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How Mentally Strong People Make Career Decisions

How Mentally Strong People Make Career Decisions

Mentally strong people don’t let others determine their career paths. Instead, they take charge of their own lives and go where there want to go. I was lucky to realize that at the stage where I was making my own career decision, and I want to share my story with you.

I planned to become a medical doctor.

Back when I was in high school and through the first couple of years in college, I had a clear career goal. Why? Looking back at it, my career goal was a result of the encouragement and expectations from my family and friends.

My family emigrated from the Soviet Union when I was 10, and we spent the next few years living in poverty. I remember my parents’ early jobs in America, my dad driving a bread delivery truck and my mom cleaning other people’s houses. We couldn’t afford nice things. I felt so ashamed in front of other kids for not being able to get that latest cool backpack or wear cool clothes – always on the margins, never fitting in. My parents encouraged me to become a medical doctor. They gave up successful professional careers when they moved to the US, and they worked long and hard to regain financial stability. It’s no wonder that they wanted me to have a career that guaranteed a high income, stability, and prestige.

My friends also encouraged me to go into medicine. This was especially so with my best friend in high school, who also wanted to become a medical doctor. He wanted to have a prestigious job and make lots of money, which sounded like a good goal to have and reinforced my parents’ advice. In addition, friendly competition was a big part of what my best friend and I did – whether arguing with each other about life questions or playing poker into the wee hours of the morning. Putting in long hours to ace the biochemistry exam and get a high score on the standardized test to get into medical school was just another way for us to show each other who was top dog. I still remember the thrill of finding out that I got the higher score on the standardized test. I had won!

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As you can see, it was very easy for me to go along with what my friends and family encouraged me to do.

I was in my last year of college, working through the complicated and expensive process of applying to medical schools, when I came across an essay question that stopped in me in my tracks:

“Why do you want to be a medical doctor?”

The question stopped me in my tracks. Why did I want to be a medical doctor? Well, it’s what everyone around me wanted me to do. It was what my family wanted me to do. It was what my friends encouraged me to do. It would mean getting a lot of money. It would be a very safe career. It would be prestigious. So it was the right thing for me to do. Wasn’t it?

Well, maybe it wasn’t.

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I realized that I never really stopped and thought about what I wanted to do with my life. My career is how I would spend much of my time every week for many, many years, but I never considered what kind of work I would actually want to do, not to mention whether I would want to do the work that’s involved in being a medical doctor. As a medical doctor, I would work long and sleepless hours, spend my time around the sick and dying, and hold people’s lives in my hands. Is that what I wanted to do?

There I was, sitting at the keyboard, staring at the blank Word document with that essay question at the top. Why did I want to be a medical doctor? I didn’t have a good answer to that question.

My mind was racing, my thoughts were jumbled. What should I do? I decided to talk to someone I could trust, so I called my girlfriend to help me deal with my mini-life crisis. She was very supportive, as I thought she would be. She told me I shouldn’t do what others thought I should do, but think about what would make me happy. More important than making money, she said, is having a lifestyle you enjoy, and that lifestyle can be had for much less than I might think.

Her words provided a valuable outside perspective for me. By the end of our conversation, I realized that I had no interest in doing the job of a medical doctor. And that if I continued down the path I was on, I would be miserable in my career, doing it just for the money and prestige. I realized that I was on the medical school track because others I trusted – my parents and my friends – told me it was a good idea so many times that I believed it was true, regardless of whether it was actually a good thing for me to do.

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Why did this happen?

I later learned that I found myself in this situation in part because of a common thinking error which scientists call the mere-exposure effect. This term refer to our brain’s tendency to believe something is true and good just because we are familiar with it, regardless of whether that something is actually true and good.

Since I learned about the mere-exposure effect, I am much more suspicious of any beliefs I have that are frequently repeated by others around me, and go the extra mile to evaluate whether they are true and good for me. This means I can gain agency and intentionally take actions that help me toward my long-term goals.

So what happened next?

After my big realization about medical school and the conversation with my girlfriend, I took some time to think about my actual long-term goals. What did I – not someone else – want to do with my life? What kind of a career did I want to have? Where did I want to go?

I was always passionate about history. In grade school I got in trouble for reading history books under my desk when the teacher talked about math. As a teenager, I stayed up until 3am reading books about World War II. Even when I was on the medical school track in college I double-majored in history and biology, with history my love and joy. However, I never seriously considered going into history professionally. It’s not a field where one can make much money or have great job security.

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After considering my options and preferences, I decided that money and security mattered less than a profession that would be genuinely satisfying and meaningful. What’s the point of making a million bucks if I’m miserable doing it, I thought to myself. I chose a long-term goal that I thought would make me happy, as opposed to simply being in line with the expectations of my parents and friends. So I decided to become a history professor.

My decision led to some big challenges with those close to me. My parents were very upset to learn that I no longer wanted to go to medical school. They really tore into me, telling me I would never be well off or have job security. Also, it wasn’t easy to tell my friends that I decided to become a history professor instead of a medical doctor. My best friend even jokingly asked if I was willing to trade grades on the standardized medical school exam, since I wasn’t going to use my score. Not to mention how painful it was to accept that I wasted so much time and effort to prepare for medical school only to realize that it was not the right choice for me. I really I wish this was something I realized earlier, not in my last year of college.

3 steps to prevent this from happening to you:

If you want to avoid finding yourself in a situation like this, here are 3 steps you can take:

  1. Stop and think about your life purpose and your long-term goals. Write these down on a piece of paper.
  2. Now review your thoughts, and see whether you may be excessively influenced by messages you get from your family, friends, or the media. If so, pay special attention and make sure that these goals are also aligned with what you want for yourself. Answer the following question: if you did not have any of those influences, what would you put down for your own life purpose and long-term goals? Recognize that your life is yours, not theirs, and you should live whatever life you choose for yourself. This approach is part of a broader strategy of dealing with common thinking errors by considering alternatives, which research shows is a very effective way for avoiding thinking errors such as the mere-exposure effect.
  3. Review your answers and revise them as needed every 3 months. Avoid being attached to your previous goals. Remember, you change throughout your life, and your goals and preferences change with you. Don’t be afraid to let go of the past, and welcome the current you with arms wide open.

Featured photo credit: Smiling via flickr.com

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Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

President and Co-Founder at Intentional Insights; Disaster Avoidance Consultant

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Last Updated on June 25, 2019

How to Ace an Interview: 10 Tips from a Professional Career Advisor

How to Ace an Interview: 10 Tips from a Professional Career Advisor

Wondering how to ace an interview? In this article, you will learn everything you need to nail your dream job — from resume submission to the end of the interview cycle.

In order to land a job interview, you must start with submitting a great resume. Submitting resumes is generally done by, “apply now”, the way many apply for consideration to a job requisition. Even if not applying the tradition way, let’s say, emailing someone in your network about an opportunity- you will still need a great resume.

So first thing first, work on your resume.

Today in the United States, 98% of organizations use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to extract information from an applicant’s resume to build a digital applicant profile that can be searched, filtered, and/or ranked.[1] So, a resume that is ATS friendly is part one for landing and acing a job interview.

To do this, a resume must have certain formatting and keywords to get the resume through the scan and into the hands of a recruiter. Without a resume that works with and for today’s technology and requirements, an interview can be difficult to land.

Here’s a great DIY Resume Guide (Do it Yourself Resume Guide) to help you craft an ATS and Recruiter friendly resume:[2]

There used to be a time where a job application was enough, today, an ATS friendly resume leads all methods in landing a job interview.

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Now, let’s talk about acing that interview.

A job interview is part 2 of the job application process. An interview is where applicants that have met the minimum requirements are selected to discuss the job opportunity with the employer or hiring manager.

Interviews are generally conducted via telephone, in person, and or applications/technology such as Skype. When the interview is landed, these 10 tips will help you ace the job interview:

1. Going for a Job Opportunity That Speaks to Your Passion

Having a passion for the job/ industry is extremely important. Doing something that aligns with inner passion is important for quality of life.

People that have passion for the job that they are interviewing for generally have better interview experiences. When we talk about what we love, it is seen in our faces, our body language, and heard in our tone. Here’re 10 Reasons Why Following Your Passion Is More Important Than Money.

In short, consideration of talents, discovering the things that make you happy and sad, and what you love losing yourself in.

2. Study the Job Description: Essential Job Functions and Qualification Requirements

Doing this will allow you the opportunity to develop examples of past and present experience that relate to the essential job functions and required qualifications.

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Examples of experience is always a plus for interviewers, painting a full picture goes a long way. Even when not asked for an example, it is always a plus to tie answers to interview questions to examples from your experience.

If there is a portfolio (work samples: images, writing samples, published work, videos, awards, etc.) of work- that’s even better!

3. Research the Company and the Interviewer(s)

Being an employee means entering into a relationship with an employer. In many areas of life, research is done prior to committing; researching a company prior to an interview is no different.

It is important to determine if the company is a good fit and therefore makes it easier to answer “why do you want to work here?” It helps better verbalize how past experience, skills, and values align with the company’s mission, and it shows the interviewer that you are interested in more than just a job.

4. Think Positive and Tap into Confidence

Positivity exudes confidence and both are necessary, so the employers knows that trust can be given.

Thoughts lead to action, therefore, operating from a positive perspective will reveal confidence. The goal of the interview is to land the job offer; employers need to believe that you believe in yourself so that they can believe you. Here are a few tips for positive thinking.

5. Have Copies of the Resume Used to Apply for the Job

It’s always good to be ready for extra interviewers in the room; many interviews today are panel interviews/ multi-person interviews.

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Though a resume was likely submitted with the application, it is always a good idea to come with extra copies in anticipation of the potential need. If there was no resume submission, it is crucial that you provide a copy during the interview; doing this shows the employer preparedness and resolution to challenges.

6. Plan for Behavior Based Interview Questions

Most companies use pre-selected questions, often times having a list of behavior-based questions. Usually these questions start with: “provide an example of”, “tell me about a time when”, and/or “describe a time/situation when”.

Having examples of problems solved and strategies used, initiatives led, contributions to teams and departments, will help ace a job interview. Painting a picture to help employers see skills, qualifications, and experience is extremely important during a job interview.

7. Make a List of Selling Points

It’s important to be proactive about the selling points that you want to make in an interview. This is where a portfolio works great! It is a great idea to make a list of selling points that reaffirms and demonstrates skills, qualifications, and experience.

Consider: awards, programs/ processes launched that led to cost savings and/or profitability, training/education, etc.

8. Showcase a Mixture of Personality and Professionalism

Companies like to make sure that interviewees are a good match for the company culture. Having a good balance of personality and professionalism during a job interview is key.

Personality can be shown when discussing hobbies, community service or extracurricular activities in answers to behavior-based questions, when describing your passion, and when discussing selling points.

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9. Have Your Questions Ready- Interviewing Isn’t One-Sided

Interviews are two-sided, like all relationships (an employee and employer agreement is a type of relationship). Before entering in many relationships, we all have a set of questions that we need answers to, prior to making the decision to commit.

Beyond doing this for self (because asking questions helps reduce doubt and uncertainty), it also shows the employer that there is interest in the company and its future and, shows that you are informed.

Here are a few considerations: “Can you tell me about the team I’ll be working with?”, “Why is this position open?”, and “What qualifications/ skills are important to succeed in this role?” You can also take a look at this guide for more idea: 7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

10. Follow-up with a Thank You Note

Interviewers love gratitude. Sending a “thank you for taking the time to discuss the job opening with me”, is very important to acing an interview.

Interviewers discuss one job opening with many applicants. A thank you note can serve as gratitude and the final chance to showcase selling points. This is also the opportunity to address any concerns that the interviewer may have had in the interview.

Summing It up

Consider a job interview a house. the foundation for acing a job interview is passion. The frame is a resume that lands the interview. The plumbing and electrical are showing up with confidence, providing a list of selling points, having examples of your experience and qualifications, and engaging the interviewer. The roof is showing gratitude with a thank you note.

More Tips About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Nik MacMillan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Jobscan: What is an Applicant Tracking System?
[2] Veronica Castillo: New Job- DIY Resume

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