How to Make Career Decisions on Your Own Terms
Jennifer Gaudette, one of our Career Coaches in Residence, shares her insights on how to make a career decision that's right for you.
The Career Coaches in Residence program offers remote career and job search help for younger adults (18 to 29) from Feb 1, 2021 to Apr 9, 2021. Book a free appointment today.
Career decisions can be challenging. The pressure to “make the right choice” or “set yourself in the right direction” can be immense, especially if you have parents, spouses, friends or mentors “strongly” advising on the matter. These influences can sometimes drown out your own voice that does know, on some level, what to do. Having a personal system for making career-related decisions can help you figure out your own voice amidst the range of opinions.
Career decisions can vary, from selecting an education program, accepting or declining a job offer or making a complete career pivot. For some, it may not feel like you have a choice or perhaps you have no idea what you want, and it’s tempting to take the first available option. It is important to remember that not making a choice is still deciding not to decide.
There is an increase in the number of jobs a person will have in a lifetime. This also increases the number of career-related decision points. The upside is, that you no longer have to decide what you’re going to do with the rest of your life, just the next chapter.
Thought exercise: Reflect back on past career decisions and write down the main reason for choosing what you chose.
If we are going to make more and more career choices, then it is important to improve career decision-making skills and self-awareness. This starts with defining personal factors or what is most important today and then updating it at different stages of life.
Personal criteria may include:
- Your top 3-5 values (e.g. fitness, family)
- The opportunity to use your strengths (e.g. connecting, calculating)
- Practical needs, wants, interests (e.g. salary or pay rate, working with a team).
After you have looked at each career option, you can then start your research. You can do this by conducting informational interviews, reading online reviews and consulting with individuals or sources. All of this information is important. Making decisions based only on facts or on a gut feeling isn’t recommended because it does not give you the full picture.
Relying on a gut feeling leaves you open to acting on your own biases or that of others that you may not perceive. An example of this is confirmation bias, or the tendency to look for information that supports what you already know and ignoring the rest. As humans, our brains form assumptions about what it’s like to work in a specific field or company and this rarely reflects reality.
Once you know what is important to you, what your gut is saying and more about the reality of your options, you can start to see the combined results of all factors. This offers a clearer view of a decision made on your own terms.
Looking to read more about making career decisions that are best for you? Check out our books on Career Development.
For more resources, visit our Job & Career Help page.
The Career Coaches in Residence program is generously supported by RBC Foundation, and the Friends of the Toronto Public Library, South Chapter.