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How to Use a Hypothesis to Make Important Career Choices

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Author: Teresa Evans, PhD | Category: Career Development | October 23, 2017

Hypotheses are traditionally used in the laboratory but their use can be translated to both business and career planning. The fundamental skill of developing and testing a hypothesis is an essential tool for choosing which path to take and for thinking through any important decision.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Ask the right question.

The right question is one that is testable. In life, we often set goals that cannot be quantified. We cannot determine if we have moved closer to or achieved the goal. Think about using SMART Goals, which could be defined as a hypothesis that we plan to test.

If you are faced with a big question in life, such as, “What am I going to do in my career next year?”, you might think of your question as a hypothesis and state it something like: “I hypothesize that I will be able to start my own business in the next 12 months and make enough money to pay my bills.”

Once you have your hypothesis, you need to ask yourself, “What is the null hypothesis?” The null hypothesis is a statement of no effect or no difference. In other words, it is a statement that the evidence is not strong enough for the hypothesis to be proven. For example, if hypotheses is null then any of the conditions may be true: a) you may not be able to start a business at all or b) not be able to start a business that can pay the bills or c) you may not be able to do it in 12 months. To determine which is true we must design a method to test the hypothesis. The idea is to test the hypothesis before we commit to the year long journey of building a business.

2. List your aims (i.e. experiments) to test the hypothesis.

To continue on with the above example below are a few possible aims.

The aims are as follows:

1. Do a Market Analysis to determine if your business will have customers.

2. Find others who have done a similar thing before and ask them how they did it (i.e. Informational Interview)

3. Hire a coach to guide you through the process of ensuring you are a good fit for this career path.

3. Collect Data through Investigation.

a. Execute your aims and take note of all the data you collect. This will help you to make a clear and validated decision.

b. Your aims should result in data that helps you to investigate the Pros and Cons of your career choice.

4. Make a determination

Lastly, we must look at all the data we have collected, remaining as unbiased as possible, and decide if the hypothesis is true or not. We can often do this before we actually start down the path of attaining our goals and making career choices. Also, as in science, you might find that you need to repeat the experiment a few times before you have a conclusive amount of data. Ultimately, this method will help you to make more informed decisions in your career

Read more on my blog or by visiting my website.

Teresa Evans, PhDTeresa Evans, PhD

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