Exploring work values and choices during the career decision making

While I understand the impulse to scope the whole behavioural science degree and justify its subjects like 'Career Planning & Development', my view is that I am glad I took this course with a subconscious agenda of introspecting the design career path.

According to this subject, it provided answers to questions like:

Why I behave in a certain way on the job? Why I have left the coding background and leapt faith in design and behavioural sciences?

Though I concede that career decision-making is the subgroup of decision-making under cognitive sciences, I still maintain that this subject has a lot of applications in our work-life. For example, career based on personality types, deciding career goals and paths, how to successfully navigate through different organizational political terrains.

Although some might advise that while deciding careers, availability of opportunities combined with financial backup is important, I would reply that the important thing to remember while considering career planning or growth is to start with basics which is - Work Values. The issue is important because poor decisions in career rob people a lot of time, energy and happiness and if we get a bit of timely advice or basic rules we may save this time and build a career in which we can grow.

The standard way of thinking about work values has it that values are behaviours that you show from childhood. It is deeply ingrained in identity. Many people assume that it is about having confidence, responsibility, professionalism, integrity or loyalty to a company etc. Conventional wisdom has it that there are about 14 work values and there are standardized scales to measure it. It is often said that knowing these work values can help one become a happier person in the workplace. At the same time that I believe it is a consistent mindset in which you work, I also believe that this mindset is a result of idiosyncrasies and the interaction with the environment.

In conclusion, then, as I suggested earlier, by knowing the work ethics, once can discover oneself and apply that to find or grow in the career.

The point will become clearer by recalling a time during work when core values conflicted with the expectation from the company or the boss. I recall one incident of mine. While working as a Product Designer for a startup, my responsibility was to re-design some interface or one global feature. During the user research phase, by conducting a competitor analysis, I was critically evaluating the competitor's unique selling points within a tight deadline. Several UX designers have suggested that every time designing new icons or interactions take up a lot of memory resources of users. This is known as cognitive load. So it has become common today to reuse or design global elements.

In my decision, that element was a universal or global so their affordability and look and feel should be universal to minimize the cognitive load so that users don't always have to learn new elements every time. Whereas some team members were convinced about the design, others maintained that the design should be original and new. They themselves were not able to articulate and responded in disagreement that they did not like the solution. They further rationalized by saying - "It's not looking good. Nobody in the industry does that". But I had seen myself that some competitors have already implemented that solution. I disagreed with some team members because their response was not objective and feedback was not providing options for the improvement.

By focusing on the look and feel of the elements, they were overlooking the affordance and utility. My feelings on the issue were mixed. One side I was the designer and advocating the user needs and another side I had to resolve the dilapidated communication between the team members. The environment had become a bit of sentimental as a contrast to being professional. Startups can sometimes afford these kinds of work environments and I felt quite neutral and mixed about the situation when I look back.

My view today is on contrary to what I had responded then is that I should have been more vocal and affirmative about things. But it's easier to look back and wish we should have done something else. Anyone familiar with video game Max Payne's in-game quotation or Netflix's Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch should agree that choices are just an illusion.

I will quote Max Payne here:

There are no choices. Nothing but a straight line. The Illusion comes afterwards when you ask 'Why me?' and 'What if?'

When you look back, see the branches, like a pruned bonsai tree, or forked lightning.

If you had done something differently, it wouldn't be you. It would be someone else looking back, asking a different set of questions.

So you do what you have to do. Responding according to the emotions, environment, mind, gut-feelings is arguably the most significant factor in behaving like a designer. And there are times when you do not speak up and act to resolve the conflict.

Conventional wisdom has it that it's an art when to speak and when we should not.

Robert Greene, the author of 'The Laws of human nature' also dictate that it's not advisable to always speak up your mind. One implication of remaining silent is that it shows a lack of assertiveness and people may take you as a docile person. I refrain from speaking up when I don't know the whole context or the knowledge about the topic or the situation.

The idea is to be satisfied and happy with every decision you make and communication happens when its given time and space.

I take my own time and space to think and process. When it comes to the topic of learning your own work ethics, most of us will readily agree that reflections come after work experience. But we can learn about personality traits and disposition before work by extensively taking tests like the work value test. I myself took these online available tests and I found these as accurate. For example, I scored high on creativity, performance, financial rewards and work-life balance.

It is suggested to take the test as it will in self-introspection because when we truly reflect on what matters to us the most, who we are, how can we grow, what habits to acquire, what to unlearn then only we realize we are on a right career path.


References

Work Values Test | Free Work Value Assessment Test at 123test.Com. https://www.123test.com/work-values-test/. Accessed 5 Oct. 2020.

“Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (Video Game 2003).” IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0366758/characters/nm0564548. Accessed 5 Oct. 2020.

Greene, R. (2018). The laws of human nature. Viking.