Why We Choose the Wrong Career

By Anthony A. Spadafore

Got a vague sense that you’re in the wrong career? The reasons behind why we choose the wrong career are just beginning to be understood. Studies show that the majority of professionals worldwide are not engaged, largely due to making quick and dirty career choices, but were they “choices” to begin with? Not really.

The short video excerpt is from an @Google Presents talk by Daniel Kahneman, author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” He discusses the brain’s decision making systems and explains why our gut “intuitions” are often wrong. Although our impressions about suitable careers feel right to us, should we trust them? I regularly work with young professionals who sense that they fell into the wrong career, but they don’t know why or how to pinpoint the underlying reasons why things aren’t panning out.

How did you go about choosing your career direction? The following quote is an example of the most frequent answer given by mid-career professionals, many with advanced degrees:

“Sadly, it [my career choice] was by default. Studying law seemed to be a good way to mesh my analytical abilities and my interests. Becoming a lawyer came with some amount of social prestige. I think I too easily succumbed to my self-imposed pressures of being successful and I never really critically analyzed which careers I would thrive in. Now I’m a lawyer. Yet, ever since law school, I haven’t felt like myself. Most days, I find my work monotonous and uninteresting, and sometimes downright boring. Even the subject matter areas that I thought I’d be interested in have failed to command my attention like I thought they would. I feel like a poser, someone pretending to be a lawyer.”

In hindsight, many professionals say their career choice “seemed like a good idea at the time.” They remember being confident and feeling good about their choice. However, their story of the future turned out to be nothing like they imagined it would be. When they finally arrived in the daily blow by blow of their career, reality hit like a brick. Many smart people are investing over $100K and a decade of time and effort into launching a career they thought they wanted, and getting it wrong.

Why do we choose the wrong career without realizing it, often with a high level of confidence that we’re getting it right?

Continued in part 2 . . .



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