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Home » The Psychology of Career Decisions: Sharon Belden Castonguay (Transcript)

The Psychology of Career Decisions: Sharon Belden Castonguay (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Sharon Belden Castonguay’s talk titled “The Psychology of Career Decisions” at TEDxWesleyanU conference.

Adult developmental psychologist and career counselor Sharon Belden Castonguay’s talk, “The Psychology of Career Decisions,” delves into the complex interplay between personal identity and career choices, underscoring the often underappreciated psychological factors that influence professional paths. She highlights the profound impact of personal identities, such as being a runner or a parent, on our professional lives and how losing or changing these identities can have significant emotional consequences.

Castonguay discusses the historical context of career decision-making, noting how shifts from pre-industrial societies to the digital age have transformed the way individuals approach their career paths. She critiques the modern emphasis on following one’s passion, suggesting that this advice does not universally apply and overlooks the practical and financial considerations many face.

The talk also explores the role of design thinking as a method for navigating career decisions in an era dominated by rapid technological change and uncertainty about the future of work. Castonguay argues for the importance of self-awareness and the recognition of unconscious biases in making more informed and fulfilling career choices. Ultimately, she emphasizes that understanding our personal and professional identities as fluid and evolving can help us navigate the complexities of the job market and our career trajectories more effectively.

Listen to the audio version here:


Recently, I was forced to assume an alternate identity. It started with this cane. I suffered a knee injury. And while I will soon have surgery and be able to walk normally again, my orthopedist assures me that my running days are over.

Now, for those of you who only run when chased, you may be thinking, what a stroke of luck. A doctor-sanctioned excuse not to work out. But since picking up running after college, it’s become more than just a pastime for me, but part of who I am. Runner has become one of my identities, and giving up that identity has turned out to be more painful than the injury itself.

A Multifaceted Identity

Now, like everybody, I have a lot of identities. A woman, a mother, an American, a proud native of Rhode Island. I’ve had a number of professional identities in my life. Tour guide, camp counselor, school teacher, graduate student in developmental psychology, podcast host, career counselor. And it has been my career counseling practice that I’ve come to recognize how personal identities can affect and create professional identities.

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