Every so often, the daily routine of your working life is interrupted by the need to make a major decision. Maybe you’ve been offered a position in a new industry, or perhaps you’re considering quitting your regular job for a more flexible life as a gig worker. These situations can be paralyzing because you know your choice will have lasting repercussions. After all, your career often defines other important aspects of your life, determining whether you can start a family, move across the world, or devote more time to your hobbies.
Even when the stakes are high, you can make smart decisions if you take the right approach. Here are five decision-making tips to keep in mind the next time you find yourself at a crossroads in your career.
Put The Decision in the Clearest Possible Terms
Before you can analyze a dilemma, you have to understand the basic premise. When it comes to decision-making, this means the first step is to lay out exactly what your options are. You don’t want to waste time stressing about poorly defined possibilities. A clear, precise summation of the situation will allow you to keep mental clutter from bogging down your mind.
Create a firm list of your options and write down the basic details of each one. Then, determine the deadline for making a final decision. Pin this overview somewhere you can easily see it, and refer back to it as you weigh your options.
Write Out Your Priorities
Once you know exactly what the options are, spend some time analyzing your needs and expectations. Career decisions should be oriented towards helping you become the person – not just the worker – that you want to be.Form
Write out a basic list of your main priorities at this moment in your life. Some people, sick of monotonous tasks, are eager to work in a field they’re truly passionate about. Others, tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck, are determined to boost their income. Get these types of objectives down on paper, then rank them by importance. This will give you a better sense of what really matters in the decision-making process.
Do Plenty of Research
With the general parameters of the decision set, it’s time to dig a bit deeper and learn as much as you can about the options on the table. Use your list of priorities as a guide for your research. If you’re hoping to spend more time with your kids, check whether a potential option would give you a more flexible schedule. If you’re eager for a raise, look into the expected earnings associated with each possibility. This information shouldn’t be too hard to find, and it will make your decision a whole lot easier.
Research might be time-consuming, but it’s almost always worth the effort. When you consider the potential impact of a career-related decision, it becomes obvious that a few hours investigating on Google is time well spent.
Listen To Your Gut
While research is certainly important, instincts still play an important role in the decision-making process. You might feel a nagging sense that the data-supported option isn’t actually what’s best for your career. Once you’ve identified this feeling, try to understand why it developed. There could be some genuine reason why this option isn’t the best, in which case you should consider changing your mind. Alternatively, your age-old anxieties might be cropping up, keeping you from taking a bold action that you know would benefit your career.
Remember that your gut isn’t particularly good at making decisions about novel subjects. Your instincts might tell you not to take a certain high-paying job just because they can’t process the impact of a future increase in earnings. Ultimately, your instincts and intellect should work together in making the decision. Give your gut a hearing, but don’t let your unconscious drives determine your entire path.
Act With Firmness and Be Ready to Adapt
Once you’ve analyzed the decision and made your choice, act decisively and with purpose. Making changes is rarely easy, but that’s not an excuse for remaining stuck in an unfulfilling position. Quit that job, start that company, or sign up for that course as soon as you’ve decided it’s in your best interests. The decision-making process is over, and now it’s time to act.
After making your decision and taking decisive steps, you’ll likely find that things aren’t going according to plan – and that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for having made the “wrong choice.” If you passed through all the decision-making steps outlined above, then you have nothing to regret. The future is impossible to predict, and challenges always arise. The key is to adapt to your new reality by making more good decisions in the future – a strategy that can only bring you closer to where you want to be.
About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.