Jobs and the Future of Work

Too many people are asking themselves the wrong question about their career

An IT engineer, who does not want to be identified, poses against a window after having an interview with Reuters in Tokyo, Japan, December 7, 2016. Picture taken on December 7, 2016.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

We should begin to think about how swapping careers will affect our future plans. Image: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Shana Lebowitz
Strategy Reporter, Business Insider
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Future of Work

When you're stuck in a less-than-fulfilling job, everyone else's work can start to look more appealing than yours. So it can be tempting to grab the first opportunity that comes your way — because your new boss is nice, the hours are less grueling, or the snacks are plentiful.

And while this isn't necessarily the wrong way to forge a career path — snacks are important! — it can be helpful to take a step back before you sign any employment contracts.

An article in the Harvard Business Review explores the best ways to build a meaningful career, and one of the most interesting points is about thinking long-term. Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at HBR, spoke to former ReWork CEO Nathaniel Koloc, who said, "Career design is different than a job-search strategy."

Instead of asking yourself, "What job do I want?" Koloc said you should be asking yourself, "What life to do I want?" As in: Where do I want to be five, 10, or 20 years down the line? Any decisions you make about your immediate future should reflect those longer-term career goals.

Koloc's insights recall advice from Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, the Stanford professors who wrote the 2016 book "Designing Your Life."

Burnett and Evans recommend running "life design interviews" before making any substantial career changes: You ask someone who's achieved what you hope to eventually achieve to tell you their story. Not only do you find out how they got there, but you also find out what their day-to-day is like.

That way, you can make an informed decision about whether you want to pursue the same path.

That said, you don't want to meticulously plot out every detail of the next four decades of your life. Research suggests people are pretty bad at anticipating how much they'll change in the future, so you'll probably have to rewrite much of your plan.

For that reason, Jenny Blake, a career coach and the author of the 2016 book "Pivot," recommends having a one-year vision as opposed to a five-year plan.

It might seem hard to reconcile Blake's advice with Koloc's. But the point here isn't how many years in advance to plan; it's to approach every career decision with some degree of intentionality.

To be sure, sometimes we have to take a job for the money and not much else. That's life. But when you're in a more flexible position, try to think about your next job as a single piece in a bigger picture of the life you hope to live.

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Jobs and the Future of WorkFinancial and Monetary Systems
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