Fundamental vs. Instrumental Reasons

From the always-interesting Dan Pink, in an interview with Cal Newport:

What’s the biggest myth about the post-graduation search for a job that you would like to dispel?

That you need to have a carefully articulated plan.   Too many people make career decisions for instrumental reasons — because they think what they’re doing will lead to something else.  Not enough people make decisions for fundamental reasons — because of the value of the activity itself.

The dirty little secret is that instrumental reasons don’t work. It’s way too tumultuous out there. The people who really flourish are those who make decisions for fundamental reasons. They have to live with a certain amount of ambiguity about not knowing what’s going to happen next. But that keeps them alert to unexpected opportunities and the serendipity you talked about earlier.

2 comments on “Fundamental vs. Instrumental Reasons
  • Wow!! Thanks Ben for this nugget! The difference between Fundamental and Instrumental is applicable not only to the specific situation you mentioned, but in every aspect of our life. Come to think of it, it does apply to our efforts at dating as well, right? 😉


  • Smart as it sounds, it is a false dichotomy.

    The two are not as separate as Dan Pink makes them sound. They are intertwined. A person may start at either end and discover the other.

    In one’s first job, the only pre-requisite is an open, honest and introspective mind that probes constantly whether the “fit” was as good after the fact as it was when we were reading the advertising. A smart person looks for both short and long term gains, assuming there is _some_ value system of worth guiding that person in the first place.

    The potential for growth is the only thing that is _not_ mythical in that job hunt after graduating.

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