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Optimizing Your Career Decisions

You will probably be devoting a significant portion of your life to your career. So, chances are that you hope to do what you love.

However, discovering the right path toward your dream career isn’t always easy—there are many challenging choices to make along the way, each with many possibilities: Do I accept this job offer? Do I quit this job? How does this job match my long-term career goal? Your answers to these questions can profoundly impact your life.
With so much at stake, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by indecision, which is totally normal. To overcome this, remember that you are in control of your career. View every decision you have to make as an opportunity to shape your future and become the person you’re meant to be.

Beyond that, you can approach decisions about your career through a structured thought process, which can provide you with greater clarity and confidence. Here’s what that can look like (the scenario being about pinpointing which career to pursue):

Three simple steps to form a career decision

  1. Self-assess

    Before considering which path to take, take a step back and reflect on yourself. What are you passionate about? What do you enjoy doing? What are your strengths? What matters to you in life? Answering questions like these can help you clarify the type of work that you are naturally drawn to and aligns with your personal values.
    You can determine your interests and skills by taking a career assessment or seeking guidance from a career counsellor. Additionally, you can gain insight by reflecting on your experiences like what you enjoy or excel at academically or professionally.

    Without making time for reflection, you may end up dissatisfied and regret your choice. You may not feel fulfilled in the long run. So, avoid rushing into decisions and picking careers solely for the prestige (like the salary) or to meet social expectations if it means sacrificing what truly matters to you.

  2. Research

    Now, with a clearer understanding of yourself, look into the career paths that match what you noted in the self-assessment. Find information on qualifications, salary ranges, and advancement opportunities. If you’re investigating companies, you might want to check their culture.

    Also, finding support can be incredibly valuable in making informed decisions. Connect with professionals in the field or industry for advice and insider knowledge. They could also provide networking opportunities, job leads, or other resources that help you find the career you want.

    All these approaches can expose you to a wide range of opportunities that you may not have considered, giving you a better idea of possible roles, responsibilities, and requirements such as whether you need additional education or training. Ideally, you get to identify a job that you like and is in high demand.

  3. Evaluate

    Critically examine your research findings by doing a reality check for every career path you are considering. Ask yourself questions like:

    – Do the job responsibilities appeal to me?
    – How does this field fit into my short- and long-term goals?
    – Is the level of compensation what I want?
    – Is there potential for advancement in this field?
    – How is the work environment and will it suit my personality and work style?

Another approach is to list the pros and cons for each option and weigh the potential outcomes. Avoid biases, assumptions, and emotional influences where you can to keep your choice generally rational and fact-based.
Through these strategies, you can clarify your thoughts and organize your priorities in a structured way, keeping your values and goals in sight. Ultimately, this helps you narrow down your options, guiding you toward a finalized career decision.

What comes after you have decided?

Now that you’ve identified your career path, the next step is to identify the milestones you need to achieve to get there. Having them clearly defined can keep you focused, motivated, and on track toward that overarching objective.

A good strategy is to create goals that are SMART:
Specific: describe clearly and exactly what you want to achieve
Measurable: include metrics to track your progress
Achievable: be realistic so you can be motivated to persevere
Relevant: connect to your overall career goals
Time-bound: specify a timeline to accomplish your aims

Once you have defined those goals, act on them. This may include updating your resume, networking with professionals in your desired field, applying for jobs or internships, or pursuing additional education.

Remember, as career paths and job markets do evolve, making better career decisions is an ongoing process: it requires continuous effort, self-reflection, and an open mind. You may need to adapt and acquire new skills to succeed. Ultimately, by staying committed to what you aim to achieve, you can confidently navigate toward a fulfilling and successful career.

“What Are Smart Goals? A Guide to Using Smart Goals – 2023.” MasterClass, August 4, 2021.