Tag Archives: career

Reason Versus Intuition

Emotion and intuition are “built in” mechanisms for decision making. Feelings like fear, anxiety, and empathy, tell right away something about a situation, and what should be done about it.

In contrast, one can of course use reason. Weight carefully all the factors involved, and analyze possible outcomes.

For big matters such as careers and relationships, it seems that reason would be the best choice, since what one “feels” like looks a bit too primitive and simplistic a method to rely on.

Not so, according to some prominent public figures:

Sigmund Freud: “When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of our personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.”

Steve Jobs: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Jim Carrey: “My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

Of course, these are people who “made it” doing what they love(d), so they are biased. Not everyone who wants to be a comedian (or entrepreneur, or psychologist) does well, including those who have chosen their professions by gut feeling. What is true is that in order to succeed (whatever that means), a lot of challenges should be overcome, and we’re more willing to work hard if we like what we do. And “to like” is a feeling.

Overpopulation is Ruining the Job Market, and No Economic Model Will Save It

Two little girls are playing on the floor. One of them presents her piggy bank to the other. She goes: “I’m saving for when I get a low-paying job doing what I love.”

The comic, by The New Yorker’s cartoonist Amy Hwang, tells a lot about the reality of work in our times. Differently from previous generations, where income and stability were the main guidelines in choosing a career, ours is encouraged to find a job that brings pleasure. Money, it’s argued, will come as a consequence. “You’ve got to find what you love,” advised Steve Jobs, one of the most successful businessman history has known, in a Commencement address for Stanford graduates in 2005.

Amy’s cartoon drives attention for the fact that, outliers apart, there’s always a trade-off. In fact, things can be a little more extreme if you consider jobs people do for no payment at all (ask any 20-something about his experiences with internships), and the legion of 9-to-5 workers that spend their free time investing in their music careers in the vain hope of becoming rock stars.

The problem, as I pointed out in a previous article about careers in Academia, is that there just are too many people in the market. As a solution, some economists (namely, from the New Economics Foundation), have proposed a drastic reduction in the number of working hours per week, to around 20. It sounds appealing at first, but try telling that to an early career professional who’s struggling to show that he loves what he does more than anyone else. Besides, the sustainability of the idea is based on the redistribution of the GDP. If the outcome of the Occupy Wall Street movement is of any guideline, there’s little doubt about the utopian nature of the proposal.

The fact that there aren’t jobs enough being created to keep up with population growth is just part of the sad story. Consider, as an example, an early college student who’s equally attracted by topics in computer science and graphic design. Even if, in theory, there possibly is a job where he can apply both technical and artistic skills, in great part occupations focus in one area or the other. These days, he’d have to choose one career path, and rely on good luck to have made the right decision.

That is, devoting your entire professional life to one, and only one occupation, already is a limiting perspective. In the ideal case, part-time jobs would be more easily available, and people would optionally work on many of them, doing so not because they have to, but because that would give them a more fulfilling life experience.

But I digress. Until society in general don’t get educated enough to realize that no economy will support over-population, we’ll see many more generations of young professionals having their 20’s ruined by underpaying jobs and severe competition with colleagues that just happen to love doing the same thing.

(A version of this article appeared in Washington Square News.)