A year today

I’ve now been writing this blog for exactly one year. And a lot has changed.

paperlink-made-with-love-anniversaryOne year ago I hadn’t long graduated, I had one unpaid internship, some odd bits of work experience and a little freelance writing work under my belt. I’d done some useful and interesting voluntary stuff at uni, but it was a struggle to get onto the right career ladder (in fact you could say I gave up on working out and waiting for the right career ladder in the end).  Now here I am, another unpaid internship, waitressing work, a few other bits and pieces and one cruddy proper job later and I can’t say I’m overly happy with my progress on the job/CV front.

On the vision front, however, I’ve done much better. One year ago I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I’d put two and two together and made five, ending up in completely the wrong work for me, but three months of career coaching, a lot of informational interviewing and a ton of research later, I’m actually pretty sure I’ve worked out what really matters to me.

The hard part is going to be turning this vision into reality.

On a more personal level there have also been some big changes – friends and family moving away, moving back home and then out again to a new city, challenging my own ideals and assumptions. I’ve got a lot more work to do figuring things out but I’ve proven I can handle difficulties and I know I’ve got some good people around me. I’ve learnt how to cope with uncertainty and uncomfortable situations, how to motivate and encourage myself, and the importance of just showing up (a topic I plan to cover in another post soon).

Has it been a good year? Sadly I’m hesitant to say yes. Have there been some good moments? Of course! Is next year going to be better? I’ve a pretty good feeling it might be.

What’s blogging all about?

I was more than a little surprised to find the following, rather unfriendly and cryptic, comment in my inbox a few days ago. I was in two minds about sharing it but it’s brought up a couple of things I’d like to discuss, so here it is:

Forget the blog post. I won’t blow smoke in your face and say I’m so glad that I read your post. What I will say is that people who go by a pseudonym annoy me. No name, no way to connect on LinkedIn or follow on Twitter. As well, your subtitle is a bit self-defeating and not a good way to start the branding process. None of this would have to be said in the form of a reply if I knew who you are and how to contact you; because I would like to offer a bit of professional advice. Namely, I’m not the only professional old-timer who is going to see your talented prose but wonder, “Are you for real?” So, two things that piss me off: one) you are a talented writer, yet immature; two) I don’t know how to contact you to tell you this in front of others who are to follow your writing, including my much respected pen pal, Rebecca. Sorry if this offends you, Rebecca. Bob McIntosh http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobmcintosh1

Assault on the anonymous

I choose to blog anonymously for two main reasons:

1. I feel that it helps me to be more honest in my writing

2. I’d rather my current and potential employers didn’t come across my confused ramblings

I don’t write this blog as any form of self-promotion or marketing. I write it for myself, to help me to explore career ideas and thoughts and to share these with others, and to enable me to read the thoughts and ideas of others who I can learn from. Being anonymous allows me to do this completely freely.

A supportive community?

Until I received the comment above I was pleased to be part of what I’d so far found to be a welcoming and supportive community of like-minded people. To me blogging isn’t about always agreeing with others’ views, but it is about being constructive and supportive.

I’d love to hear your views:

– How do you feel about anonymous bloggers like myself?

– What’s blogging all about for you?

A thank you to fellow bloggers

blogonI’ve been blogging now for 4 months – it’s nice to get thoughts down somewhere and lovely to have people reading and commenting. I’m following some great blogs and I regularly enjoy reading thought-provoking and inspiring posts.

Rebecca Fraser of Career Avoidance 101 kindly nominated me for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award, which I very much appreciate, especially as I’m such a big fan of her own blog. And I’ve just found out that Ryan Balboa of Erasing the Stripes has nominated me for a Liebster Award, and again I’m very flattered. I only recently discovered Ryan’s blog and I’m looking forward to reading more from him.  It’s nice to know that at least two fellow bloggers are enjoying reading my posts! Thanks Rebecca and Ryan :)

I’m not going to strictly follow the award instructions here, but, in no particular order, here are a few blogs I like (in addition, of course, to the above two which you should definitely check out!). Nowhere near a comprehensive list, but some interesting and well-written blogs to take a look at…

– – –

Farah Colette – I think this was one of the first blogs I started following; great writing style, amusing and honest.

Carolina Georgatou – some great photos and inspiring posts, I especially enjoy following her current portrait project.

Gen Y Girl – inspirational posts from someone who’s passionate about helping young professionals.

It’s a Man’s World – very readable, funny and honest.

Life on a Branch and stuffgradslike – tips from those who’ve survived the post-uni panic.

– – –

With all of these awards floating around I’m discovering even more great blogs by looking up other nominees and nominators, and I’m definitely looking forward to continuing to find new inspiring blogs in the future.

Thanks to everyone who reads and follows my blog – and thanks for all of the great posts you write too!

My choices

So why start a blog about decision making? Yes, I’ve always been awful at making decisions, but when did this become a big issue? It became a big issue when, after graduating and completing an unpaid internship, I turned down a paid internship that could well have led to a full time paid job with a great organisation, lovely people, in just the right location, simply because it didn’t feel right. Stupid? Probably. Maximising? Almost definitely. Over-analysing? Certainly not. Following my gut or falling into every psychological trap there is going? A bit of both I’d say.

The only way I can claim my sanity after turning down a great opportunity during a recession (or just after, not quite sure what’s happening with the economy at the moment but there definitely still aren’t many jobs around) is by giving one reason. The actual work itself just wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in (not that I’m even sure what direction I do want to go in), even if it was working in the right sector. I’ll be honest, I still can’t work out whether my choice was brave or stupid. One moment I think I’m a complete idiot, the next I think this particular opportunity just wasn’t right for me. Will I ever know? Was there even a right decision at all?

It’s so easy to be swayed by others’ opinions, and to get caught up in the emotion of making a pretty big decision in a limited amount of time (I had two days and was tired and stressed out about making the choice). I guess the thing I’m struggling to work out is: Did I go with a true gut feeling that it just wasn’t right for me? I knew I was taking a risk but at the time I thought I was up for that. Or did I simply fall into psychological traps and try to maximise? I’ve never been keen on the idea of being stuck in an office from 9 to 5 everyday and I hadn’t enjoyed previous similar work, but sometimes you’ve just got to compromise. I’m also rubbish at commitment – I always want to try new things and explore the options. Did I just take the coward’s way out, the easy option, to keep looking? Or was I innocently holding on to other dreams and ideals?

How to make a decision

I am notoriously bad at making decisions. One of my teachers at primary school used to tell me to ‘go and be MAD’ meaning go and Make A Decision. I chose my GCSE subjects, most were obvious choices, but I struggled between choosing history and textiles. I can’t actually remember which I wrote down on the form, all I know is that I got history, begged to be able to join the textiles class, started textiles, then changed back. A moment of confusion? It’s only choosing one little subject at school. Well the exact same thing happened when choosing my A-Levels. Physics or English? Chose physics, swapped to English, swapped back. Clearly didn’t learn from that mistake (though I’ve realised it usually takes me three times to work out where I’m going wrong – I very nearly tried to change university course).

And it’s not just education-wise. I always leave labels in clothes and take an average of maybe 3-6 months before wearing anything new I’ve bought. Just in case it was a bad choice and I decide to take it back.

I always like to try out all the options. Just to make sure I’ve made the best decision. As I’ll explain later, that makes me a maximiser – and that’s not a good thing.

So, in my quest to become an excellent and content decision-maker (and that is my aim) I’m reading some books on the subject, and I thought I would summarise my findings in an attempt to help any other maximisers (see below) out there who struggle like I do.

1. Maximisers and satisficers

(The paradox of choice: why more is less, by American psychologist Barry Schwartz)

Maximisers always look for the best. They want to see and try out all possible options before committing to any one choice. The problem with this strategy? Nothing is ever perfect, and as perfect doesn’t exist striving for it will just make you discontent. This is me at the moment, however what I want to be is a satisficer.

Satisficers look at the available options and choose the best from a limited selection to best fit their goals and needs. They are happy with good enough, however they do have standards and being a satisficer by no means equals settling for something that doesn’t meet those standards. The way I see it after reading the book, this is the only way to be content. You choose to be satisfied with less than perfect, and as perfect doesn’t exist anyway then good enough (or great enough, remember satisficers do have standards) is really the best you can aim for.

What I learnt from this book? The grass isn’t always greener. We have so many options – too many options – that make it difficult to focus simply on what does the job and is satisfactory. And this applies to everything, from food to clothes to technology to cars, houses, careers etc. etc.

Step 1 for becoming an excellent decision maker: Accept that perfect doesn’t exist and there are some pretty great options that will lead to far more happiness than an endless search for perfection.