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How To Choose A Career And Make It Sustainable

Choosing a career is a complex process. What kind of work direction you go into has a major impact on your life. But most people never take a step back and think about it.

So how to choose something? There are 3 main building blocks that can help you find direction, the 3 P’s are: Purpose, Passion and Personality.


Passion is a way of saying you have a strong interest in something. Commonly the better you get at something the more interested you are in it and the stronger the passion becomes. Both passion and motivation are highly interlinked.

But this passion, this interest, is fleeting. It is human nature that interests change over time.

So this is one of the reasons why choosing a career only on interest is suboptimal but there are more:

  1. When deciding on a career, you are deciding on a proxy measurement of that career. This can be highly misinformed, especially after school.
  2. Things that have been recently experienced naturally land higher on the passion scale.

I want to note here, that the strengths you have are not just the things that you are good at, it is also the things that energise you, instead of depleting you.


Making a career decision based on purpose makes it much more likely that you will find long-term satisfaction in that area than a decision purely based on passion. It starts to get even better when you combine these though, primarily choosing fields based on purpose and then filtering with passion.

What is something that aligns with your core believes and values?


What are things that make you be you? Can you live these things out in your career?

When passion, purpose and personality align you have a great chance of finding a meaningful and fulfilling career.

(On a side note: Don’t be obsessed with something mediocre or a shiny new object, like a title, making your parents proud or having status or power.)

How do you find out what these 3 P’s are?

By taking a closer look at these three things:

  • Priorities & Value
  • Experience
  • Reflection

What are you doing? Observe the decision you have made in your life, these tell you what priorities and values you have in life. It’s not the words with which we describe ourselves, it’s the action that defines us.

These three questions can also help you get closer to your values:

  1. If you could create your perfect team, what kind of qualities would the people on it have?
  2. If you are designing your perfect day, what sort of work are you doing?
  3. Where do you like to work, what culture and atmosphere are you looking for?

To find out more about yourself you need to test yourself. Have an experimental mindset, both in career and life. Test out things and see which aspect you enjoy and which you don’t. That is the best way to gain experience. Stop thinking of your career as a ladder and that the only way is up, the only destination is not becoming more senior. It’s also great to keep asking questions and have conversations. Be open to other people. Find out what they are doing, stay career curious.

Also, let people help you (networking doesn’t need to be overly professional). Finding a mentor early on in your career can be very useful. Make the request not by asking them to be a mentor, but instead by stating: Your interest (be specific, example: Interest in growth & impact -> investing), Why them, Timeframe (~30 minutes).

Reflect on your past experiences. By reflecting we find out what kind of person we are and what makes us happy.

Something to remember: No one has full confidence. Everyone has doubts. Everyone has their own gremlins, many of us even have the same ones. Most of the time we are just not aware of it.

How To Make It Sustainable

What makes you stay at a workplace? How to prevent burnout?

6 Areas Of Fitting Work

How well a certain work fits you can be evaluated by looking at 6 areas: Workload, Control, Reward, Community, Fairness and Values. If all areas have a high fit to you, the motivation of working at that job is high.

  • Workload - Do you feel your workload is too much, too complex, too urgent or too stressful?
  • Control - Are you experiencing problems in authority or influence, the sense of control over what you can do is limited or undermined?
  • Reward - Are you experiencing problems in recognition, pleasure or compensation?
  • Community - Are there colleagues, bosses or customers that make the social community feel awful?
  • Fairness - Do decisions at the workplace feel arbitrary or secretive? Is there a strong favoritism and you feel treated unfairly?
  • Values - Are you experiencing disconnect in the extent of which you believe in the organizaton and the organization believes in you?

These strategies generally involve this step by step action process:

  1. Defining the problem
  2. Setting objectives
  3. Taking action
  4. Tracking progress

Be detailed in defining the problem, narrow it down to manageable portions.

Then set clear objectives, don’t be vague. Define your preferred alternative that these objectives should bring you to.

Take action. Plans are nothing without action.

What has impact? What strategy is working? Iterate and see what is helping you and what isn’t.

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety is mandatory for happy employees, to avoid burnout and for productive work.

Psychological safety refers to a shared belief within a team or organization that it is safe to take interpersonal risks and express oneself without fear of negative consequences. It is an essential component of a healthy work environment where you feel comfortable being themselves, speaking up, and taking risks without the fear of being judged, ridiculed, or punished.

How to have a psychological safe environment?

  1. Solit criticism
  2. Give praise
  3. Give criticism
  4. Gauge your feedback

Make time for feedback. Ask open questions about how you can improve and what others think. If you agree with feedback, take action on that. If you disagree, look for common ground and give voice to that, then explain where you see things differently.

Give praise, and also make time for opportunities of feedback for others. Always remember to gauge how the reception to your feedback is. Your intentions don’t matter, the impact does.

For my study at Code & Context we’d often do a Keep-Drop-Try feedback session at the end or in the middle of the 2-week classes. The positive impact of this was amazing and I can’t ever see myself going back to somewhere that does not foster a feedback-culture. Everyone has some thoughts on how a process can be improved, some little things that would grow into huge problems if no one would ever mention them, or just agreeing on what the path ahead should be, feedback (Keep-Drop-Try) finds a solution for this. More on how we used Keep-Drop-Try at Code & Context.

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Written by Bryan Hogan


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