How effective career counseling counters negativity bias

Alan has credentials and abilities that make him nearly invincible in the work place. This is not an overstatement. If Alan wins a Nobel Prize in the next 10 years, it would not be a surprise.  

So why would Alan need career counseling? While successful in every conventional sense, Alan hates his work life. He stays because it is safe.  We discussed potential new ventures. Each one might not work out.  But, Alan’s resume is a career insurance policy. Even if he flounders at a different entity or his own organization, he’ll be able to get back on his feet very quickly.

Why won’t he leave? When he considers his potential moves, his fear center lights up. Evolution created a negativity bias in all animals.  Consider a mother deer eating delicious plants with her two lovely doe on a gorgeous sunny day.  She might get the scent of a wolf a long way away.  From that moment forward, Mommy Deer is not focused on the delicious plants, her lovely doe, or the gorgeous sunny day.  She is keenly aware of the wolf – even though it is not necessarily coming her way and is not creating an imminent threat.


Our fear center has shifted its attention from predators to economic uncertainty.  Even if the threat is remote and minimal, most of my career counseling clients pay a disproportionate amount of attention to the potential problems they could encounter.  That’s negativity bias.

My role as a career counselor is to provide rational analysis of the probability of moves.  I am not a pie in the sky career counselor who tells my clients to follow their bliss.  But I do know that I can help counter negativity bias.  I think I even have Alan convinced.