5 Tips for Making Pivotal Career Decisions

Career decisions can have life-changing consequences.

Not a day goes by that we don’t make decisions. Whether we realize it or not, every action we take and every word we speak is the consequence of a decision.

But career decisions are an area in which many people struggle with indecision. This is probably because we are aware of just how consequential—in a negative or positive way—a decision about our career can be. Many people spend more time working in their careers than they even spend sleeping. Your decisions about career choices, good or bad, have the potential to impact your life in profound ways.

On the positive side, indecision can give you time to gather more facts and consider your options more critically. It would be a bad decision to make such life-changing decisions as career decisions impulsively. Informed decision-making is important.

But, it is important not to let yourself get stuck in a loop of indecision. This is especially true if you find yourself stuck in a job you don’t like simply because your indecision is preventing you from making the choices that would shift your career in a more positive direction.

“More is lost by indecision than wrong decision. Indecision is the thief of opportunity. It will steal you blind.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

5 Tips for Making Career Decisions

1.      Reflect on Your Personal Goals and Values

Pivotal career decisions are very personal and require self-reflection and clarity about who you are, what you believe in, and what your goals and aspirations are. Think bigger than just your career. Think about your life overall. What do you really want out of life? What do you want your lifestyle to look like? What are you willing to do to achieve these life goals?

When making career decisions consider how the options might take you closer to these life goals or further away. Would a particular choice require you to compromise your values? If a career choice requires you to change who you are and your life goals, are you willing to do that?  Reflecting and answering questions like these may help you gain clarity about whether a certain career path is the right one for you.

2.      Think About Alternatives

Is there really only one option to decide on? There may be more than one path to get to where you want to be in your career and life. The first opportunity might not be the best choice. Make sure that you consider all your options before making a final decision.

3.    Evaluate Your Options Logically

While it might sound like that international sales position would be an amazing opportunity that you would absolutely love, it requires nearly 75% travel. You’d be jetting off to a new global destination weekly. But you are a single parent of a 12-year-old. Is it realistic for you? Probably not. After evaluating your options you realize that while everything else about the job is perfect, your decision is to put off pursuing a job like that until your son has gone off to college.

There are realities of life that will necessarily impact your career decisions. Other examples include the education that you have (or don’t have), where you live (and whether relocation is an option), and your current skills (or lack of them). Of course, some or all of these things can be changed, but it may be a process, and while you are going through that process, your decision might be to make short-term career decisions.

4.  Trust Your Instincts

If you are unhappy in your present circumstances, you might find yourself seeking justification for walking away. Be careful of falling into the trap of watching for cosmic signals: “Maybe it’s a sign…” Yes, it could be a “sign” that it is time to move on to a new employer or a new career path altogether. But it could also be a “sign” that your decision should be to seek ways to make your current employment more fulfilling.

On the other hand, do be aware of what your “gut” is telling you. You could find yourself going over your choices meticulously, evaluating all the options, and weighing the pros and cons endlessly because you lack the confidence to make a decision. But all along, your gut instincts have been telling you which path is the best for you. Many times you will find your first gut instinct was the right one, and no amount of analysis will change that. Do trust your instincts.

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5. Don’t Allow Fear to Impact Your Decisions

If you find yourself mired in indecision, it may be because you are feeling fearful of something.

One way to overcome fear is to journal about it. Honestly write about your fears and why you are feeling that way. If this fear materializes, how will you cope? What is the possibility of this happening?

For example, you may have been offered a new job that pays lower than your current job but has much more opportunity for professional growth and advancement. You are feeling anxious about accepting the job, even though you know you would love it, because you are fearful how the cut in income might impact you and your family.

Putting your fears into words on paper will often help you to realize your fears aren’t as real as your mind wants to make them. Perhaps you could easily make some temporary cuts in your budget to allow you to accept this new job. Or maybe journaling will help you see new options such as starting a part-time side gig that will help you make up the budget deficit. On the other hand, realistically and objectively looking at your fears in this way may lead you to decide the best decision is to turn the position down for now, until your child has finished college and your budget is more manageable. Whatever the career decision, and whatever the fears, journaling about them will help.

On the other hand, sometimes fear can lead us to make decisions too impulsively. If you take too long making a pivotal career decision, you could find yourself in the situation of feeling desperate and just choosing a path out of that desperation. Journaling can help with this too.

Time To Decide!

The best career decision for you will be the one that fits who you are, meets your goals, and makes sense for your life.

Once you have considered and evaluated all the options it is time to make a decision and that take the next step and turn that decision into action.

Action is the culmination of your decision-making process and can be just as scary at times as the act of deciding. To remain motivated and moving forward, journaling about your fears and dreams can be helpful in this stage too.

But what if you find out you made the wrong choice? That is the beauty about being a decisive person. You can simply make the choice to shift gears, look for the lesson, learn from the experience, and make a new choice. The most important thing is that your decisions keep you moving in the direction of your career dreams and goals.

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