Choosing a Career

One of the more opaque decisions in life is choosing a career following the completion of formal education. Around 1 in 10 individuals are lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do and set about achieving their goals. The rest of us are left to make big decisions based on gut feel and a distinct lack of real information and understanding of how a career matches with our own particular combination of workplace interests, task preferences and default personality traits. These career decisions now occur more frequently that ever before in human history. We are now likely to have around seven distinct careers in a lifetime! So why are we so unsophisticated in the way we make decisions?

Make sure you enjoy what you do

I know it just sounds like common sense but all jobs are made up of tasks that are required to be performed in different amounts. Some jobs require a lot of analysing data, others require most of the time spent selling to clients, some require strong organisational skills. There will be many other tasks involved as well but for the purposes of keeping it simple, if you dislike analysis or selling or being organised then these particular roles are not going to fulfil you on a medium to long term basis. Even more concerning is that Enjoyment Performance Theory states that your dislike of these core tasks will actually cause your performance in the role to drop considerably. The old confucian saying “do what you like and you’ll never work a day in your life” actually has some truth to it. Our data says you are three times more likely to be a high performer in a specific role if you enjoy at least 75% of the main tasks involved.  Harrison Assessments has researched 680 careers, broken them down into their weighted composition of tasks and conducted benchmarking analysis of what interests, task preferences, personality traits and behavioural responses correlate with high performance in each role.

Cognitive Bias and Decision Making

The same cognitive biases that can have such a negative influence of the selection and recruitment of employees, apply when it comes to an individual deciding what career path to pursue. The fact is that our brains are just not very good at understanding what is involved in a job on a day to day basis and statistically applying a model of how likely we are to be successful in that role. We’re just as likely to choose a career based on family pressures, a tv or movie that involved that job or financial remuneration.

Wasted Time and Money

Most career paths require formal qualifications and tertiary education is very expensive in both time and money. To spend tens or hundred of thousands of dollars and years of your life studying for a job you are highly unlikely to enjoy or be successful in is providing your competitors with a massive head start on their journey. We need to be smarter about how we make these decisions.

Discuss your options with a trained professional