The waiting game

waitingstarToday my great aunt gave me a box of chocolates she’d been saving until I got a proper job. She’d obviously given up waiting, and I can’t say I’m surprised, I’m pretty fed up with waiting myself.

Waiting for jobs I want to apply for, waiting for application deadlines to pass, waiting to hear back, waiting to attend interviews, waiting to hear back, waiting for the next opportunity.

This is the start of my career and while I realise that my first proper job isn’t going to be perfect, I also don’t want to settle for something that feels wrong. I don’t believe that my standards are too high, but I’ve been playing the waiting game for a long time now, and something needs to change soon. I don’t want to settle for a job that I have no enthusiasm for, and I don’t feel ready to resign myself to just any old office job just yet. I don’t want to lower my expectations just because that’s what’s expected. 

Essentially I’m struggling with the balance between satisfaction and idealism, compromise and dreaming big. Strive or settle?

Here’s a nice positive article on not giving up (some good comments too): Don’t let low expectations destroy your high hopes and big dreams.

And talking of waiting, my next book should arrive soon…

What do you want to be when you grow up?

cans and plansAbout a week ago I posted ‘Dream BIG’, so I’ve decided to take my own advice. When I was younger my dream was to become a children’s book illustrator – I should probably get back to drawing for there to be any chance of that happening! Here are my top 5 dream careers (in no particular order):

1. Science journalist

Always learning about new and interesting topics, getting to speak to and interview scientists about their work and then producing finished articles to be published. The down side? I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take criticism to heart.

2. Helicopter pilot

I very much enjoyed having a few gliding lessons and taking a ride in a hot air balloon – I think it’s the sense of perspective and beauty of being up so high. You could give people great experiences or work for the air ambulance service doing something really amazing. Unfortunately learning to fly a helicopter is extremely expensive and there aren’t many jobs around.

3. English as a foreign language teacher

Creative lesson planning, challenge and variety. You get to work with people and help them to learn something that could be really useful to them. The opportunity to travel is obviously also appealing, even if the thought of living and working abroad is a little scary.

4. Artist (of some description)

Who wouldn’t want their painting/photograph/installation on show in a gallery? I love seeing other peoples’ art and would definitely be proud if something I’d created was on display. But creative career paths are always difficult – you need both real talent and a lot of commitment.

5. Entrepreneur

Lie-ins, being your own boss, sense of freedom and control, ability to combine your interests, choose who you work with, when you work, where you work etc. etc. Though you are 100% responsible for your own income, and you need some sort of idea, and a lot of determination and motivation, to make things happen.

Well we’ve all got to have our dreams, haven’t we!

What are your dream jobs? Do you think you would enjoy them in reality?

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This TED talk explains in very blunt terms why most people will never have that great career… unless they get rid of the excuses.

And, on a lighter note, I’ve just come across this blog which is also pretty inspiring.

75 job titles that sound really dull (but you’re likely to end up with)


After some careers-related googling (the job hunt continues!), I came across a list of the 100 most common jobs in the UK. I’m not sure how current or accurate the list is, but it’s interesting to look at the sector most of these seem to be related to: business, management, admin and office-based work.

And don’t they all sound really dull? Or is that just me? I’m sure some of them must be interesting… maybe I’m asking too much from a job, and maybe I simply understand so little about what most of these roles involve that I’m not in any position to comment, but there aren’t many job titles listed that I’d be interested in having.

Here’s the list, with any jobs not relating in some way to ‘business’ (i.e. those that actually sound interesting to me) highlighted in bold (the word manager is definitely over-used):

Manager, Project Manager, Teacher, Director, Accountant, Consultant, Administrator, Solicitor, Account Manager, PA, Office Manager, Analyst, Engineer, Sales Manager, Doctor, Software Engineer, Business Analyst, Managing Director, Personal Assistant, Marketing Manager, Operations Manager, IT Manager, General Manager, Software Developer, Accounts Assistant, Secretary, Team Leader, Business Development Manager, Developer, Graphic DesignerLecturerArchitect, HR Manager, Receptionist, Assistant Manager, Buyer, Design Engineer, Associate, Marketing Executive, Product Manager, Web Developer, Management Accountant, Programmer, Sales, Financial Controller, Finance Manager, Quantity SurveyorDesigner, Technician, Sales Director, Sales Assistant, Project EngineerElectricianPharmacist, Sales Executive, Marketing Assistant, Store Manager, Supervisor, Nurse, Recruitment Consultant, Production Manager, Lawyer, Senior Engineer, Dentist, GP, Account Executive, Web Designer, Driver, Senior Consultant, Social Worker, Assistant, Operations Director, CEO, Credit Controller, Senior Manager, Pilot, Plumber, Editor, Finance Director, Barrister, Mechanical Engineer, HR Advisor, Programme Manager, Assistant Accountant, Executive Assistant, Scientist, Estimator, Marketing Director, Vice President, Trader, Commercial Manager, Researcher, Trainer, Auditor, Technical Manager, HR Administrator, Graduate, Financial Analyst, Branch Manager, Area Manager (source:

Of course these job titles mean very little when you look at what the roles involve in different industries, yet my initial impression of most is 9-5 office-based business (profit) focused repetition. They could at least start by jazzing up job titles to make them sound like vaguely interesting roles to have!

How to make a decision: the conclusions

goodchoicebadchoiceHaving read 7 books either directly or indirectly related to making decisions some common themes have emerged, mainly surrounding compromise and acceptance – here’s what I’ve learnt:

-> Perfect doesn’t exist (but pretty great does) – yes, we all know this, but sometimes I don’t act like I believe it!

-> Accept and acknowledge emotions, but don’t let them control your choices – watch out for psychological traps (and learn to spot the difference between gut reaction and emotional reaction)

-> Don’t over-complicate – do gather information, compare alternatives and outline and rank your objectives, but then stop, step back and make a choice

—> Compromise and be content – it’s all about balance

—> Don’t worry about the future, and expect to make mistakes

—> Do take risks and do stick with it

Nothing new here really is there? In fact it’s pretty much all common sense, yet so easy to forget in the midst of making a big decision. When I next have a big choice to make I’ll be asking myself:

1. Is this option good enough and am I just imagining some non-existent perfect solution somewhere in the future, or does this simply not meet my most important objectives?

2. Have I got all of the information I need to make this choice, and have I considered all realistic and current alternatives?

3. Am I in the right frame of mind to make this choice, and if not, what are my emotions telling me?

Only time will tell if my decision making abilities have improved, but one thing I must remember is this:

Changing our decision sets up a bad habit. It reinforces decision making as an expression of bewilderment and ignorance, instead of wisdom and freedom – Sakyong Mipham

On more than one occasion I have rapidly, and wrongly, panic-changed a previous choice. It’s important to trust that you made the decision based on knowledge, experience and personal judgement, and not simply out of confusion.

Dream BIG

I was on a course last weekend and somewhere near the start we were standing in a circle completing the sentence “If I won the lottery I would…”. I froze. On the spot I didn’t have a clue. What was wrong with me? Where are my dreams?

There are lots of things I want to do in my life, but I wouldn’t want a lack of money to stop me from doing them. There’s very little that I would like to have/do/experience that’s so expensive it would require a lottery win.

I guess I’m reluctant to share my dreams in case they don’t happen; in case I’m not brave or determined enough to make them happen.

be-a-free-range-human7. Escaping the 9 to 5

(Be a Free Range Human: escape the 9 to 5, create a life you love and still pay the bills, by Marianne Cantwell)

This is such a positive book, full of ideas and inspiration written in a really friendly, chatty style. In essence the message is that you won’t be able to find your perfect job, but you could create it for yourself.

It’s about taking action, starting small but actually doing something rather than just sitting around thinking about it (the latter is something I’m very guilty of!). There are lots of case studies of ‘free-rangers’ (basically entrepreneurs who aren’t tied down by location or lack of funding), and the book is divided up really nicely into different sections, the first of which is about dreaming big.

Too often we over-analyse ideas before we even start, which ends up putting us off going anywhere with them. There’s the idea that you have to face reality and have a perfect business before you even start, and, at least as far as this book is concerned, you really don’t.

I guess it’s the same with choices. It’s about trying things out and testing the water before committing to something, rather than just analysing it until you end up either not making a decision at all or making one you later begin to question.

Go with the flow

One of our school mottoes was ‘Destiny is choice, not chance’, and this is something I feel like I’ve stuck to, a little too well. While I do try to take advantage of chance opportunities, I always feel the need to make actively thought-through decisions.

Basically I’m a bit of a control freak.

The following book was mentioned to me through a comment on a previous post, and it was definitely a good recommendation (thanks David Lindskoog). It’s not only helped me to clarify my thinking on taking advantage of chance events, but has also helped to convince me that I really don’t have to commit to long term career goals.

luckisnoaccident6. Coincidence or fate?

(Luck is no accident: Making the most of happenstance in your life and career, by John Krumboltz and Al Levin)

This book basically describes life, or how life should be: trying things out, meeting and speaking to different people, and discovering opportunities through networking. It’s easy to forget how small efforts, such as attending an event or chatting to a stranger, can lead to significant links, connections and opportunities, whether immediately or sometime in the future.

I love the idea of flexibility and ‘going with the flow’; the idea that it really truly is ok to make mistakes, that you can always change your circumstances and goals and that there is no right or wrong answer as long as you’re exploring and experimenting. I realise this probably all sounds like common sense, and it is, but it’s easy to forget. There are some great quotes and loads of great examples of different people’s career paths throughout the book.

One particular quote stood out to me: The question that I hate most that we ask of young people is, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” And the truth is, I still don’t know at age 45 – Michelle Obama. Maybe there’s a feeling that you’re a bit ditzy if you don’t have a career plan, that you don’t care enough about your future and making the most of your talents, but this book has taught me that’s there is no shame at all in exploring your options.

You never need to decide what you are going to be in the future (a great sense of relief to me!). Unplanned events will inevitably have an impact on your career. Reality may be offering you better options than you could have dreamed. Expect to make mistakes.

Reassuring? I think so.

How to control your emotions

I won’t be sharing my New Year’s resolutions, though I have tried to make them realistic enough that hopefully I’ll be able to achieve most of them by the end of the year. I’m already onto reading another book and have two more lined up, so back to the book reviews… (starting to veer towards personal development though still related to decision making)

chimpparadox5. Managing your inner Chimp

(The Chimp Paradox – The mind management programme for success, confidence and happiness, by Dr Steve Peters)

I bought this book based on great reviews on Amazon, and I haven’t been disappointed. A handful of reviewers criticised it for being too simplistic, patronising even, but I just found it refreshingly clear, simple and fun to read. One of my teachers at school used to remind us to KISS – keep it simple, stupid, and that’s exactly what this book does, to great effect.

Steve Peters is a psychiatrist who has worked with world-class athletes. He uses a lot of metaphors, dividing the brain into three parts: the Chimp, the Human and the Computer, and describing the ‘Psychological Universe’, made up of different planets and their moons. I personally find the imagery really helpful for remembering his concepts and advice. A lot of what he says could be said to be common sense, but he explains it in such a memorable and creative way that seems really useful for taking practical action.

Essentially the book is about controlling the Chimp (emotional) part of your brain. The book suggests simple techniques to do this, and also discusses ways to change your thoughts and beliefs as well as your behaviours.

Relating this back to decision-making, what stands out to me is the emphasis on making rational Human choices, rather than irrational and emotion driven Chimp choices. It’s important to acknowledge and accept your emotions and the important things they are telling you, but then to think and act rationally to achieve long term goals, rather than simply acting to remove short term stress.