Career Paralysis - Five Reasons Why Our Brains Get Stuck Making Career Decisions
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Career Paralysis - Five Reasons Why Our Brains Get Stuck Making Career Decisions

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Written by Occupational Psychologist Rob Archer, this presentation is for people who feel stuck in their careers - something I call 'career paralysis'. ...

Written by Occupational Psychologist Rob Archer, this presentation is for people who feel stuck in their careers - something I call 'career paralysis'.

The presentation looks at the 5 cognitive biases that lead to career paralysis - and then examines what we can do about it.

It is designed to be downloaded and viewed in 'slide show' mode, as it's animated.

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  • A great presentation that will clearly get people thinking differently about their worklife. Clearly too much choice is an issue, however it is also a new era where people need to actively manage and invest in their careers. Not everyone is ready or willing to do this. Hence that 2/3 of people are not satisfied in their careers. When you have choices you have options, which is the lovely thing many of us in the western world are fortunate to have.
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  • Love this overview. I see you've updated for 2014 and I'm assuming new research. Thank you for sharing.
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  • thank you so much for posting this.
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  • But too fast for me to read!
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  • Best viewed by downloading and then watching in slide show mode - it's animated.
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  • We aren’t rational decision makers. <br />
  • Duncker (1945) <br />

Career Paralysis - Five Reasons Why Our Brains Get Stuck Making Career Decisions Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Career Paralysis: The Five Reasons Why Our Brains Get ‘Headstuck’ When Making Career Decisions Ne wa imp nd rov mar ed g for inally 201 4!
  • 2. Is this you?
  • 3. Got a busy job... a ‘good’ job.
  • 4. Which you really should be grateful for...
  • 5. But which you hate.
  • 6. So you’re looking for a new job!
  • 7. But not just any job!
  • 8. You want a job that actually You want fulfils you. meaning .
  • 9. Something you can look back on with pride.
  • 10. BUT (Big but)
  • 11. e jobs Th spire on’t in ads d
  • 12. You don’t want to lose your lifestyle
  • 13. And you’re worried about stepping into the unknown.
  • 14. You think to yourself... Should you be taking more of a risk?
  • 15. If so, how big a risk?
  • 16. Isn’t it already too late?
  • 17. Some days you wonder where on earth your life is heading.
  • 18. You feel like you’re losing touch with who you really are...
  • 19. ...and even the simplest decisions are starting to seem difficult.
  • 20. If so, you are not alone...
  • 21. Nearly 70% of us do not feel engaged at work. Over half of us would start over if we felt we could.
  • 22. But it’s not our fault... ...it’s our brains that are to blame. (They can’t cope).
  • 23. Let me explain... I’m Rob. I’m a Chartered Psychologist specialising in helping people get out of career paralysis. This is me. I work with people who feel like this at work.
  • 24. Let me explain... I’m Rob. I’m a Chartered Psychologist specialising in helping people get out of career paralysis. Sorry - this is me. This presentation explains why ‘career paralysis’ happens, and what you can do about it. So, where do we start?
  • 25. Professor Dan Gilbert, TED Conference, December 2008 “Our brains evolved for a very different “Our brains evolved for a very different world from today. A world in which world from today. A world in which people lived in very small groups, rarely people lived in very small groups, rarely met anybody different from themselves, met anybody different from themselves, had short lives with few choices and had short lives with few choices and where the highest priority was to eat and where the highest priority was to eat and mate today.” mate today.”
  • 26. The point is, the kind of problems our brains evolved to solve
  • 27. The point is, the kind of problems our brains evolved to solve are very different to the kind of problems we face today.
  • 28. Career choice is a good example: Agricultural Age In the you did whatever your parents did. Baker, Taylor, Butcher, Smith. There was no such thing as ‘career choice.’
  • 29. Top hole! In the Industrial Age social mobility increased. But social mobility still depended on social class and education. So ‘career choice’ was only an issue for nice chaps like William and Rupert here.
  • 30. In the Information Age our choices suddenly expanded.
  • 31. And computers came along to help! We could now be scientifically ‘matched’ by computer to....... our ideal career!
  • 32. #Relief! #Result!
  • 33. #Relief! #Result! #MajorLOLz!
  • 34. But this approach had two assumptions: a static work environment and a static self.
  • 35. But nothing is static any more. 1. The job market is volatile... 2. the job for life almost dead... 3. and the portfolio career on the rise. 4. People want meaning at work, not living for the weekend. 5. Jobs are being created in areas not even heard of 2 years ago. 6. More people than ever are starting their own business 7. ...and both technology and the financial crisis have accentuated these trends.
  • 36. deal Your I is: r caree l Denta t gienis Hy ! Mind, you, what would I know? The computer told me I should have been a dental hygienist.
  • 37. So the good news is… historically speaking, career opportunities have never been greater. Most of us could be whatever we want to be.
  • 38. But the bad news is... Our brains are not set up to deal with this new type of career decision.
  • 39. We’re good at survival thinking
  • 40. But less good when we need to choose between lots of options...
  • 41. ...or think anew about our lives.
  • 42. What I’ve learned over the last 10 years: Understanding how our minds work is the most important factor in making better career decisions.
  • 43. The Five Reasons Why Our Brains Get ‘Headstuck’ When Making Career Decisions
  • 44. 1 Too much choice overwhelms us
  • 45. We usually think of choice as a good thing. But Barry Schwartz showed that too much choice actually stresses us out. 1
  • 46. 1 It’s the ‘Paradox of Choice’.
  • 47. 1 The paradox of choice means decision making is more difficult. And when we do make decisions, we’re less happy with them.
  • 48. Result: we feel overwhelmed by the options open to us and scared of the loss that comes with choice. ... And we always wonder what might have been... 1
  • 49. 2 We’re negatively biased
  • 50. We evolved to think negatively. Imagine one of your ancient ancestors sees a dark blob out in the distance... Is it a bear or a blueberry bush? 2
  • 51. We evolved to think negatively. Is it a bear or a blueberry bush? An optimist might have seen a blueberry bush. If she was right she’d eat more of her 5-a-day for lunch than her pessimist friend. But if she was wrong...she’d be lunch! Our minds evolved with one priority: ‘safety 2 first’.
  • 52. Evidence: We hate losing twice as much as we love winning (Kahneman & Tversky 1990). Negative thoughts are 3 to 4 times ‘stickier’ than positive (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). We need 5 positive comments to every negative for a happy marriage (Gottman, 2008). We are psychologically inflexible. If we try not to think about something unpleasant – we think about it even 2 more. (Hayes, 1990).
  • 53. Result: We’re far more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths. 2 So ca u tio nc re e ps in
  • 54. 3 We prioritise short term ease over long term values.
  • 55. We think we make decisions reflecting our long term values…But we are wrong. For example, a massive 90% of people support organ donation, but some countries have far higher organ donation rates than others. Why?
  • 56. We think we make decisions reflecting our long term values…But we are wrong. For example, a massive 90% of people support organ donation, but some countries have far higher organ donation rates than others. Why? It’s because the countries on the right have on ‘opt out’ donation policy, whereas in countries on the left you have to ‘opt in’. So we favour the short term, and do what’s easiest.
  • 57. Here’s another example: was offering 3 types of subscription: Which would you choose? 3
  • 58. Most people went for the print AND online subscription. 16% 0% 84% 3 And not surprisingly, no Economist reader chose the middle option.
  • 59. So what did these rational people do when this option was removed? 3
  • 60. So what did these rational people do when this option was removed? 3
  • 61. Most changed their minds! 68% 32% 3 Conclusion: we tend to make decisions based on short term comparisons, not on what we actually value.
  • 62. So how does this relate to career decision making? For a start, short terms comparisons mean we are highly influenced by what others do and say. But our short term bias also leads us into a trap...(take a deep breath). 3
  • 63. Human motivation works in two directions: 1. Move away from things that cause us discomfort Eek! Move away from: •Anxiety •Doubt •Insecurity 3
  • 64. Human motivation works in two directions: 2. Move towards things we value Woohoo! Move towards: •Meaning •Freedom •Creativity 3
  • 65. Away from discomfort 3 Most people say they want to move this way in their career Towards values
  • 66. Away from discomfort Eeek! Towards values Yet when they do what usually shows up first is... discomfort! 3
  • 67. That’s right..! The short term result of moving towards our values is usually negative thoughts and uncomfortable emotions... Oh, the humanity! Eeek! So guess what most of us do next? 3
  • 68. We Run Away. Away from discomfort 3 Towards values
  • 69. Away from discomfort Towards values Phew! We are motivated to move away from discomfort and when we do this brings us relief. 3
  • 70. But here it gets really messy... Away from discomfort If we make it a priority to avoid difficult emotions we avoid the things that make life worthwhile. 3 x Towards values
  • 71. But here it gets really messy... Away from discomfort Towards values ? If we make it a priority to avoid difficult emotions we avoid the things that make life worthwhile. And if we do this consistently we eventually live a life without meaning. 3
  • 72. Result: By prioritising happiness in the short term over things we really value in the long term
  • 73. Result: By prioritising happiness in the short term over things we really value in the long term we lose control over our lives.
  • 74. 4 Our brains think in linear patterns.
  • 75. Minds like making sense of things. They love certainty, stories and linear patterns. For example, here we see a triangle where none exists. Harmless enough? 4
  • 76. Psychologist Karl Duncker gave participants a candle, a box of nails, and several other objects. He asked them to attach the candle to the wall. 4 How would you do it?
  • 77. Duncker found that participants tried to nail the candle directly to the wall or glue it to the wall by melting it. Very few of them thought of using the inside of the nail box as a candle-holder and nailing this to the wall. The participants were “fixated” on the box’s normal function of holding nails. 4
  • 78. In decision making, this is called ‘functional fixedness’. So what? Functional fixedness has since been shown to apply to our own identities. 4
  • 79. Result: Linear thinking leads to a feeling or belief that we can only do what we’ve always done. 4
  • 80. 5 We trust our minds to fix the problem.
  • 81. Our minds are incredible... That’s why we’ve left other species far behind. But we’ve seen our minds are far from infallible! Bad with choice 5 Negatively biased Short term Functionally fixed Our minds evolved to scan the horizon for threats and anticipate problems. They’re primarily interested in safety – not fulfilment or meaning!
  • 82. Yet we often seem to forget this. Instead, we tend to automatically believe what our minds tell us. 5 “I know what’s best for you!”
  • 83. For example, you come home knackered from work and you think... 5 “I’m too tired to go for a run”
  • 84. Outcome: You don’t go for a run. Even though staying healthy might be a long term value... Even though tiredness does not physically prevent you from going for a run... You tend to believe your thoughts and behave as if they are ‘true’. 5 “I’m too tired to go for a run”
  • 85. This is known as cognitive fusion and it affects all areas of our lives. 5 “I’m too old to change career”
  • 86. This is known as cognitive fusion and it affects all areas of our lives. 5 “There are no jobs anyway”
  • 87. Although this presentation may be light-hearted, there is no doubt the depth of anxiety and confusion caused by career paralysis. I’ve certainly been there and bought the T-shirt.* We trust our minds to fix the problem, but when it doesn’t, we start to look for reasons why. We start to think it’s our fault – there’s something wrong with us! We look for a culprit, and often conclude that we need to try and ‘fix ourselves’ before we do anything else. * Important disclaimer: I didn’t actually buy a T-shirt.
  • 88. I used to tell myself: I can’t change career because first I need to feel more... Secure Certain Assertive Confident Motivated Knowledgeable etc.... 5
  • 89. So I tried to ‘sort my head out’. Think more positively!
  • 90. A lot of people think in this way: “Once I get rid of these nasty thoughts / feelings THEN I can act”.
  • 91. But research has shown that trying to avoid negative thoughts and feelings…
  • 92. …actually increases their intensity
  • 93. and frequency.
  • 94. Result: By waiting for our minds to tell us we’re ‘ready’ to change career we get stuck.
  • 95. The 5 Cognitive Biases That Cause Career Paralysis: 1 Too much choice overwhelms us. 2 We’re negatively biased. 3 We prioritise the short term over the long term. 4 We think we can only do what we’ve always done. 5 We trust our minds to fix the problem.
  • 96. So what now? Please note! You may have to download this presentation and view in ‘slide show’ mode for the links to work. I’m sorry - I don’t make the rules you know. Read Part 2... Career Paralysis: How to Get Unstuck And Find Your Direction It’s full of practical tips, suggestions and free resources to get out of career paralysis.
  • 97. Thanks for reading. The Career Psychologist is a London-based consultancy specialising in helping people who are ‘Headstuck’. We offer coaching, consultancy, training and assessment to help people improve their careers for the better. Next: Go to part 2 of this presentation Get in contact CONNECT on LinkedIn READ our occasionally amusing Headstuck Blog MARVEL at our grown up Website