Many New Year’s resolutions focus on finding better or more satisfying work, improving work-life balance, or getting a raise or promotion. In seeking to fulfill these resolutions, people will set goals and create actions plans, and then be frustrated when these carefully-crafted plans fail. That may seem harsh but by now, nearing the end of the first full week of January, 25% of resolutions have been tossed aside.
21st Century careers are complex. Although the days of “one job for life” have largely disappeared, many still cling to the notion of “choose well and you’ll never have to look for work.” How can that belief still permeate so much of society? After all, the forces which impact career decision-making, success, and satisfaction are in an almost constant state of flux. How does one plan for the future when the future is constantly changing in largely unpredictable ways?
Bright and Pryor’s Chaos Theory of Careers may offer a different and important perspective to consider as you reflect on your career goals. Its four key constructs are:
- Complexity – people and their lives are constantly facing a complex set of influences
- Change – these influences are in an almost constant state of change. Some of these changes are minor, almost imperceptible, while others happen on a much larger scale.
- Chance – unexpected or “chance” events are more the norm than the exception
- Construction – individuals need to be active, not passive, participants in their futures.
When setting career goals, just as with New Year’s resolutions, we may be trying to force the complex chaotic career world into overly simplistic activities and outcomes. Like Chaos theory’s point and pendulum attractors, goals can sometimes limit us to one or two defined points. The result is that we ignore the rest of the system and can, therefore, be shocked when an outside force derails our carefully-designed plans.
As you look ahead, remember to consider the broader system as you set career goals. What forces, large and small, might both help and hinder achievement of your goals? Strive to avoid being so focused or committed to your plan that you miss the small signs that indicate a large shift.
The Life Strategies team offers one-on-one career coaching, helping clients manage their careers within the complex, ever-changing, dynamical systems in which we live and work.
Are you a career counsellor / career development practitioner interested in learning more about Chaos and other career theories? Our Career Development Foundations, Emerging Theories, and Models course starts Wednesday January 12th. Learn more at http://lifestrategies.ca/services/courses/career-management-professional-program-cmpp.cfm