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Description: Some of the most challenging parts of the tasks involved in career planning involve uncertainties and unknowns. Many of these simply involve things we do noy know yet like which organizations will be hiring, what will they want to know about us and which of our skills and experiences we should highlight in our applications and inquiries. However, some of the uncertainties and unknowns involve possible future outcomes such as will I find a career direction that works for me, will I find a job to get started, and will I succeed or fail at what I try to take on or get into? These sorts of uncertainties are more daunting partly because we (human beings) seem basically inclined to calibrate our fears of failure differently than our hopes for success. Think about what this might mean for how you approach your career planning enterprise for the first time or later on as you plan possible career shifts and changes and then read the article linked below for some suggestions about how to make those processes less daunting and likely more successful and fulfilling.

Source: Don’t Be Afraid of the Unknown, Chris Smith, Inside Higher Education.

Date: October 31, 2022

Image by Reinhardi from Pixabay

Article Link:

The article was originally aimed at doctoral and post-doctoral students but the suggestions it offers are potentially useful to anyone who is looking beyond just trying to find “a job” and is, instead thinking more in terms of getting a career established. Not clearly stated in the article is an important difference between the two types of uncertainties I noted above. If your most deeply felt uncertainties are focused upon possible future outcomes and, in particular, on possible future failures then you will move yourself forward more comfortably and more effectively if you translate those sorts of uncertainties into things you do not know yet. In addition, it will help a lot if you think more in terms of what you can do NOW to expand your knowledge, experience, and awareness of possibilities and how to use those to move yourself forward. Of course failure is a possibility, but if fear of failure stops your search for personal options and possibilities then you have failed before you even got started. Try out some of the investigative tools suggested in the article. I know you will find them useful for career planning and development and, along the way, you will likely find they are also useful tools for other areas of life planning as well. So, step back from fear of failure and shift uncertainties into curiosities and you will find yourself moving forward.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. When you think about your future, what sorts of things are you uncertain about or afraid of?
  2. What is the difference between things you do not know yet and what you do not know about future outcomes (successes and failures)?
  3. Which of the suggestions for career planning mentioned in the article have you already tried and/or which ones are you going to try (and how did or will you apply them)?

References (Read Further):

Van Wart, A., O’brien, T. C., Varvayanis, S., Alder, J., Greenier, J., Layton, R. L., … & Brady, A. E. (2020). Applying experiential learning to career development training for biomedical graduate students and postdocs: Perspectives on program development and design. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 19(3), es7. Link

Dizikes, Peter (2022) The power of weak ties in gaining new employment, MIT News. Link

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (2013). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. In Handbook of the fundamentals of financial decision making: Part I (pp. 99-127). Link

Intersect Jon Simulations (An amazing online planning and development resource) Link

Smith, Chris (2022) Cultivate Serendipity by Getting Involved in 2022, Inside Higher Education Link

I have posted a number of times on the experience of and coping with uncertainty and linked to a number of articles on those topics as well. This link will take you to a search od ‘Uncertainty’ on my Weekly Psychology Updates blog.