Make Choices

Making an Informed Career Decision

There is no one way to make a decision. Think about how you have made small and large decisions in the past and apply these strategies to your current career choices.  If making the decision feels difficult you may want to consider whether you have done enough self-discovery or career research.  Revisit the 'pulling it all together' section to remember your skills, interests, values and more.  Talking to family, friends or a career counsellor can also assist with decision making.

Consider the following strategies as well as the resources below:

A Cognitive Approach

1. Identify the Decision to be Made

Are you choosing a career? A job? A college major? At times we can become overwhelmed by trying to find a solution for every problem we are currently facing. Focusing on one area at a time will be less stressful, and often one decision made helps to clarify our options in other matters.

2. Gather Information & Identify Possible Alternatives

You began by assembling information about yourself such as your interests, skills, values and personality type. There are additional personal factors that need to be considered in making a career decision as well. These include issues such as your preferred lifestyle, your willingness or ability to pursue further education or training, or balancing your current life roles. Take some time now to think about what these other factors might be in your situation.

In addition to a thorough self-assessment, career decision-making requires an adequate knowledge of the world of work in general and the occupational fields you are considering specifically

It is important not to come to a conclusion too quickly, thus eliminating excellent alternatives or closing your mind to an effective "Plan B" approach, should your first choice not be available to you. Brainstorm, be creative and list all the possibilities you can think of.

3. Investigate and Evaluate Alternatives

List pros, cons, and possible implications for each alternative. Evaluate each possible career in light of what you have learned about yourself. You may want to create a grid to help visualize your options and to quantify the process. In this example, you would put a checkmark in the box that indicates the relative match between that career and the various factors, with one being the lowest and five the highest or closest possible match.

Career _______________________

Factors 1 2 3 4 5
Work Style          
Work Values          
Personal Values          
Employability Skill Strengths          
Technical Skills          
Grand Total          

4. Decide Among the Alternatives

Prioritize your alternatives, make a tentative choice and a backup plan. Be aware of your own tendencies when it comes to making important decisions. Do you tend to procrastinate, even after you have enough facts to make an informed choice? Do you experience a lot of second-guessing, causing you to be less than committed to your choice of action? You need to find a comfortable balance between taking this decision seriously and realizing that no career path is irreversible or inflexible.

5. Implement a Plan of Action

It is not enough simply to state what you plan to be when you grow up. How will you make this happen? What training will you get and where? How will you finance this? What opportunities will you pursue to gain experience in your field of choice or to strengthen the skills you will need?

A well-built action plan includes concrete steps for accomplishing each phase in your career development as well as a time line to keep you on track. The Skills Development Action Plan in Discovering Yourself will give you some ideas on how to create a workable Action Plan.

6. Review Decision Periodically

Choosing a career is not a once-and-for-always decision; you will change and grow, and so will your occupation. From time to time, you will want to reconsider your interests, skills and values, and your occupation's rewards and requirements. Evaluate what fits, what doesn't fit, and how you can improve the fit.

This process can help you make each new decision as you move along with your career.

An Intuitive Approach

People arrive at decisions in different ways. Some take a cognitive approach while others rely on their intuitive sense. This approach is for those who prefer to visualize their future.

Once you have thought about yourself and about the different types of work, the time has come for you to set some career objectives. If you knew you could not fail, what are the first three jobs that come to mind?

Are you surprised at your answer? Or does this type of work confirm what you have been thinking? This is the time to make a commitment. In order to begin the next phase, you need to have a sense of direction and some goals to work toward.

Organize your ideas into the following 3 groups. By having longer-term goals, you will be able to set your course to becoming successful in your career. Then by working backward to the present, you will be able to take a step at a time toward your ultimate goal.

  • Work I would like to be doing in 5 years
  • Work I would like to be doing in 2-5 years
  • Work I would like to be doing now

How much of yourself do you want to commit to your work? Will you be able to see this work as part of the big picture, the dreams you have, your way of contributing to the world? Receiving pay from an employer means completing the tasks required by the position. Will the joy you experience be greater than the burdens?

The secret of an athlete's success can be yours too. Create a mental model, e.g., a high jumper will visualize running and sailing over the bar in the competition. Use your imagination to create what you want in life. Close your eyes and visualize yourself doing the work you have written in the "now" section above.

Are you inside or outside? Is there anyone with you? What tools or equipment are you using? What are you saying, writing, or thinking? What deadline are you working towards? To be successful in visualizing your work, you need to have a strong desire for the goal to be achieved, a belief that it is possible to attain, and a willingness to live with the outcome.

Complete your visualization with an affirmation (in the present tense of the verb as though it already exists). "I am ...." You can phrase it as a role, e.g., a customer support representative, or as an activity, e.g., supervising volunteers. Say the affirmation so often that the thought becomes very comfortable and exciting for you. Finding this type of work is so much easier when you can describe it to others.

Guided Imagery Exercise

1) Allow for a quiet, calm place to do the exercise. Relax.

2) Use the following script to imagine a day in your future job.

Setting: It is 4 years from now. You are waking up in the morning and getting ready for work. You get up, get dressed,and eat breakfast. Who is there? You leave and go to work, or you may stay and work at home.

Work: If you leave the house, do you go by car? What kind is it? Or do you use another kind of transportation? You are now at work, where are you? An office? A school? Outside? Are you supervising others? Who are they? Who is your boss?

Noon: It is time for lunch. What do you do for lunch? Go out or have you brought a lunch?

Work: Do you work alone? If not, what are your fellow workers like? Are they men? Are they women? Are they intense? Are they relaxed? Do you like being with them?

Home: It is time to go home. You are now home. What is your home llike? When you open the door, who is there? After eating, you have some time in the evening. What do you do? Is it time for you, time for work, time for others?  It is now time to go to bed. You will be going to work in the morning. Do you look forward to it?

You are now done your imagery. Reflect upon what you have learned about yourself and the life you desire. Put it together with everything you've discovered about yourself in this self-assessment section and it may help you as you move forward making choices.

Make Choices