Avoid making career decisions for the wrong reasons

Making executive career and professional job decisions comes with varying degrees of contemplation, reward and risk.  But it’s not just the choice that matters, but equally, if not more so, why it was made.  This blog will helps to avoid making career decisions for the wrong reasons.

There are many elements and incentives that sway when weighing up executive jobs and professional career decisions.  A decision to stay or leave a company or role has many moving parts.  Checking in with those reasons are essential.  But they can be uncomfortable and vulnerable.

The right reasons deliver a greater chance for longer term success and personal happiness.  Whereas the wrong reasons, despite a quick dopamine fix will bite hard in backside after the honeymoon period is over.

I constantly hear of people making decisions purely based on more money, regretting the poor culture it bought.  There is a huge difference between being underpaid and not rewarded appropriately vs large dangling dollar carrots.

Likewise many people are trapped in a self-imposed company prison, afraid to move on. And many of course ignore the many interview process red flags.

Justify ~ Rationalise ~ Reassure

But first, it’s worthwhile to observe your inner chatter and outward assertions.   Do you notice yourself trying to justify, reassure and rationalise your decisions and thoughts?

When a choice is a solid one from the right motivators there is a collective sense of harmony and excitement.  Harmony is instinctive and the compulsion to rationalise, justify and reassure is just not there. 

But if there is an inner gnaw (your gut always is wise) the loudness of to justify, rationalise and reassure is pervasive.   Just think of the line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet “The lady doth protest too much, methinks

Warning Bells

After decades in recruitment and career coaching, here are the main 5 warning bells to be mindful of in contemplating career and job decisions.  

Career warning bells

1/  Wrong Motivations

There are many motivators when choosing a new role or career pivot.  Some are pretty seductive and shiny.  They can blindside other realities.

Money, prestige, fame, security, a great agency or organisation to have on the CV are big alluring and illusionary motivators.  And desperation of a job or situation can be deafening and can bite the proverbial hard.

Critical thinking is key to minimise deluded decisions that once the gloss has worn off may put you behind the eight ball.  It’s not the actual individual motivator that matters but the combination with other factors and variables to consider.

We all seek to survive and thrive with the latter crossing over to making a real difference and impact broadly. 

But if the motivators are purely monetary or selfish they may lead to unwise long term decisions and dissatisfaction. 

Special Note – re the ‘dream job’

Often a company or role has burnt a place in our hearts as the ‘dream job’.  And in that place all logic can fly out the window and you become a dangling puppet.   

Motivation to land  what has been a coveted goal for some time blindsides greatly.   Often  the illusion is just that – an illusion!.  So take an even stronger lens of discernment to that organisation and role.  The decisions you make again may feel like a huge dopamine win, but they may end up in a pool of regret.

2/  Sunk Cost Bias Fallacy

The impact of sunk cost bias fallacy is as prevalent as illogical and erroneous. 

Essentially it refers to the hardwired tendency to follow through on activities, a course of action and career where considerable cost (effort, time and money) has already been invested.

We all have fallen into this rabbit hole in some way and for career decisions it begets the question if the current costs outweigh future benefits. And those biases can be applied from family and community expectations to deliver also.

After long and laborious hiring processes the ego to win overrides wise decisions also. Desperation and the desire to conquer often shrouds evidence. Be mindful.

A good definition of Sunk Coast Fallacy from CIG which applies to all sectors and professions:

“ Assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Business, Christopher Olivola cites cognitive dissonance, a phenomena that occurs when we feel remorse after making a decision, as the main reason why we most often fall for the sunk cost fallacy. This cognitive dissonance often leads to defensive behaviour and thoughts in regards to an original decision –– but this emotional reaction could cause you to continue down a path that clearly isn’t working for you. “

3/  Fear (in the interview process)

Fear of rocking the boat and holding self power is  terribly pernicious and common manifesting in a myriad of ways. 

Knowledge is power and without full knowledge of what a role, company, stakeholders/staff is and offers will compromise making wise and full informed job decisions.

Let’s be very clear, hiring and job search is a 2 way street, and more so for senior professionals and executives with decades of experience under their belt. You are not a puppet on a string.

Yet far too executives and professionals, whether at the $100K to $800K+ salary band fall fall into the master -slave hiring ecosystem.

I have seen this play out so many times. Strong leaders with stewardship over hundreds of staff and huge P&:Ls can become acquiescent and meek in the recruitment process. 

Negotiation skills, empowerment and fearlessness are hidden for fear of reprisals and being dumped from the process.

Professional and executive candidates don’t dig enough, ask the critical important questions and challenge.  It is of mutual value for all parties to learn as much as possible about each other. Neither should be meek or a puppet but brave and respectful.

Like an ostrich head in the sand, many choose not to ask the hard questions for fear the answers will nullify their interest. 

This impacts across the range of motivations and the reality of management styles and culture the role pertains to. Hold your nerve.

Special note – re the interview process:

Be on guard when asked to submit detailed deck/s and presentations of your IP, networks and concepts for a companies specific market and issues.

Have strong and clear boundaries. These decks can be used inappropriately and even if you get the job, you may be offered other candidates ideas. Not ethical.

In my opinion these requests which take take considerable time and IP can signal a range of concerns. I recommend you asking for a signed document advising that your IP and ideas will never be implemented unless you are employed. Or hey ask for a consulting fee as hours of preparation and sweat and tears is in fact free consulting if tailored to that organisations ecosystem.

4/  Corporate Stockholm Syndrome

This immobilises people to stay in roles and companies. The term Stockholm Syndrome was coined in 1973 by Swedish psychiatrist and criminologist Nils Bejerot to describe psychological responses to captivity and abuse linked to kidnappings and bank robberies.

In it, positive feelings develop towards captors as coping mechanisms, often along with negative feelings towards police, family and friends who try to assist the sufferers to escape. 

Corporate Stockholm Syndrome (CSS) is when employees identify and remain loyal to employers who mistreat them. Psychology Today has reported a rapidly increasing problem of employees experiencing CSS. 

CSS is displayed by employees being emotionally attached to the employer at the detriment of their own emotional health. Employees will rationalise and justify the poor treatment to themselves and others, often with an overarch of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Confidence is eroded under cultures of hostility, unreasonable demands, overwork, excessive compliance, micromanagement and embedded approval seeking. Promotions are stifled with targets believing problems and abuse will rectify themselves despite evidence to the contrary.

As with any abusive relationship, targets believe it’s their responsibility to do better to win approval and peace. One of the issues that flames CSS is the over identification with work and professional personas.

We gain so much self-esteem from our work and invest considerable time and effort to keep the mirage alive. 

Many are oblivious to the reality of CSS, but friends and family will see the manifestation clearly. Urging loved ones to seek support and resign can become frustrating when met with inaction.

5/  Judgement

Do you fear what other people will think?  Do you fear backlash from your friends, networks, family about your career decisions?

Are you walking on eggshells around others in fear of their judgement?  People will stay in a career or role to keep others happy and reduce conflict. Or are you following family pressures, expectations and traditions?

We only get one life and everyone has the self right to choose for themselves.  I see so many talented people who are living in fear of judgement of others opinions.

Summing Up

These 5 bells will ring loudly for many.  I believe minimising risk and maximising potential for happiness and success is equally important.

If you are weighing up and contemplating your next career move, do get in touch.

Executive Career & Job Search Services HERE


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