I have conducted Career Workshops for a few years now and the theme of Aspiration versus Desperation is a consistently resonating idea that I use that has the potential to reshape how you consider your career aims.

The basic principle here is that most career decisions are made out of either aspiring to do something or desperation to do something.  This relates to our basic human motivation either towards pleasure or away from pain. 

Why does this matter when making career decisions?

Aspire to do something that gets you excited.   If the role that you are applying for is one that you really want to do, you will be in a much more resourceful state when going through the application process.  You will put more into your Resume and Application Letter and more importantly will present as the type of enthusiastic, passionate and suitable candidate that all employers are looking for. 

If you can see yourself in the role, will be using your key strengths most of the time and will be working for an employer that you respect and admire in an industry that intrigues you, you are acting out of aspiration and will be a very attractive candidate.

It may be that your aspiration is a long-term one that you will need to study for or build up a lot of experience before you can achieve it.  Now is the time to start!  Make decisions and take action now that will get you on the road towards your career goals.  You’ll be glad that you did.

Desperation won’t get you what you want.  There are a couple of reasons why people make career decisions out of desperation.  They either hate their existing job so much that anything else will do or they are out of work and need a job to get by. 

If you hate your current job so much that you are willing to take anything else, you first need to ask yourself an important question.  If you just change your work environment, will you automatically be happier or do you need to change your own outlook first?

You see, I’ve seen many people make crucial career decisions based on a desperate need to get out of their current situation, only to for them to find that they hate their new role in another 6 months and want to leave there as well.  Rinse and repeat a few times and you will soon find someone with an unfulfilling career. 

It may actually be that you need to change your perspective on work so that you can get more enjoyment out of your current role.  It may be that you need to work on your interpersonal skills, your ability to cope with stress, balance your perspective on your rights and your responsibilities or just come in and work harder, understanding the basic principle that you get more out of something if you put more in.  I have seen many people make this personal transition and it has enabled them to feel much better about themselves in the workplace and gives them the right mindset to start to think more about what they would aspire to from a career perspective.

If you are making career decisions out of desperation because you are currently out of work now, I would still advise you to think about the roles that you are applying for.  Is there an aspirational aspect to these roles or are they a stepping stone to something that you really like to do in the future?  By thinking along these lines, you start to become a more attractive candidate for potential employers as you will be more enthusiastic and engaged during the recruitment process.

Don’t wait until you hate what you do.  A word of warning to those who have no aspirations and aren’t desperate to get out of what they are doing now.  This can change!

Two things can happen that can throw a spanner in the works of those who are feeling relatively comfortable: 

  1. In today’s day and age, redundancy is a very real threat and you may find yourself looking for a job when you weren’t expecting to.  If you haven’t been working towards a long-term career goal and developing your skills towards that, you may find yourself suddenly making decisions out of desperation.
  2. Over time, you may eventually find yourself getting stale in your role.  there may be a “use-by” date by which you will start to resent it as the job no longer provides you with the challenge or sense of fulfillment that it once did.  By having an aspiration, you are able to make a move before this use-by date kicks in.

As you reflect on your career choices to date, have your past decisions been based upon aspiration or desperation?

What do you need to do this week that will take you closer towards greater career fulfillment? 

Hint:  If you don’t yet have a career aspiration, then your first step is to find one.

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