What tools do you need to choose the right career? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Nicole Gravagna, Author of MindSET Your Manners, co-author of Venture Capital for Dummies:
Students are desperate to find the right career when they graduate and spill into the real world - ready or not. Many ask, "How do I pick the right career?" To get to the bottom of this frequently asked question, we have to ask: what is the right career, anyway?
Let's assume that you can't predict which career will be perfect for you because you can't know what the future holds. For example, we now live in a world of rapidly evolving technologies. Because of changes due to technology shifts, the career you choose today might not exist in a few years. A career that goes extinct is decidedly not perfect for you or anyone else.
How can you plan for and work toward a career when you don't even know what kinds of careers will be available in the next two decades? The answer is that you learn how to deal with uncertainty.
You guessed it. The best way to choose a career is to first learn about how to deal with uncertainty, and then learn how to make decisions in spite of the fact that you simply don't have all the information.
Behavioral economists discovered that humans have a natural reaction to uncertainty. We respond to uncertainty (and ambiguity) like we are walking down a dark alley. Most people, when given two choices, will choose the option with the least amount of uncertainty. That might sound like a "duh" answer, but wait until you hear the next part. People will choose the option with the least amount of uncertainty even when the option with the most uncertainty also has the biggest reward attached to it.
Oh yeah. Humans are so turned off by uncertainty that they will ignore a huge reward just so they don't have to deal with uncertainty.
This, my friends, describes your career.
Your career is not risky. Your choices are simply unclear and that lack of clarity about the future is scary to everyone. It's not just you. Everyone is freaked out about uncertainty.
What can you do about it? You can notice yourself getting freaked out and you can remind yourself that uncertainty just has that effect on people. Then, when you get your wits about you, you'll be able to do the work to learn more about your options.
You see, what happens when people freak out about uncertainty is that they stop trying to learn more about their options. When you are shopping for a career, you can't afford to put your hands over your ears, close your eyes, and shut down. You have to ask questions. You have to meet new people. You have to read about jobs. You might have to call strangers on the phone and talk to them. You have to get deeply curious.
The scariest part about your career isn't that it might suck or that you might hate it or that you might not make any money. Frankly, those outcomes are totally fine. You know why? Because, if you get good at dealing with uncertainty then you can change your career if you stop liking it. You won't be tied to an industry that is going extinct. You won't be trapped doing something that you now realize you hate. You'll be able to change your career. The scariest part about your career is that you might find a job and never learn to deal with uncertainty. Then, you'll feel like you can't do anything else.
When you can face uncertainty, you stop making excuses for being in a situation you hate. Instead, you'll do some research to learn more about your options and you'll go do something else. Bad careers are for people who think there's something keeping them from making a change. The only thing in the way is their own response to uncertainty.