How to be an Intelligent Consumer when Shopping for a Career or Employer

If you don’t have time for the small things, you won’t have time for the big things.

                                                                                    ~Richard Branson

Whether we are buying a new telephone, a car, or a house, we do our homework. We triangulate decision-making between what we want, what we can afford, and what is available. More specifically, we often undertake this process by creating lists of wants, needs, and priorities; by exploring our resourcing and financing options; and by scoping out the marketplace to find out what is to be had and how closely it matches our unique requirements. This is an intelligent customer at work, gauging the value of what is to be had, and making an informed decision.

And yet, we almost never take this approach when it comes to making career decisions even though they are probably the most life-defining decision we will ever make. Instead, when asked, most people describe their career direction as something they fell into based on guidance from parents, the preferences of peers, schooling accessibility, or the prevailing job growth trend. In other words, the decision is often made by happenstance and in a relatively uninformed state. No wonder that 60-70% of people find themselves in poor-fit careers with stress, depression, and burn-out as reward for their efforts.

Why does this problem persist? Three reasons come to mind: The first points to underfunded and overworked school guidance functions that are rarely equipped to provide high quality career assessment and development planning. This leaves students with relatively little life experience and even less knowledge of the world-of-work making life defining decisions in a near vacuum. The second relates to the impact of unbalanced power dynamics in the ‘job’ market that leads individuals to feel they must sell themselves to organizations, rather than buy career and personal development paths that will shape their lives for years, even decades. The third speaks to a false economy on the part of individuals who are willing to incur significant debt for education, and the likelihood of long-term struggle, to avoid incurring the cost of high quality career assessment and planning that would help them find a career path that will bring both satisfaction and success.

Employers are embracing high quality predictive behavioural analytics to increase their success rate at hiring talent with the performance and productivity characteristics they require. It is high time that individuals became equally invested in ensuring their own career satisfaction and success by discovering:

  • where their natural talents can take them,

  • what job demands and working conditions are most conducive to their high performance,

  • what lifestyle priorities and vocational incentives are most important to long term happiness,

  • what they must avoid, to minimize the risk of work-related stress, depression and burn-out

When we move from school to the workplace, we shift from the system working for us, to us working for the system. Making choices that are based on sound understanding of self, what is possible, and what is available, is the hallmark of an intelligent career consumer.