No job is good enough, if you’re not happy doing it.
Whether you’re looking for a full-time job or a part-time job, one thing is for sure – landing a job will drain you of your energy, time and patience. You begin with a resolution to change how your career pans out and a long term goal. Then comes the difficult part. You prepare a resume, make cold-calls, email out applications and endure long-waiting periods of uncertainty. Even after an employer expresses interest in you, you spend energy in negotiations and exit interviews. Point is, all this can be very draining.
What if you go through all this trouble only to realize in week-one that the job isn’t really right for you? A recent Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey revealed that there was a significant mismatch between what employees expected at their jobs, and what the employers had to offer. So, if you’ve ever been in that position know that you’re not alone.
The key to mitigating these circumstances might be closer to you, than you think. In your own brain. As humans, we are affected by several cognitive biases that prevent us from thinking logically. Arising naturally out of our life experiences and learning they skew our judgment, and push us towards decisions we shouldn’t make. While not all mismatched expectations are a result of these cognitive biases, a lot of them are – and you can train yourself to overcome them.
What can you do about it?
- Understand your biases: Biases are completely normal and with some practice you can learn to identify them and work effectively to secure the best job for you. And remember, the best job is the one that you’re happy going to, every single day. Here are some of the most common biases we adopt, and how to steer clear of them during your job search.
- Anchoring: Did you ever make a conscious decision to pick that first piece of clothing you saw at the shop, despite going through racks and racks of other models? That decision may be influenced by what we call the ‘Anchoring’ bias, where you tend to fixate on the first piece of information or choice you’re offered and compare all the next options to that one. To avoid the anchoring bias in your job-hunting, ensure that you give equal weightage to all the choices you’re offered.
Try to chalk out details of the various job offers you have on paper to compare them point-to-point, logically. It might also help to take an opinion from a trusted friend or coworker.
- The empathy gap: This cognitive bias refers to our inability to accurately predict the emotions of our future self. For instance, you might sign up for a full-year plan at the gym only to never feel like actually working during the term. Simply put, we are very bad at knowing how we would feel in the future, and that leads us to make decisions that aren’t really good. During the job search, it is likely that you’ll feel that a particular feature at the new workplace – say, a work-from-home facility might appeal a lot to you today. But, once there you realize that you aren’t a good remote worker and are easily distracted while at home.
Unfortunately, the empathy gap is not easy to conquer, and you will end up making bad decisions, over and over. The only way to slightly overcome it is to make a lifestyle adjustment. Compare ‘what excites you’, to how much you’ve enjoyed that activity in the past, as part of regular life – and that might help you make a slightly better judgment call.
- Expectation bias: We hear what we expect to hear. When presented with data we tend to cherry pick information that leads to the outcome we already expect, while ignoring other facts and numbers that might be contradictory.
While taking up a new job offer, make sure you are hearing things the way they’re said. Take a step back to understand what the HR manager really means, and ask questions to clarify any confusions you might have. A job is a long-term responsibility and you do not want to walk into it without fully understanding the situation. Worse yet, believing in inaccurate information – because your brain garbled the information presented to you.
The thing with cognitive biases is that by learning more about them, you can become slightly more immune to their effect. Involving a third-person to help with the decision-making always brings out a fresh perspective, combating these biases.
Hope this article helps you steer clear of some of the most common cognitive biases you might have – and help you understand if a job is good for you or bad. Good luck!
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