Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Choosing a Career and Avoiding the Costly Impulse Buy

Just like shopping, many career choice mistakes are made from impulse buys – where you really haven’t crunched the numbers. Instead you react to feel good advertising messages, a desperate job situation, or the seductive admiration of friends and family. For example, think about well-intended but wrong money-saving choices – like the person who skimped on buying fancy soup (a few bucks savings) but bought new dog beds (hundreds spent). I suspect most of us have been guilty of trying to save money but spending more instead. Overbuys at big box stores anyone?

I’m not suggesting your financial situation or family opinions shouldn’t matter – they should. Just include them as part of a well-thought out career decision process. Poor impulses derail good career decisions.

Common poor career choice impulses:
  • you react to what you think people want you to do, but it’s not a career that matches your personality – “I always said I wanted to be a doctor, but I’m really more Social than Investigative…
  • you choose a career you think will pay you a lot of money and bring you prestige, but after factoring in school loans and little work/life balance, you end up in the “hole” – “my investment bank works me like a dog, I have to pay Manhattan rent – and people think Wall Street is evil”
  • you choose something with unrealistic expectations and are badly disappointed and discouraged, leading to lackluster work – “I thought being a park ranger would be perfect, but the pay is lousy and I hate all the government bureaucracy - I'm taking a 2 hour lunch to get away”
  • you act out of desperation due to money concerns, without mapping out a long-term plan to the career you really want – “I’ve been stuck in this customer service job for 5 years and gone nowhere…”
Here are 3 ways to choose a career without detours from costly impulses:

1. Choose your career using a high-quality, science-based decision making process. Get started with your matching careers and research on career options, and then make a good decision using our free website resources. As part of the process, you’ll be asked to include family and friend opinions and your financial situation.

2. View your career as a series of stages. It’s hard in an instant gratification society to be patient. But if you see school and/or a series of introductory jobs as part of a long-term plan to reach a specific goal, instead of just a place to be, the more likely you’ll be successful and to get promoted.

3. If finances are an issue, consider starting your career in a supporting role. The Career Key organizes your matching careers by work groups so it is easy to spot similar and supporting occupations. Support and technician positions in certain careers require less financial and training commitment in the short-term and give you the advantages of:
  • learning more about what it’s like to work in the field,
  • putting you in a position to make a new professional network and develop mentors, and
  • teaching you new job skills that not only may get you into a better school, but give you a leg up in a future job.
When emotions and stress get involved, as they often will in choosing a career, it's easy to act on impulse. But slowing down and putting together a long-term plan will avoid most costly mistakes.

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