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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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2 How clear are you about what you want?

Photo of a view of a field and a tree in the distance seen through the left lens of pair of glasses.
Figure 2 Clarity

As you watched the video, you might have wondered how clear you need to be about the kind of work you want, before you start exploring opportunities. One way of thinking about this is to use a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is ‘I have no idea what I want to do’ and 10 is ‘I know exactly what I want to do’. You will have the opportunity to try out this approach, but sometimes thinking about another person’s situation can be a good way into thinking about your own. Try this in the next activity.

Activity 2 Are Christopher’s thoughts clear?

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

The case study below offers a brief example, which might spark your own thoughts.

Case study: Christopher

Christopher is 35 and has been unemployed for 12 months. His last job was as a pizza delivery driver for a small local company, which closed down. He has since lost his driving licence due to a succession of speeding fines.

Christopher marked himself as '3' on the ‘clear about work’ continuum. His notes explained his mark as follows:

I am saying '3' because really I would like to go back to driving, but I do not think I can in the short-term. I might have wanted to do taxi work. I know what I do not want to do – work in construction or in a shop – and that is all that seems to be on offer in my local job centre. I have thought about working as a car mechanic, because I am pretty handy at that kind of thing, but I do not know if you have to have qualifications. Perhaps I need to ask around and find out about what I need to be a mechanic. I am not an exams kind of person so that might rule me out if you need to do that.

What do you notice about Christopher’s case? Jot down a few ideas. (Do not worry about recording these ideas in your notebook as your comments here are not about you.)

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Perhaps the first thing you noticed is that Christopher’s career was disrupted when the company he worked for closed down. That’s something he had no control over. However, you might think Christopher did have control over getting the speeding fines, which led to the loss of his licence. Although you might feel differently if you discovered that most of those fines were incurred doing the delivery job.

You might also notice that Christopher considers, but dismisses, other types of driving work, at least for now. Instead, he identifies something different but related. He thinks he might be interested in, and suited to, working as a mechanic but he has gaps in his knowledge – and is able to identify a key question he needs to try to answer before he can assess if it is a viable opportunity for him.

Now think in a similar way about your own situation.

Activity 3 Are you clear about your aspirations?

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

This activity helps you to decide how clear you are about what you want to do, using a scale of 1 to 10, and to sort out what kind of questions you might need to be asking.

1 – represents feeling very confused about what work you want to find.

10 – represents absolute certainty.

Try to choose the number which best represents how you feel at the moment and make a note in your notebook.

Now you have made this judgement, use the questions below to help you to see why you might have rated your level of clarity in the way you did. Write your answers in your notebook.

  1. I chose number ( ) because …
  2. What I know now about the kind of work I want to do is …
  3. What I would like to find out about work opportunities is …


Hopefully, you found that you had some ideas of the kind of work you would like to do, based on your work in Weeks 1 and 2. If you found yourself saying that you have no idea at all, be cautious. Is it really that you do not know? Or are you ruling yourself out of some things that might appeal to you? If you really are unsure, have a look the OU Careers Advisory Service website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] to get some more help.

Whether you are absolutely clear about what you want to do, or just have a vague idea with lots of doubts, you need to do some testing of what opportunities are available and what they might demand of you before you can start to pursue the work of your choice.

Remember, at this stage, you are not committing yourself to anything. You are just exploring the options. You can afford a bit of uncertainty. You can also afford to change your mind if your discoveries show that your initial ideas are not your best ones.

You’ve now got an idea or ideas to work on. Your next task is to refine these further.