3 tips for making smarter career choices


Did you know that there are three main reasons of stress:

  • Lack of autonomy
  • Lack of choice
  • Way too much choice


Talking about the last one…


It is true that in our modern society, where we have so many things available to us, too much choice can be as stressful and frustrating as having no choice at all.


I’m sure you have sometimes found yourself in a situation when you are sitting in a restaurant and looking at the menu, size of which would be more appropriate for Yellow Pages.


So you get stuck for half an hour as you are unsure which dish to choose. In the end you just say “Oh, whatever” and make a random choice.


Or when you are getting dressed for work in front of the closet exploding with clothes. And spend ages choosing your outfit, feeling extremely annoyed that you have nothing to wear.


My dad used to say:


If you had only one dress, you wouldn’t be having this problem right now”.


Same thing happens when you are choosing a new career or want to change career and need to decide on direction.


In this day and age, as you can make money with anything and anywhere in the world, you suddenly might find yourself thinking “I don’t really know what is it that I want, because there are so many things I like and can do


I remember myself when I had already decided that I don’t want to continue my corporate career in sales, but could not really quit, simply because I could not choose what to do next.


I was into coaching and psychology a lot, but at the same time I was looking at other people around, who were making a living doing photography or reviewing restaurants and I was thinking to myself:


Well, I kind a love photography as well, maybe I should try it too. Restaurant reviewer? Hell yes! I’m quite a foodie and like to write, so I could do that as well”.


These and other choices have been spinning in my head driving me absolutely nuts.


I finally managed to stop this carousel, made a decision and became a life and career coach.


Here are 3 things that really helped to stop the mental chatter about which career path to choose, which can help you too…


  1. Meditation


Whaaat??? Yes you got it right. Meditation.


If when you hear “meditation” you imagine somebody dressed like a hippy in a lotus pose chanting “Ommmm” , let me explain that I mean something else.


What I talk about is a simple mindfulness meditation. You do it by sitting in a comfortable position (laying and standing can be an option as well), concentrating and paying attention on your breath and trying to let go any thoughts coming at you at this moment.


At first it will be a bit difficult to get rid of the mental chatter in your head for 20 min.


But if you start with couple minutes a day, gradually increasing by 1 minute and do it at least once everyday, I assure you that in 2-3 weeks you will be able to mediate at least 10 -15 min without a problem.


So how in the world meditation can help you to make a career choice?


Multiple scientific studies using brain imaging proved that meditation helps to improve productivity and memory, boost problem-solving skills and creativity.


Regular meditation practice reduces constant mental chatter and significantly decreases your stress and anxiety levels.


It allows you to concentrate on the present rather that on the past and future, and helps you to better analyse what’s really important for you, letting go the unnecessary bias.


Obviously meditation is good not just for deciding which career to choose, it helps you in general make better and smarter decisions in business and in life.


Taking into account such significant benefits, it is not surprising that some of the biggest companies, such as Google, Apple, McKinsey, Deutsche Bank and others now provide meditation training and facilities for their employees.


According to my own experience, after about 3 weeks of regular meditation, my stress about making a future career choice disappeared. I suddenly had this clarity in my mind and a great feeling of doing “the right thing”.


  1. Become a creator


A lot of my clients, when they have to make a career choice from several available options, desperately tell me “If only I knew what I want, but I don’t”.


And sometimes it literally takes one question for them to answer in order to figure it out.


I ask them not what they want, but what they would like to create.


This perspective directly changes their thinking from acquisition to creation.


You see, acquisition based thinking puts the power in the outside world. So if we want something, we need to go and find this externally.


Sometimes you don’t understand what you want, because the potential desirable object is already taken, not visible to you or lost in the crowd of other objects, so it becomes very difficult to define and find it.


Creation base thinking gives power back to a person, it grants us a choice to create what to be and what to do without looking for available options in the outside world.


One of my clients when asked this question, told me –but I’m not creative, I can’t draw, sing, write fiction like some of my friends with creative jobs and hobbies, I’m an environmental researcher.


After a short discussion I made her realise that she is able to create better ecology for future generations, which could be considered a much more useful achievement, than paintings and novels.


So, ask yourself what it is that you want to create in your career and trust me, then it will be much easier to choose how to achieve that.


  1. Test, test, test


Derek Martin sings “You’ll never feel happy, until you try”. You try both of the above, but still can’t make up your mind and have two, three or four career choices that you are equally attracted to?


The next best thing here is to start testing these options. This will allow you to see if not only like the idea, but daily activities associated with the job too.


If you like photography and consider it as a career, then promise your friends or colleagues to be an official photographer for a family or work event. Do several of those events, take pictures, edit them, publish them and keep it to the promised time schedule.


Dream to be a lawyer? Get a temp job as an assistant in law firm or legal department. While there, make your research, talk to people about their responsibilities and lifestyle and check if this really is what you want to be doing.


Can’t quit your current work yet? Find a temporary project within another department or unit to test the responsibilities of the position in a different field.


Plan the first project, give yourself a deadline of maximum 6 months with several milestones, see if you don’t just like the idea of it, but all the responsibilities, daily challenges and problems too.


It will help you to understand if you will be likely to enjoy that particular career long term.


If you figured out that it’s not quite what you wanted, then just pass to another project on your list and repeat the process.


Image is a courtesy of Lauren Macdonald