How to make better career decisions (2023)


Making decisions is hard — especially when you're trying to make big career decisions. This five-step framework can help you focus on what matters most.

  1. What are your feelings telling you? Think about the type of work you are doing or planning to do. Brainstorm and jot down ideas for different careers you are considering. What feelings arise?
  2. What is important to you? Get a psychological evaluation or do an exercise that will help you identify your values. When you understand your values, you can make decisions that directly relate to the things that are important to you.
  3. What is important to other people? Just as it is important to be clear about what is important to you, it is also important to consider how your decision will affect your loved ones. Ask them about their own thoughts, opinions, and feelings.
  4. What is the reality of the situation? Be objective and consider the realities surrounding your options, not your assumptions. Otherwise, you might end up with false expectations or feel disappointed in your choices.
  5. How do I put the pieces together? After answering these four questions, review all of the information you just discovered. You must come to your final decision. If you don't repeat the previous steps.

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Choosing your college major, choosing the perfect career path, trying to decide whether to quit your job and move to a new one — decisions like these can seem daunting. We all spend a lot of time at work, and we all want (and deserve) to love what we do. But the path to this job is not always clear.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to find what's right for you. Use this five-step framework to narrow down your options and focus on what matters most.

1. What are your feelings telling you?

If you want to find a fulfilling career, it must match yoursValues. Your feeling can help you to recognize this, even if you have not consciously named these values.

Think of it this way: when faced with an important decision, what is the first thing that goes through your mind and body? Before logic kicks in, you will usually experience strong emotions. Be sure to. Your emotions are connected to who you are and can provide important information about your identity and the values ​​that drive your actions, but which are sometimes outside of your awareness.

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So think about the type of work you are doing now or the type of work you want to do. Brainstorm and jot down ideas for different careers you are considering. What feelings arise? If looking at the options on your list makes you feel anger, sadness, or even fear and apprehension, consider these warning signs. On the other hand, if you're feeling happy or excited, that's an indicator that what you're considering might be a good decision.

If you can't think of anything that evokes positive emotions, go back to the drawing board. Look at different careers until you find something that resonates with your emotions.

2. What is important to you?

Once you've connected to your emotions, you're ready for the next step: consciously identifying your values.

What are values? You are simply defined as what really matters to you, or your "why".“That is, they can help you define why a particular decision makes more sense to you than another.

When you understand your "why," you can make decisions that directly align with the things you care about—decisions that will keep you happy in the long run.

For example, let's say you are trying to decide between two jobs that have been offered to you. One is a high-paying corporate job and the other is a non-profit job with a reasonable but lower salary. Taking the time to identify your values ​​and realizing that helping others is one of them, but not making money high on your list, will make your decision to work at the nonprofit a little easier.

There are several ways to find out what your values ​​are. One of the best is through formal psychological assessments. my favorite is thatEnneagram personality testbecause the results describe your personality traits and motivations in the context of ideal circumstanceseStressful situations that can give you a more holistic view of who you are. But there are also some other reliable resources:DISC,LIFO survey,Big Five Personality Test,16 personality factors test, zHogans Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory (MVPI). All of these tests are backed by science and extensive research.

If you don't want to take a formal exam, there are a few other options.The Passion Testby Janet and Chris Atwood asks a series of questions and lets you rank your interests from most important to least important. Examples of these questions include, "What subject could I read 500 books on or watch countless videos on without getting bored?" and "If I had complete financial abundance to do anything, how would I spend my time?" It may seem simple, but when you remember your interests directly and honestly, you can identify values ​​that previously seemed elusive.

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3. What is important to other people?

None of us exist in a vacuum. Just as it's important to clarify what's important to you, it's also important to consider how your decision will affect your loved ones - because it likely will.

Whether it's a partner, family member, or friend, ask people who will be affected by your decisions about their own thoughts, opinions, and feelings. This is especially important when making a career decision. Often this type of choice has a strong impact on your finances and life situation, as well as the time you can devote to specific relationships.

For example, let's say you're offered a job that you look forward to, that aligns with your values ​​and that requires a two-hour commute to work each day. You may be ok with this personally, but you need to realize that you will be spending this time with your significant other, family, or friends. So your decision affects not only you, but also those who are important to you.

That doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't take the job. However, it could mean that you should take the time to negotiate the offer to better align it with your values ​​and those of those around you. In this case, you can ask the hiring manager for a flexible working arrangement where you only come into the office three days a week to limit your daily commute.

4. What is the reality of the situation?

When you ask yourself this question, you want to make sure you're making your decisions for the right reasons. You want to make sure that the decision you are going to make is based on correct data and not on a misreading of your situation. Otherwise, you might end up with false expectations or be disappointed with your choice.

To answer this question, you must be objective and consider the realities of your options, not your assumptions.

For example, let's say you're thinking about changing jobs because you think your co-workers aren't friendly. Before you make the big decision to leave your company, ask, "Do I have information to support my argument, or am I making a guess?" Your co-workers may seem hostile, but they're really just shy. Maybe they're too focused on work to socialize. Or maybe you're right, and they really are hostile. You won't be sure unless you step back and look at the situation objectively.

Write a description of experiences you had that support your argument, but don't add interpretations. Just describe what happened. Taking the time to stop and describe gives you a chance to evaluate things more clearly — and you can apply this tactic to any type of situation.

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If you're still not sure if you've reached the right conclusion, check your conclusions with someone you trust, e.g. B. a friend or advisor.

5. How do I assemble the parts?

If you have answered these four questions, you have laid the foundation for an optimal decision. But there is one last step left: putting all the pieces together.

How do you do it?

Start by reviewing all the information you just discovered. For example, when trying to decide on a career path, think about the emotions you felt as you considered your possible job options. Ask yourself, "How do I feel and why do I feel this way?"

Then check your values. Do the work decisions that motivate you align with these values? What about the values ​​of your loved ones? That should help narrow down your list.

Finally, allow yourself a reality check. Are there factors that guide your decision based on assumptions rather than information?

It will take time, but by giving each of these points your full attention, you should make a rational and appropriate decision about which career path is best for you, regardless of your current situation. Not only that, but you also know on a deeper level that the decision you are making is completely aligned with your values, your emotions, yourself and the people you love. And when it comes to an important decision like finding the perfect career, that's how it should be.

Editor's Note: This structure was adapted frombetter choiceby Timothy Yen.

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