Day 20: Taking Control of Your Career

By Feb.05, 2017

Do you believe that your future success and happiness is completely within your own control? Some people do.

Or do you believe that your future success and happiness is completely down to fate, luck, chance, god, serendipity or other people’s actions? Some people do.

In reality, whichever of those is right (and we could have a long philosophical debate about this) a pragmatic approach might be to suppose that the truth lies somewhere in between. There are probably things about your situation you can’t control and there are certainly things you can. Feeling that you have control, autonomy and agency over your own life can help to boost your self-esteem when things are going well BUT the flipside of the coin is that, when things go badly you may overly blame yourself. Similarly, if you believe nothing is within your control then when things don’t go your way you can easily blame someone or something else BUT this belief can stop you from taking action to make things happen!

You can certainly increase your chances of success by going out to find opportunities… or at least meeting them halfway. Make a plan, be proactive and looking out for chances to learn things and meet people. Job offers can spring from the most unexpected sources!

Mind control

You may have heard the saying ‘Grant me the serenity to courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference’? This definitely applies to career planning and job seeking. Of course there will always be things we can’t personally control (the global economy and its impact on UK graduate recruitment, for example) but there are things we can. Perhaps the most important thing that you can take control of is your own response to events and your attitude *

In his latest book ‘Happy: how more or less everything is absolutely fine’ Derren Brown suggests that there are just TWO THINGS we can control. One is our own thoughts and the other is our own actions. If we accept this truth and stop getting frustrated when we can’t change other things and other people then we might be happier! It’s certainly worth a try?

Hold on tight and keep on going.


This may help to give you some perspective and help you to identify actions you can take:-

  • Think about your own situation now, in the context of finding a job you would like.
  • Write a list of all the things that you currently feel that you can control.
  • Next write down a list of all the things you currently feel that you cannot control.
  • Think about any on this second list that you could take control of, influence or at least mitigate.
  • Write down some actions (however small) you can take which are in your control.
  • ACT!
  • Use this activity sheet and example to help you.

*If you are finding it extremely hard to cope or you are suffering mental health issues then it is not always so easy to take control of your mind. You may find it beneficial to seek professional help from your GP or a trained professional such as a counsellor. Techniques such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy may help.

Further information

Brown, D. (2016) Happy: Why more or less everything is absolutely fine. Bantam Press

Read this explanation of ‘circle of concern and circle of influence’

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