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How to Do Career Research Part 2: Mindset

Updated: May 17, 2022



In Part One of this series, I made a case for the importance of research skills in the process of career change. I outlined three reasons why career changers can find it difficult to follow through on their research. I described the method of career research that I teach to my clients in my coaching practice and I argued that short-cuts around the research phase are counterproductive.


In today’s post, we will be looking at the first stage of the career research process – namely, theorizing - and exploring how to get into the right mindset before doing it.


If you recall, theorizing happens after you do in-depth assessments of your core values, skills, interests, personality type, and ideal working conditions. It involves using the knowledge you’ve gained from those assessments to identify career options that are a potential fit for you. The goal of theorizing is to combine your self-knowledge with the use of online tools to generate a list of 7 career titles to start researching.

The goal of theorizing is to combine your self-knowledge with the use of online tools to generate a list of 7 career titles to start researching.

Generating such a list can feel stressful at first, so allow me to offer some advice about getting into the proper mindset beforehand.


1. Trust Your Gut


It is important when making your list of 7 options that you not insist on picking the “right” career titles the first time. You are simply coming up with theories (or “hunches”) about the kind of work that may be a good fit for you. So trust your instincts and be open to revising your list as you gather information along the way.


The method of starting with “hunches” is similar to the method of product design used by engineers. They start with a initial idea for a product design, research and build prototypes, test the prototypes in the real world, and use those tests to discard or refine the product design until it meets their specifications. This process of IDEA GENERATION –> RESEARCH –> TESTING is a circular/self-correcting method. It provides engineers with clarity about the best product designs without them having to know in advance which designs will succeed.


Similar to an engineer, you can find clarity about your best career designs without having to know in advance which of your 7 career theories will stand the test of further research and refinement. And that’s ok because it is the research method itself that provides clarity, not necessarily the first theories you start with.

It is the research method itself that provides clarity, not necessarily the first theories you start with.

2. Think 5-7 Years Ahead


Due to the rapid pace of technological change and innovation in today’s labor market, new job roles are being created every year that didn't exist before. This means that the job market will look very different 10 years from now compared to how it looks today. So what does this mean for you? It means you should not look too far into the future when generating your list of 7 career theories. You are not choosing what you will be doing for the rest of your life!

You are not choosing what to do for the rest of your life.

Because people change their careers every 5-7 years (on average), you are better off not looking much farther ahead than that.


3. Have a “B” List Handy