I went to the Identity Project at the Wellcome Collection recently, which featured Francis Galton, Charles Darwin’s cousin, who founded the first genetics laboratory. Galton was famous for inventing the fingerprint, but his research papers also included the gloriously titled Arithmetic by smell, 3 Generations of lunatic cats and Cutting a cake on scientific principles.
Bloom sees a lot of people who wonder which career would be best for them. Many expect one of those online career tests that ‘match’ them to their perfect career.
But in my experience, people feel more like Galton. They are complex and multi-faceted. They can’t fit into a box and often feel like there may be lots of ‘best’ careers. (Mind you, what would I know? The computer told me I should have been a Dental Hygienist).
When someone wants to find their perfect career, very often what they are really asking for is a guarantee of success. So let’s bite the bullet here:
There is no ‘perfect’ career. Even generic advice like ‘do what you love’ is not right for everyone. The things we value in life often conflict – for example career success often conflicts with family life. So careers will always involve some risk, some compromise.
The alternative approach
Given this, why on earth would anyone see a career psychologist? Quite simply, because you still have a choice to make.
So if you don’t make a conscious choice, you’ll make an unconscious one. Unless we prioritise the things that really matter, the things that don’t matter tend to take priority.
We tell our clients we can help ‘de-risk’ their career choice, but we cannot make it perfect. The best we can do is clarify and prioritise what they actually want from life. We do this by focusing objectively on someone’s strengths, skills, personality, interests and values and by helping people to imagine what it might be like to design a life around these. Doing this, it is possible to create a life that really fits who you are. You may still feel torn between options, but it’s a conscious choice.
The alternative is to drift through your life, anxious about the future, resenting the present.