Be what you were meant to be

Avoid the impediments and unforced errors that make it more difficult to establish the right career


In general, career competitiveness is likely to get, well, more competitive in the coming years.

There are a number of factors indicating that to secure and retain a truly meaningful and satisfying career each of us will need to manage stiffer headwinds. We may not be able to change the wind velocity or direction, but we can adjust our sails.

What headwinds am I referring to? Well as anyone who has read my pieces before knows, the two principal factors impacting the future of work in New Hampshire and around the world are globalization and automation. These alone are introducing a host of competitive actors, both living and non-living. Being able to offer more employment value than other people around the planet and machines who are getting better at reproducing routine and now even sophisticated tasks makes for a tough challenge.

Beyond the gales emanating from an increasingly integrated and technology-based economy are those of our own making. We all have a tendency to make unforced errors that make it more difficult to establish the right career. These are the impediments we throw in front of ourselves that come from flawed thinking and behavior patterns residing deep in our psyches. And with career competition expanding due to forces beyond our control let’s at least agree it is wise to confront the missteps we tend to cause ourselves.

Who among us can’t identify imperfect responses of our own making, many of which are based in the way we make decisions? Perhaps we are too impatient and restless, wanting quick resolutions to problems and clarity to uncertainty before the best course of action has been adequately determined. Stress also affects the way we decide, and it usually does so in a way that quickly mitigates the stress at the expense of a better longer-term outcome.

Any actions that take us away from a carefully planned and systematic approach to making the big decisions in our lives, such as choosing and setting a course for a career, will weaken our competitiveness.

Decision-making can be thought of as a process with sequential steps. It begins with clearly identifying the decision to be made, then gathering necessary information, spotting alternatives, assessing evidence, selecting options, taking action and reviewing the chosen conclusion. Doing this well requires discipline and strength of mind, but the higher-quality decision-making that can emerge better positions us for career competition we will face.

The practice of reflection also can play a powerful role in navigating through uncharted waters. The Benedictine nun, author and speaker Joan Chittister is quoted as saying, “Find the thing that stirs your heart and make room for it. Life is about the development of self to the point of unbridled joy.” The same can be said about our careers.

As we reflect on what matters most to us, what jobs need to be done in the world, and how we can best merge the two we find our career choice and the way to realizing it more apparent.

The signs of how we should work have always been there. They began in childhood and have followed us through maturity. How we perceive and become aware of things, people, events and ideas followed by the conclusions we make about these phenomena shape who we become as people and as career professionals. The interests we cultivate, the values we hold dear, the motivations that propel us, and the skills we develop lead to a unique set of criteria that form the foundation of our value proposition. In other words, they make us competitive. Reflect on what that is for you.

We can look ahead and fear the storm clouds or we can accept the adverse winds as a call to action to improve our competitiveness and to be the professionals we were meant to be. 

Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, can be reached at 603-724-2289 or

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