Destructive Cognitive Biases in Career Development

Updated: Aug 9, 2020

Students, graduates and people who have recently entered the workforce are among the most vulnerable, especially during the pandemic. (Photo)

Our parents, society and those who teach us, work with us, train us or somehow contribute to our career development are forming cognitive biases in our mind that could be either destructive or constructive in developing our career and our mental health.

Since I got bullied, intimidated and manipulated throughout my career journey (my hair turned grey for a reason), I was thinking of providing some valid information to protect our students and graduates in their journey.

Here are a few detrimental cognitive biases and a few tips to reshape them:

1) The bigger the company, the more satisfying. I need to get into renowned corporates to have better career prospects and be happier.

Ok. Imagine you have received the offers below. Which one would you choose?

a) Start working in a globally recognised corporate with a structured training program with the mindset to increase monthly sales as much as possible and management praises those who make more money for the company. Your colleague starts acting dodgy, and your manager blames you for his/her incompetency because it's a game of survival.

b) Start your job in a small consultancy with the mindset to promote a technology which ultimately helps humankind like RPA. The company praises those who are supportive and innovative in their approach. You like to spend time with your colleagues even if you are an introvert. They simply make you happy.

I would choose b! Your mental well-being is being affected by your co-workers and superiors (research study) a lot more than the company's prestige.

A small company with the mindset to cultivate deep relationships could make you happier and more satisfied than a large hierarchical corporate with toxic relationships and unequal distribution of power.

Be grateful for having those compassionate co-workers around you who inspire you and make your day a little brighter.

2) People with fancy titles, numerous certifications and decades of experience are more capable, have higher skills and deserve to have power.

Have you met the following people in your life?

a) A so-called industry leader with 20+ years of experience on his/her resume with a lengthy name on Linkedin and a lecturer in a top university. He/she can't even give a speech based on his/her experience in front of students and need to read from slides word by word. He/she is there to simply have extra income.

b) A YouTuber who has no formal education, but he/she is more skilled at solving problems in your industry than anyone else. She is reputable because she is genuine. Youtube will pay her effort to be an outstanding contributor.

My dear friends, don't get intimidated by people's titles and certifications. It's a way to get recognised in our society but doesn't necessarily mean that the person is more capable.

Job descriptions are explained using fancy words so institutions can charge you extra in giving you the certifications required for the job, and companies can justify their work as being arduous and highly valuable for the society.

A national business leader might only know a few rich guys who pay for the company's products.

A senior project engineer might be only known for his/her attitude to intimidate subcontractors and get the job done.

An engineering intern might be the one who is doing all the technical works that a senior manager can't, and he/she implements a technology to reduce waste and increase efficiency that a principal has never done.

3) You would need a formal education to have better prospects.

Soon online academies like Udemy, Skillshare and course builders like Thinkific will replace universities. Why?

You spend a few days on an online course and you learn everything about Python programming. You learn from the masterminds around the world and you can choose your favourite mentor, unlike universities. You pay for what you want to learn and not for unnecessary subjects.

I have met great lectures who were passionate about their teaching at the university, and I would love to follow them online if they upload a course. People might not be able to afford university anymore but they would love to follow their favourite mentors.

Seasoned employers know that they need to interview you to understand the content of your character. So, don't worry too much, most companies have training programs and you can simply find courses related to your industry online to learn the necessary skills.

Formal education is overrated (I have 2 post-graduate degrees and I have learned more stuff on Udemy and Youtube than university).

4) If my tasks are boring and brain-dead that means I should look for another job, something which is more creative or complex or requires lots of analytical skills.

There are repetitive tasks in almost every job. Someone needs to get it done so the best practice would be to rotate these tasks between employees.

Thanks to RPA industry which is trying to replace humans with robots in doing brain-dead tasks, in the near future, fewer people will be underutilised or feeling dull because of doing such repetitive works.

5) I need to look for a prestigious job, a higher salary and a position of power to finally find satisfaction in my career.

We humans are not designed to find prestige very satisfying. It's a temporary joy like buying an expensive material. Studies (Link) have found that "life evaluation and emotional well-being rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of $75,000."

Our happiness and satisfaction is deeply rooted in the communities that we belong to. So once again, be grateful for having those amazing colleague around you. Appreciate your empathetic boss and know that income and prestige are not dominating your life satisfaction.

6) The last cognitive bias is related to civil engineering and it might be subjective:

Civil Engineering is a great subject of study since it's high-paid and it won't be boring because it's very complex and requires lots of analytical skills.

Try to get close to a civil engineer and he/she will eventually open up and might shed tears explaining those days at the job-site, getting bullied, hands shaking and sweating, stakeholders shouting, and contractors fighting for survival like being in a tribal war...

As a civil engineer, you might need to work long hours 6 am - 7 pm for months in million-dollar projects since you can make 10k in an hour by offering a solution or you could lose 50k in 3 days if construction halts.

You might be commuting for several hours every day from the office to job-sites only to find that a subcontractor had an accident and the client is waiting for you to get into the ring and finish you off with a knockout move.

BUT, it's also very very rewarding when you get the job done and you see the finished project. It's extremely demanding, challenging, stressful but yet rewarding.

Now think twice before choosing civil engineering or at least ask several civil engineers working for different firms.


Protect your mental health by seeking correct and reliable information and rethink your cognitive biases to avoid getting manipulated or intimidated in your career journey.

Ramin Farsad

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