On the three wrong questions that job hunters often ask a career advisor

In my practice as a career advisor, I encounter a few recurring career-related questions that lead to a great confusion. In this article, I’d like to debunk three of these questions and provide alternative ways of thinking about careers that are much more constructive and lead to better long-term results.

  1. What is the best job?

When looking for jobs, we dive into the sea of opportunities. We google, we browse through LinkedIn and job boards, we ask around. We want to know about these jobs as much as we possibly can, including all the details of the workspace, the office, the team, the working benefits, etc. And, we tend to fish for the best job

But at the same time, we often forget about finding out as much as possible about ourselves. You and your job are two parts of the same puzzle which should fit together. And, if you are looking for a job, you should choose jobs which are best suited to you, and not just those which look best on paper. Most of the job satisfaction comes from non-material values, and if your job doesn’t meet your values, you won’t be happy there. Moreover, if you don’t know your limits and boundaries, finding the right job will take you forever—as you’ll keep on walking in the dark, and sampling jobs by trial and error. 

This is why self-discovery is so important in the process. Society is a very complex environment. To be able to navigate in this environment, you need to be perfectly conscious of your own strengths and weaknesses, of your hard and soft skills. But you also need to be certain about your personal working style and your preferences towards the working environment. Don’t worry though! Self-discovery can be a pleasant and exciting activity, and this is what this book is all about. It’s worth dedicating time to this topic, as every minute spent on thinking about who you are, and about your strengths and weaknesses, will pay back a hundredfold in the long run.

So, there is no such thing as the best job. While we would all agree on certain aspects of a “good job” (e.g., given a choice, we would all probably choose a higher-paid over a lower-paid position), most of the other features need to meet your personal preferences. Some people enjoy working alone and not being bothered by anyone while others prefer working in teams, and running from one meeting to another. Some people like quiet offices while others prefer an open space. Some people prefer taking a role of a specialist, or a problem-solver, on the team while others prefer managing others.

To sum up, you need to get an overview of post-PhD career opportunities and find your strengths and limits. None of the possibilities is better than the others; it’s a matter of your own, individual working style, your set of skills, and flexibility. 

  1. How to get a well-paid job?

Many people still take pivotal career decisions motivated mainly by a paycheck. They believe that a high salary is what leads to personal wealth. However, one fascinating study dedicated to personal finances of millionaires and sources of personal wealth is the recent National Study of Millionaires by Ramsey, which involved over 10,000 millionaires around the US. This study showed that most of the millionaires in the study are employees, not entrepreneurs. They primarily represented professions such as engineers, accountants, teachers, managers, and attorneys. The study participants tended to come from modest origins – 79% didn’t inherit anything from their parents, and the vast majority came from low-income families. At the same time, most of the millionaires in the study cared about their education: despite the lack of financial supply, as much as 62% finished college or doctoral studies.

But the most astonishing result from this study was that most millionaires were not the highest-paid employees. Yes, they had decent positions, but they rarely occupied the top positions in their workplaces – only 15% of millionaires in the study were in senior leadership roles. 93% of the millionaires in the study said they got their wealth because they worked hard and kept on accumulating savings and investments, not because they had high salaries. They understood the power of compound interest perfectly well and exercised it, while at the same time avoiding lifestyle inflation. They lived modestly and frugally, and took an average of 28 years to reach their wealth.

Similarly, if you believe that a high salary will make you wealthy and happy, think again. It’s not salary that makes people rich – it’s discipline. One additional comment I’d like to make here is that people often disregard the quality of their relations with other people when assessing wealth. In fact, the depth and the number of your relations with others is what makes you rich, not necessarily the amount on your account. Therefore, choose jobs that give you lots of opportunities to build personal networks, and accumulate contacts as they are your most valuable assets in the long-term.

  1. How to plan my career for the next ten to twenty years?

The truth is, no one knows how the job market will shape in the next ten to twenty years. Many professions that will be popular in 2030, don’t even exist yet. How to navigate in such conditions? Well, you need to stop taking things for granted and focus on:

  1. Defining your personal values and choosing a career track that well corresponds with them,
  2. Building a portfolio of skills,
  3. Completing projects rather than scoring awards and pompatic job titles, 
  4. Building valuable, long-lasting relations with people,
  5. Building your presence online in a consistent way (it’s a compound interest too, so little, but systematic attention will pay off very well in the scope of 10 years from now!),
  6. Taking care of your finances and building a diversified portfolio of assets.

Rather than (1) Collecting job titles, (2) Grinding for quick likes online, (3) Planning a career path at your current workplace step by step for 20 years ahead.

Self-navigation now in the times of the pandemic is not easy. Yet still, we have more opportunities than ever! If you need any more career advice, please find me at nataliabielczyk#5616! I’d be most happy to help.