Using Your Intuition for Career Development

Using Your Intuition for Career Development

By Mark Swartz


Search engines retrieve information in a flash. Intelligent Personal Assistants do likewise (e.g. Apple's Siri, Google's Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana).

With all this data on demand, our intuition can get submerged. We begin to ignore gut feel. Yet instinct can play a vital role in improving our career prospects.


The Essence Of Intuition

Ever been in a situation that didn’t “feel” right? Maybe it was a job interview, where you came away “sensing” it was a bad fit.

People gather impressions and make decisions hundreds of times a day. Most of these are done in a split second. Our unconscious mind guides us, influenced by our beliefs, experiences, biases, personality – along with how human brains have evolved over millions of years.

Collectively these amount to what we call intuition. It incorporates both left brain (logical, orderly) and right brain (creative, non-linear) processing.


When To Apply Intuition At Work

Instinct generally comes in to play in the absence or over-supply of helpful information. Too little and we can’t rely enough on facts. Too much and our analytical process gets overwhelmed. In either case we can increase our use of impressions, hunches and cues.

Here is a sampling of instances that are ripe for meshing gut feel with available data.


1. What Career Should I Choose?

This is the biggie of decisions. But we can only read so much about a vocation, network with so many practitioners in that field, and share our angst repeatedly with career counsellors. In the end it comes down to which route we “feel” is optimal. Does it resonate with who we are? Will it come close enough to matching our innate values and life goals? Listen to that little voice inside before deciding.


2. Is This Job A Good Fit For Me?

Salaries and benefits. Work hours and vacation allotment. These are a few logical aspects of weighing a job offer. Then there are the instinctuals. Like if we believe we’ll get along with others there. And whether we guage we’ll be allowed to be authentic. Don’t discount yellow flags or a sense of discomfort that might arise along the way.


3. How Much More Should I Negotiate?

Getting the highest salary is a common objective. So is extracting concessions when negotiating with colleagues or other departments. Somewhere during the talks do a gut check. Is the other party conveying they’re being humiliated? Have they dug their heels in? Look for changes in friendliness and cooperation. Body language or voice tonality can be worth more than a thousand words.


4. Should I Disclose A Personal Problem To My Boss?

In the course of a career people experience bouts of personal difficulties. Health challenges, family issues…anything along those lines can impact our workplace performance. Logic may suggest confiding in a supervisor. Except when subtle signs suggest waiting. A boss could be under excess pressure: they’re more short-tempered or suddenly in meetings all day. The employer might be undergoing stresses. Watch for unexpected layoffs or belt-tightening. If possible, make disclosures when there’s more chance of accommodation (and less for recrimination).


Fitting Intuition Into The Daily Routine

We have to carve out brief moments to nurture our instincts at work. According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of the best-seller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, “with experience we become expert at using our behavior and our training to interpret - and decode - what lies behind our snap judgment and first impressions.”

So set aside five minutes a day. Find a quiet spot or blast the headphones. Practice mindfulness. Stillness lets inner thoughts, feelings and first impressions rise to the surface. Now’s not the time to criticize what emerges. Rational analysis comes afterward.

As Gladwell states: “what I have sensed is an enormous frustration with the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding.”

Strive to intuit and understand in conjunction with knowing. Monster has a hunch your decision making powers will strengthen.