Finding your perfect career match: head vs. heart

Finding love and finding the right career match involves a remarkably similar process. We’re often torn between two conflicting ideals: to take a risk and hope that it pays off, or stay safe and comfortable but potentially miss out on a better proposal. Should we follow our hearts or our heads when it comes to the big decisions in our lives? It’s a tricky question to answer as we all have our own paths to follow, but what we can discuss are the things that can help our careers and methods that could provide a helping hand.  


The head


Your head is where objective thinking takes place. The head can also become a headquarters for fear and scrutiny, often disguised as ‘rational thinking.’ It’s where we develop our pros and cons and reasons why something isn’t quite right for us. Here are four negative thoughts that can hinder a job search:

  • We tend to over-estimate the probability of something going wrong when we’re nervous
  • We naturally imagine dire and dramatic consequences that are disproportionate
  • We don’t give ourselves enough credit over our abilities to handle stressful and potentially negative consequences of risk
  • We make excuses for why we should stick to the status quo, and quickly adopt an ‘it’s not that bad’ attitude. 

If you want to base your decisions around an objective process, here are few steps that you can follow:

  • Write a definitive list of what you would like to achieve in your career and rank these from most to least important
  • Determine all the career options available: stay in your current role, move elsewhere, work part-time, look for apprenticeships and internships to learn a new skill, work freelance, or go back to full-time education
  • Rank how each option on how likely it will fulfil your career goals, and perhaps more importantly, which options will make you happy
  • Tally up your results to reveal the best course of action for you
  • Take notice of any thoughts that come into your mind at this point, because it’s very hard to be truly objective when we’re emotionally invested in a brand, project or industry. If your gut rejects your result, remove that option then redo the process until you’re satisfied.


The heart


Most people will tell you that it’s healthy to take a risk once in a while. ‘Take a leap of faith’, ‘Follow your intuition’, ‘Don’t follow the status quo’; there are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t underestimate our inner strengths, but it is easier said than done. Humans are naturally wired to be risk averse, so we often resort to making decisions with our heads and push gut intuitions to the back of the queue. Many of us put up our own restrictive barriers when we’re presented with a more challenging job prospect. Reasons for this, according to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, include:

  • Giving up at the first hurdle because our experience does not meet the required qualifications
  • A lack of confidence towards our abilities
  • Adhering to guidelines set out by an employer on who should apply.

Following our gut instincts can be difficult, but the benefits of risk-taking are rooted in solid, scientific reason. The knowledge we cram into our brains, most of which is pushed out by other bits of information as time goes on is called explicit memory. What we learn through little to no effort - the memories or information we can conjure up effortlessly - is called implicit or unconscious memory. These latter memories act as indicators for where our true passions lie, what drives us, and how we should spend our time. So, if you’re struggling at work, it may be because you’re just not that interested.


The truth is…

In business, you’ll need to make decisions that require a considered approach, using both your head and your heart. Whether these decisions are conscious or subconscious, understanding where your passions lie is the first step toward career success and longevity. Other key lessons for keeping a clear vision of what you really want include:

  • If finding your career match means taking yourself out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to be different
  • Remembering to listen to others. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from family and friends
  • …but don’t let the judgements and opinions of others cloud your vision of what your perfect career looks like
  • Learn the value of constructive feedback to develop yourself as a candidate and employee.

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