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Career Choices - How Do You Decide? The 5 Minute Career Coach October 2010 Update
October 15, 2010

Helping Career Changers Around The World

October 2010 Update


Career Choices – How Do You Decide?

I have been following a really interesting discussion on LinkedIn recently, started by Career Coach John Lees (How To Get A Job You’ll Love) about how we make our career choices.

Did you choose or someone else?
It is interesting to see how much we allow external influences to push us into early career choices which will shape the rest of our lives. Parents and relatives, peer pressure, teachers' opinions, media messages etc.

Perhaps these external influences are not so surprising when we are younger, but it is amazing how often something almost coincidental lies behind our early career decisions – a relative said they could get you a job somewhere, your best friend said he was going to pursue a particular career and you thought it sounded cool at the time, there was a great hospital series on TV so you became a nurse or doctor.

But the influence of significant people extends beyond the career areas they might have suggested. Your overall expectations of your working life were shaped by them – from aspiring to a senior professional role on the one hand to not exceeding your station in life on the other.

And of course, the extent to which you were encouraged to think for yourself, to make your own mind up and have your own opinions will have been another crucial factor in your upbringing.

The influence of personality
I consider that underlying personality traits are really important here too. If you have done the personality quiz on my website you will have identified whether you prefer 'Thinking' or 'Feeling' as a way of making decisions. If you prefer Thinking, you will generally approach choices logically, weighing up pros and cons analytically. If you prefer Feeling, you are more likely to make your final decision based on what just feels right, what connects with your own deeply held values.

So what about your next career choice?
Where does all this leave you with your current career change plans? I think the most important thing is that you become aware of the influences that have shaped – and probably still shape - your decisions. There are three key areas to reflect on:

Who were your early influences?
Think about the significant figures who shaped your early choices in education and work. Who were they and what part did they play?

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Then look at your circumstances – the social and cultural setting you were born into, the impact of where you were born and brought up – what did you see and hear around you that shaped your thinking? And what media messages played a part and how?

Who are you?
And finally take a look at yourself, what part have you played in your career path? How have your underlying attitudes shaped the decisions you have made? How far have you seen your career as something you are in charge of or as something that has just sort of happened? Take a look at your attitude to career change now.

Once you bring all these influences to light, you are then in a position to choose whether you will let them continue to shape your decisions.

Will your next career truly be your own choice, one that builds on who you really are or will you continue to be at the mercy of what has gone before?

With best wishes

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