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The Right Time to Learn How to Make Career Decisions


I don’t want to write about Covid-19, “the future of”, the new normal, etc. The web is flooded by those articles and I’m not sure that it’s a productive conversation.

I do think that this it’s time to embrace a different mindset towards career decisions. The healthy behavior would have been adopting this mindset a while ago, and making sure that college students and early-career professionals understand what it means to manage a career, beyond landing a job once every few years. The current economic turmoil, massive turnover and work from home frenzy is an exceptional opportunity to make up for what we ignored so far.

Let’s start with the basics: we don’t make career decisions only when we change jobs. Volunteering for a business trip to a work conference is a career decision. Bringing in a long-time friend as a client to our firm is a career decision. Deciding whether we accept to lead a new project in the organization where we work is a career decision — and refusing in order to excel at what we are already responsible for, is a career decision as well.

Anything that widens our professional value and that might open or close future career options is a career decision.

From that perspective, the way we behave in the workplace with our colleagues is a career decision. Maybe a “soft” career decision — but a career decision. Those people might become a part of our network, or might despise us forever for our laziness, boldness, or for not being trustworthy.

Investing time at home to learn a new skill that makes us better at work is a career decision. Our professional capacity will grow, we’ll be more valuable to our boss or clients, and more attractive to the job market.

On the other side, “stability” can be detrimental. Carol Dweck already discussed this when she spoke about having a “Growth mindset”. If you think that your current success at work is a signal that you won’t need to invest any more time and effort in learning or adding more tools to your professional skill set — think again.

The question that should guide us is “What will keep me relevant to the job market 10 years from today?”.

The answers are pretty much the same for everyone: [1] if we will still have the tools to deliver successfully, and [2] if our reputation will back our claims on what we are capable of. In most fields, that requires us to keep learning, refining and renewing your expertise, and continuously feed our network. After the current economic depression, the professionals who will find themselves out of the market will be those who don’t have enough skills, versatility and/or network to find a job where they can be valuable and thrive. People with obsolete skills and with a dull reputation.

Career decisions, like in most fields, are a matter of habit. People who care enough about their health, eat healthy most days — they don’t wait for obesity to kick in before they start eating vegetables. The same principle should guide our career decision-making: there’s no need to wait until the day that we get fired abruptly to ask ourselves on a daily basis how our efforts can help us stay fit for the job market.

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