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Career in doubt? When you're really looking for answers, look out for yourself!

Updated on October 19, 2012

Doubt is a weapon which you can use against yourself with ease. When you’re trying to make career decisions, it can be lethal. The other side of this coin, however, is an unexpected benefit- You tend to be a lot more alert.

The doubt issues

Doubt about career paths is perhaps the most logical part of career planning. The trouble is that careers are also moving targets. What is now a great career move may go nowhere in 5 years’ time. A “boom era” job can go flat in a bust. The real danger here is having nowhere else to go, more than not going anywhere. You may find yourself trapped with limited options. That’s the time to start considering some strategic Get Out Of Jail moves to have up your sleeve when you need them.

There are actually two issues involved in a career doubt scenario-

· How to resolve the doubts beyond doubt

· How to ensure you’re making the right moves about improving your career agility

The great temptation here is to make a move simply because it’s a move out of a tight place. At least you can change the scene by making the move. That’s understandable, but you can do better than that quite easily.

Some clarification at this point-

Not all doubts are bad. Some are genuine dislikes of options, others are intuitive distrust of situations. Doubts can be infuriating, but they have one basic feature- They represent things you don’t know and need to know. Remember also that dislike of options is a potential high risk issue- Getting into a career role you don’t like can be a real pothole in the career path. A move which turns out to be a move to nowhere isn’t what you need.

To resolve doubt-

1. Check for definite 100% sure benefits in the move. You’ll feel more confident and at least be able to quantify the plus side.

2. Investigate all the unknowns about the move, preferably getting first hand, reliable information from someone on the scene who knows the story.

3. Check specifically for any definite negatives. These are the ones that can’t be avoided, and they’re the ones that cause career damage.

4. Check where the next move from that position can take you. If the move provides a worthwhile, CV-worthy asset that can provide more lift to your career, it’s worth a look.

Ideally, there should be no negatives at all, and at least a few deliverable positives. Above all there should be no regressive moves, no Brand X career non-credentials and definitely no One Trick Wonder jobs where most of your skills aren’t used and you wind up in a dead end position.

The career agility check

The basics for checking career move values are:

· Do not believe a single word of any job ad description.

· The job ad is supposed to make the job look good.

· For career purposes, you need to see clear career values. Forget anything that doesn’t show these values.

· Do not underestimate new and emerging areas of your career path. These can take you a long way, and fast, but make sure they can deliver.

For example-

If you’re an accountant, you don’t need a “churn” office job which instantly relegates you to also-ran in further career moves. If you’re an engineer, you don’t want an “anyone can do it” role on your CV. These jobs don’t tell anyone you can do higher value work. Worse, the longer you’re in one of these jobs, the more antiquated your CV will start to look relative to your preferred job and career options.

Like all competitive environments, the Golden Rule of careers is very simple-

Don’t lose!

It’s better to fold a poker hand than to play a losing hand. It’s also better to be in a position to win in your career game than to “win” a position that takes you out of the game. It’s a lot better to avoid a move that even makes it impossible for you to get into the game because you can’t make your next moves. Put your doubts to work for you. If you must worry, worry in a way that will help. Find out the facts, find out the risks, and play hardball with your decisions.

Note: The Amazon book is one of mine. I've done a lot of work in the US and Europe, and so many people seem to find themselves at war with their careers it's not funny. The book is about your issues and how you want to approach them, not what some third party thinks or yet another sickly "recipe for success". It's not a "cute" book, but I think it can help.


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Sounds like some great advice. With the economy as it is it is not so easy to be choosy but there are important things that we should consider for sure. Let's just hope things get better and make choices bigger.