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Assessing Options

When you are at a crossroads and have an important career decision to make, it’s important to spend time assessing your options. This blog talks about ways to approach this.

Firstly, we look into planned happenstance and chaos careers theories. Both recommend that you as an individual keep an open mind, as you start to assess your career options. After this, we take a look at learning how it is OK to fail and that you can learn from mistakes. If you can do this, then you can take out the fear of taking on new responsibilities.

Next, we look at how we can take a number of the possible options you’ve explored and can measure these side by side. Finally, we tap into how we can critically assess the options to our best advantage in order to come up with a logical plan. The aim of this plan could be to be ready to make a career changing decision.

Planned happenstance and chaos careers theories

Planned happenstance (Krumboltz and Levin, 2002) recognises that random events play an important part in how an individual’s career path evolves. Who you met along the way can influence your pathway, so you should prepare to take advantage of chance events. By getting out there, the individual can increase the chance of ‘lucky’ events occurring. Key here is keeping an open mind, developing transferable skills and engaging in curious exploration and networking.

Chaos theory (Prior and Bright 2011) draws on the complexity of the world in how it is made up a number of systems or mini-worlds that interact with each other. For example, there’s the inner world, social world, workplace, labour market, global politics etc. It’s similar to planned happenstance, in that it emphasises that the individual should be open to chance events, except that it gives a greater attention to the interconnectedness lying behind complexity. In terms of an individual’s career, although career choices may be the result of responding to chance events, in hindsight there may be themes or patterns

So, what does this tell us? Both theories are less concerned with having individuals make long term plans. They encourages us to be more curious, persistent and to have a positive and growth mindset. Therefore when exploring different career possibilities, it’s best to start off with as open a plan as possible. It’s important to have this in mind when assessing options.

Learning that it is OK to fail

Learning that it is OK to fail is about seeing the bigger picture and how by making mistakes, you actually help to improve your skills. For example, if you take on a job and it doesn’t go as well as planned. It could be a role where your skills aren’t best aligned to what’s needed in the role. It might be frustrating to be in such a role, so you could decide to move on. Does it really matter that much, if you realise this and find something else to replace the role?

Carol Dwek, when talking about having a growth mindset, says that you learn by taking on board criticism, as well as from effort and persistence. Coping strategies are about learning from mistakes, building up emotional intelligence, embracing failure as part of the journey to professional development and self-reflection.

This means that when assessing your options, you should explore different avenues, take your time and have the attitude that what you can learn from your mistakes. Learn what kind of roles give you purpose or not.

An exercise to help with assessing options

You could use the values I’ve prescribed below, or you could complete the values exercise that I offer for free in my resources page and use those along the first column. If you use the ones in the table below, I’ve added a couple of gaps, so you can fill these in, if they are important to you. Also, money has been divided into ‘money now’ and ‘money later’, as some of the options might involve you having to go through a training or apprenticeship process if you are changing careers.

Next, fill in the top row with role types. In the table I’ve added 4, but you can add as many or as few as you like. Once you’ve done this, look at each role type that you are considering and give it a number out of 10 for each of the values.

Values 1st role type 2nd role type 3rd role type 4th role type
Helping people
Job security
Money now
Money later
Controllable Lifestyle

After you have completed this, you can eye-ball the exercise to see if there’s any one role type that comes up as tops. The values have not been weighted in this exercise, so it’s best not to add up the totals, as one value may skew another.

How to critically assess your answer

Do the above exercise. On another day, look at it again.

  • Do you agree with how you have responded to this exercise?
  • Can you think whether you have been positively or negatively influenced by your family or peers?
  • Are there any career myths, or limiting beliefs which you may have, that can hold you back and that need to be reframed?
  • Have you approached this exercise, using your adult self (if you accept Carl Jung’s theory that we can be in a battle between our adult self and our inner child)?
  • Take some time to consider the steps you need to take to get into this role. Can you reflect on, if there’s a great deal of training involved, whether it’s worth the effort?

Write 10 goals for one year hence

Here is another exercise that you can do, after completing the above assessment.

Write some goals whilst imagining yourself in a year’s time. Where would you like to be? Write these goals in the present tense (there’s something about writing them as a present tense statement that will make them seem more achievable). For example: I am earning X amount; I am in a good position for my next job role, having spoken to several people about my desired move; I have free time to do more of my hobby etc.

Keep these somewhere so you can look at them in 12 months. How many have them have come true? Have any changed due to your circumstances? It’s fine for your goals to change, it just shows that the world is complex, just as chaos theory (see my first section) describes it.

I hope this helps with assessing options, you might also like the blog I wrote on career exploration.

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