Peter Vogt

You want to find a satisfying career, and you’re doing all the right things to make it happen: career tests, introspection, research, informational interviews and more. But your hard work hasn’t produced any results. You’re still stuck.


As it turns out, there’s a sensible explanation: Most people who don’t know what career to pursue can’t figure it out in their heads, with a workbook or by introspecting about their past jobs. Ibarra is just one of several career-development experts who say the traditional approach to choosing a career — learning about yourself, seeing what career opportunities exist in the world of work and then trying to match yourself with the right option — has one major flaw: For many people, it just doesn’t work.

Don’t Think So Much

The pressure of determining what to do with your life can be paralysing, says John Krumboltz,

a professor of education and psychology at Stanford University, and coauthor with Al Levin of ‘Luck Is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career.’ “It’s hard enough to figure out what I’m going to do this afternoon,” Krumboltz says. “If I have to figure out the rest of my life immediately — now that’s pressure. And that shuts many people down.” How should you approach choosing a new career? You may be better off using what Mitchell calls a “planned happenstance” strategy. This entails taking small actions that are likely to lead to career insights and opportunities (the planned part) and then seeing where those insights and opportunities lead you (the happenstance part).Think and plan a little less, but do a lot more.