A few days ago I had the great privilege to lecture on personal branding at one of Spain’s leading Universities. After the event – and as it is customary to do in that country – I was lucky to enjoy the late evening and more bearable sunshine sheltered under some trees in an open terrace with another professor and one of our most notable students over a drink. The graduate I am referring to has the good fortune to work at one of the country’s most famous sports TV programs. You would have expected him to rave on the thrill of mingling with some of the top sports commentators or meeting football superstars on a regular basis. Instead, we found him plagued with doubt over his career and his future.

As my colleague and I listened to him, it became clearer that he was in a bit of a pickle: unsure as to whether to remain in this current position or leave, take a sabbatical, become an entrepreneur and start his own company or just keep going in spite of the obvious (and, to us, inexplicable) unhappiness at his current predicament. His friends, family and girlfriend would support him whatever road he chose to follow. Paradoxically, to him that made things even worse: he was not getting the kind of decisive advice he felt he needed and was left puzzled and all the more confused. Truly, it sounded like a pitiful state of affairs that apparently had been going on for too long (my fellow lecturer informed me).

Intuition, an undervalued gift

The plight of this young man proved to me once more – and that is once too many – that our Western culture consistently undervalues the one thing that if properly trained could have shown him (and countless others) the way: a fantastic gift and ally we all carry inside and have been naturally endowed with called intuition. Even in the most exact of all sciences, that of mathematics, intuition has been considered as a force to be reckoned with, as the discoverer of the Enigma Code Alan Turing maintained. “Mathematical reasoning may be regarded rather schematically,” he told us, “as the exercise of a combination of two faculties, which we may call intuition and ingenuity.” (You may find other inspiring quotes on intuition here)

The truth is that the development of that faculty can be of immense benefit in this modern world where we are all surrounded with a myriad choices on an almost infinite number of issues – more pressingly of all career choices in a new environment where permanent positions are a thing of the past and we will have to exercise our best judgment to build a successful and fulfilling career and avoid the paralysing effect of doubt my young student was prey to.

What is intuition?

But, what exactly is intuition? How can we learn to be faithful to its often whispering and at times thunderous voice?

XXth century psychology genius Carl Gustav Jung brought intuition to the centerpiece of our mental and emotional make-up. He regarded it as a sure way to link with underlying energies and connections that live in our unconscious psyches and that rarely come to the surface (with the one vital exception of dreams). As a staunch defender of intuition, he argued that it should accompany and inform (and not be enemies with) our thinking and our feeling and be one of the cornerstones for the unfolding of our potentialities.

In his book Psychological Types, Jung defined intuition as “a perception of realities which are not known to the conscious, and which goes via the unconscious,” and stressed that it goes far beyond mere perception and is a creative process the intellect requires to function at maximum performance.

And so do, let us be clear about it, our careers and our lives. An educated intuition goes well beyond gut-feeling and hunches (important as they are), and propels us to pause and reflect in order to carefully and respectfully listen to that inner light we all carry within ourselves. Our culture may have dis-empowered us for too long in with its emphasis (despite Turing’s words) on cold reason and the excesses of dogmatic scientism. The fact that intuition is making a big come-back thanks to the work of Jung and many others is a reason for all those who seek to become all-rounded human beings to celebrate. That is why dream journals and introspection are becoming so popular and increasingly respected not just to treat a variety of mental illnesses but for self-development at all levels.

As it has been the case with so many of my betters, intuition has been on of my greatest allies in the tortuous path that leads to career success and I am in no doubt that it is ready to be of immense assistance to you too. As you have probably gathered by now, I urged my young student not to take any rash decisions without carefully weighing up first the pros and cons of every choice and – crucially – beginning to trust his apparently lacking, but surely, present intuitive abilities at this as at any other major crossroads in his life. And this is my advice and my challenge for you too.

 “I feel there are two people inside me – me and my intuition. If I go against her, she’ll screw me every time, and if I follow her, we get along quite nicely,” Kim Basinger once said.  The choice is yours.