generalise or spread your net over a range of roles as a wide achiever?

What to do?

In the meantime here are a few things to think about that may help the focus on finding a job with meaning that will fulfil and sustain you – and I will leave you to decide upon what constitutes meaning, fulfilment and what will sustain you in your work.

  1. If you just need a job plan then implement. Apply your skills, abilities, knowledge & experience etc to fitting an industry, trade or career path and get things moving quickly – the plan and implement model. Get the CV out there, brush up the social media profiles, network and find the people who can connect you to those business looking for new recruits. This method may not help you find the “special” role but it will help you move forward.
  2. Getting into a job will help you know what you like and not like in a job or career. You may find that things don’t necessarily match your career vision, purpose, beliefs, values and passions; but you are getting on with experimenting with work. Trying different jobs and career paths will help build up your flexibility and experiential learning about the workplace. Furthermore where you see your future.
  3. Start some voluntary work (if you can) that fits if not satisfied in your current job or career. It may lead on to different opportunities, helping you know if your passions are a lovely fantasy or a future reality. If the thought of changing career is scary, try this model to start the process of change and becoming less risk-averse.
  4. Spend time in a career or job that you had never previously thought of. As suggested by Roman Krznaric in his 2012 book How to Find Fulfilling Work a “radical sabbatical”
  5. Lastly, and not for the faint hearted – act first and reflect later (Krznaric, 2012). This, however, may be for the more confident amongst us. Going with a career or job that isn’t necessarily planned and thus implemented upon as mentioned before may be a step too far.  Though if there is an opportunity to just “feel the fear and do it anyway“, you may find that this will open your working worldview to career experiments?  Perhaps these are the career opportunities that you had not thought of in your planning phase of career management?


So there we are that’s enough careers and work navel-gazing for the time being. Though these big questions are all being asked by people, employees and progressive organisations in recent years. Progressive organisations are helping employees become more meaning focussed. Allowing them to engage in more diverse projects and outward facing working.

So as Chris Baldry et al in The Meaning of Work in the New Economy, suggest “Nobody wants their job to have no meaning, even if the primary or indeed only meaning is its economic support for home and family”. So it may be time to allow yourself some navel-gazing toward a more progressive approach to your career? Scary I know but you are amongst friends we have all been there. With a little faith, experimentation and a great deal of planning things will happen with just a small step.


Bibliography & References

Botton, A. (2009) “The Pleasures & Sorrows of Work” Penguin Books, London

Krznaric, R. (2012) “How to Find Fulfilling Work” Macmillan

Baldry, C. et al (2007) “The Meaning of Work in the New Economy” Palgrave Macmillan