• laurieeldridge

How thinking about a long life can help you make good career decisions

Often, when we’re considering how best to live our lives, we’re urged to think about our time being very short. What would you do if you had a year to live?

However, sometimes it can be good to think about our lives over a broader timeframe. Career change or building a business generally takes time, and if we only have a year to live a change that takes a few years may not rank prominently in our priorities.

This kind of short-term thinking can manifest itself especially powerfully, say the authors of A job to Love, in what they call the job investment trap. This is something that can affect people at all ages, but especially when you’re younger.

Imagine you’re a recent graduate, set on a certain career. You’ve studied the necessary A-Levels to get on to the right degree course, and done the internships you need to get the job you want. And now you’ve come to the realisation that actually it’s not a career path you want to continue down for much longer.

If you have just graduated, the time that you have spent training for your current job will be a big percentage of your life so far, and not to pursue it can feel like a big investment ‘thrown away’. In the same way, a couple of years’ retraining can feel like a massive amount of time, compared to the span of your life so far.

But, of course, thinking about how a couple of years’ retraining will look like from your 50s, it’s not much time at all.

One of the reasons why we often fail to take this longer-term view, say the authors, is that our society puts a lot of value on youth. We’re often shown pictures of beautiful young people in the media, and told a lot about how it’s great to be young. Getting older is seen as a terrible failing, and we generally don’t like to think too much about this narrative of decline.

However there can be positive things about getting older. Think about conversations that you’ve had with people who are a fair bit older than you – perhaps 20 or 30 years. What are some of the things that they’ve done when they’ve been older, and how what could the positives of getting older be? How could thinking about our lives over a longer timespan allow us to make decisions today that are in our long term interest?

Conversely, what regrets and worries might you have when you reach that age (and so what are you going to do about them now?!)

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