How to Deal with Daunting Career Decisions

November 04, 2015 by Meredith Brandt

Decision making is tough. Daily we face mundane decisions like Should I go to see a movie tonight? or Which cereal should I buy? But often the questions we face are much more difficult like Should I make this career move? When it comes to your career, making big choices can be incredibly overwhelming.

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Career decisions are particularly daunting because of the many challenges that come with the process. Some people choose a career option to avoid regret; others make choices simply to avoid deviating from the status quo. Many end up falling into traps like decision paralysis, a condition in which one is so overwhelmed with the complexities of a decision that he or she chooses to do nothing and instead lets his or her options simply pass by.

A recent article from Help Scout claims that mindfulness is the key to being a successful decision-maker, explaining, “Mindfulness helps us to be self-aware, thoughtful, and mentally present when we make decisions. If a decision requires a brief time to pause and think, then that is time well spent,” the article says. Mindfulness and strategies for decision making may take on different forms depending on the type of person the decision-maker is.

For those who are logically-minded and like following a structured path, a decision making model might is generally a useful tool. The Career Key suggests the “ACIP model” for decision making: recognizing your Alternatives, understanding each choice’s Consequences, learning as much Information as possible about your options, and making a detailed Plan for how to carry out your decision.

For those who like to reason, it may be helpful to clearly layout the positive and negative costs (monetary and not) of their choices. Use rational assessment and self-questioning to determine what you want from your choice versus what your choice may actually provide. It’s important to consider factors like how your decision may affect your relationships within and outside of work.

For those who like to talk things out with other people, seize every opportunity you can get. As long as you do not become inundated with too many people’s opinions, getting outside help can be a crucial resource. Talk to your partners, family, friends, colleagues, and mentors to see what they think. Go in with an open mind, hear what they have to say, and let them know what you’re thinking. Never make a big career decision solely based off of what someone else wants for you, but letting others, especially those who might be impacted by the decision, tell you how they feel will positively impact the deciding process.

The psychology behind how and why we make decisions is an ever-changing and widely-studied topic. One of the takeaways from such psychological studies is that we need to understand that biases and preference play a large role in the decisions we make. In addition to that takeaway, the research says that day to day choices affect our decision making processes. We are overloaded with choices each day, and in order to be successfully ready to tackle the big decisions, we must be able to condition ourselves to think calmly, consciously, and coherently with the small ones.

The decision making process is a tricky one. Be sure to handle it with the right mindset and the proper techniques.

Meredith Brandt

Meredith Brandt

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