Sometimes having a number of career options to consider can feel overwhelming. So how do I know which one is best? And what if I choose the wrong one in the end? Often we are conflicted because logic – or so-called ‘common sense’ – is leading us one way, but we may be drawn to another seemingly not-so-sensible direction because it ignites our passion. So how can we be sure we are making the right decision? Well, the simple answer is that you can’t be sure, so let’s put that one to bed straight away! There are so many unknowns ahead, even for someone who is very certain about their career direction, so searching for surety with career direction is a bit like looking for the holy grail! But in my experience of working with many people grappling with conflicting career choices, there are steps you can take to help you reach a decision that you are comfortable with and that ‘feels right’ at the time.
Here is a very simple strategy that I have found helps many people faced with this dilemma. Take a step back out of the detail of weighing up all the pros and cons of the different options and instead look ahead into the future ….
1. Visualise where you would like to be, or where you see yourself, in 3 or 5 years time. Very often, the person I am working with nearly always has some type of vision in their mind of what that is. It may be seeing themselves in a particular job, doing a particular type of work, or at a particular stage of their career, or retired or working for themselves. Or it may be non job-related such as mortgage paid off, finished my degree, travelling overseas, starting a family, kid-free. Whatever that vision is, it’s a good place to start as the steps between now and then are the key to achieving that goal or goals that they have articulated and this helps to put the possible choices into perspective.
2. List any significant events that are very likely to happen in the timeframe. These are things that you are fairly certain will happen and that will impact on achieving your end goal in some way. For instance, kids starting school may mean no more childcare fees which might free up funds for further study, or may reduce pressure to maintain a certain level of income and so allow for a career change. These events will often influence the feasibility or timing of pursuing a particular option in the timeframe.
3. Work through the career options, plotting the steps and key activities to achieve each along the timeframe. By now you will probably be getting a feeling for which option or options are looking feasible and by when. What’s also important is that whilst one that you are wedded to may not seem feasible in the timeframe, you may be able to put steps in place to work towards it at a later date.
If you have access to a whiteboard or large sheet of butcher’s paper, sketch this information out placing where you are now on the left-hand side with today’s date, the results of Step 1 on the right hand side, and mark the years across the bottom so that you can visualise it as a timeline. Then plot the significant events along the timeline, and finally the steps or activities to achieve the options as well. This will now become quite a powerful visual image for you! When you’re finished, it’s a good idea to take a photo so you have it to refer to and add to or modify as time goes by.
A big benefit of this activity is feeling a sense of control over your destiny – because you can see the big picture it is much easier to make choices about the career options you are considering because you are putting it all into perspective. This generally provides a sense of relief as you now have a sort of roadmap for considering what’s feasible and deciding which of your options to pursue and when.
Of course, taking the time to become more aware of your strengths, values and drivers will also help you to decide which option is best for you. Remember, if you would like help with clarifying your career direction, please contact me on 0417 613 299 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would love to help you!