I haven’t always been a public transit commuter; for years I drove my 25-35 minute highway commute (rain or shine, bright or dark). But a recent move has meant that I’m a light rail commuter now, and today that had me thinking about how much factors like your commute matter, but how hard they are to assess in the standard career consultation process.
Career Consultation is focused on helping people by increasing knowledge of the world of work, increasing self-insight, and using these sources of information to facilitate the career decision process. But, beyond these topics, there remains a whole category of factors that can drastically affect the quality of your career life.
Career Consultation is focused on helping people by increasing knowledge of the world of work, increasing self-insight, and facilitating the career decision process using both of these sources of information. But, beyond these topics, there remains a whole category of factors that can drastically affect the quality of your career life.
For instance, the career consultation process makes it clear that a civil engineer is going to be responsible for tasks that fall into specific interest categories (Realistic, Investigative, and Conventional), appeal to the certain personality traits (Integrity, Dependability, Attention to Detail) and generally support certain values (Independence and Recognition). We can usually estimate a general salary range (around 82k yearly) and even whether or not job prospects are looking good (about average). But because we’re talking about the career path in general and not a specific position, we can’t know the specific benefits that would be included, we don’t know how well you’ll fit with your specific supervisor, and we can’t know much about the commute.
Our commute is an interesting thing. Our job doesn’t count it as work time, but it doesn’t count as time at home either. To us, the work day feels like it “begins” the moment you step from your door. That’s why the commute matters, and the supervisor matters, and the benefits matter, but how do we navigate issues like these from the perspective of career consultation?
Our commute is an interesting thing. Our job doesn’t count it as work time, but it doesn’t count as time at home either. To us, the work day feels like it “begins” the moment you step from your door.
Let’s work through an example that considers the commute, though you could use a similar process for other position-specific factors as well. Let’s pretend that you are considering two different positions and one differentiating factor for each is the commute. How might we make a sensible comparison? Consider the following steps:
- Generate options. It’s a common error to consider only the options that we have used in the past. For a commute, it can be easy to consider only the type of commute that we had in the past. If we drive, we look at driving times, but there are often other possibilities. Are there public transit or carpooling options? Remember, you are not trying to pick an answer at this stage, you are trying to generate options.
- Generate some data. This is the step where you estimate the time required for each commute option (at the time of day that you’ll be traveling), decide on the amount of stress that each option will create, and create a list of what other activity might go along with that option (perhaps an audiobook if you drive, or reading if you are taking public transit).
- Write it down. Some information is automatically numeric (like length of commute), but other factors (like stress level) and harder to put into words. Challenge yourself to assemble a written list of the pros and cons for each option. The point of the list isn’t to make this feel like homework, the point is that when you write it down, you can stop having to work so hard remember all those factors at once.
- Start with your values. Next add one other item to your list; for each option, consider how it interacts with your current life goals/values. What’s important to you? You might be motivated by any number of things: becoming an expert, taking care of others, earning money, taking care of your family, etc. How does your commute affect your ability to pursue this value?
- Make the call. With any decision, it can be difficult if we wait to feel 100% before taking action. As always, if you have a clear preference, or are 80% sold on one of your options, you’ve made your decision. If this isn’t clear yet, one final step can be to call up someone you trust for advice. Run them through your thinking and incorporate their reflections into your decision.
Like all career related decisions, this is a tough situation, but the process above can get you started.