Katie has a steady job, waiting for her promotion to the next level, a position that she is yearning for. Not sure how long it will take, she is contemplating travelling overseas to broaden her work experience, and enjoy the time that travelling brings. Katie will need to make a decision about her next step.
Sam is thinking of studying next year. He has many years of work experience, but realises that he can benefit from attaining qualifications. Working full time and spending time with his family are important. He is concerned how he can balance the commitment of studying. Sam will need to decide if he will enrol into the course of study.
Individuals at a point in their career when they are choosing between 2 or more options are faced with making a career decision. For some, making a career decision can be quick, as a new prospect is exciting! Others may be ambivalent as they face discomfort, fears and challenges of the unknown. Applying a decision making process will provide a framework to help analyse relevant information to ensure that decisions are well thought out, and can be made without putting it off.
Let’s look at steps to making a career decision. The Creative Education Foundation has devised a 3 step model problem solving model to get a creative response.
1. Explore the challenge – create a vision, and define the goal
Create the vision of your professional and personal life. What image comes to mind? How do you feel?
Once you move from a state of ‘vision,’ you can put in place your goal – your reality of what you want to achieve. Apply the SMART formula to define your goal. It means that your goal is:
- Specific– your goal must be specifically defined
- Measurable – measurable goals are quantifiable (e.g., numbers, dollars, percentages)
- Attainable – within your reach, but is also able to stretch you
- Relevant – set goals in areas that are important to you in terms of your job or personal life.
- Time framed – your goal is time framed so you have an end date by when complete your tasks and goal.
2. Fact finding – gather and review data
Assess and review all the data that is relevant to the situation. Be open minded rather than hold pre-conceived ideas. Sometimes, these can be strong as we internalise the ideas we are mentally, physically and emotionally attached to. They stand in the way of making accurate decisions.
Take into account the context; personal and professional circumstances, and the varied influences of the decision. Regard the: who, what, when, where and why of the decision. Brainstorm ideas and information to broaden your perspective. As you gather information, you may want to seek the advice of trusted family and friends. They can provide some important ideas and insight for you to consider.
Edward De Bono encourages analytical thinking and suggests that the information be categorised as Plus, Minus and Interesting elements of the situation, and calls this the PMI model.
Your career decision goes beyond a cognitive rational process that only deals with ‘black’ and ‘white’ issues. There is much ‘grey’ between these positions to consider the feelings and intricacies of the situation. Your decision can not be based on fear, as it can produce a ‘limited’ or irrational decision to keep you ‘safe’ in your world without personal and professional growth. This can produce an outcome that you can regret in the longer term.
When you make your career decision, ensure it is at your optimal time of day when you are in a positive state of mind, alert and objective. Avoid making a career decision when you are feeling discouraged, or faced with bigger issues to manage, such as family pressures, illness or retrenchment.
As you make a career decision, recognise that it is not a linear process. Rather, you may work through each step simultaneously, or complete one or more steps at a later date. Base your decisions on your thoughts and analysis in the context of the short and long term, and the effect it may have on others. Take into account your feelings and intuition. These are a powerful guide that will produce an additional dimension for you. Combined cognitive analysis with creativity will produce a decision that will ‘feel’ right.
3. Acceptance finding – plan for action, take action
This is the time to start doing! All the thinking and planning has taken you to this point. Develop an action plan that is organised, time framed with deadlines, and prioritised to achieve your goal. This is achieved by breaking down your short term goals into small, achievable steps and then identifying the tasks or actions you need to take for each step. Use an action plan to help ensure that you do not miss any key steps.
Refer to your action plan to reflect on the progress of your goal. Check that you are on track. If new information or difficulties emerge, take the time to make some necessary changes.
The decision you make will fulfil your needs, preferences and values. Commit yourself to attain your goal, and the achievement of your vision.
Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Crown Coaching and
Training, and is a Certified Retirement Coach. She has over 30 years experience in career development, life coaching, education and training. Leah holds a Master in Professional Education and Training, Graduate Diploma in Career Development, a number of Diploma qualifications in Vocational Educational Training, and Certificates in Life Coaching, Mediation Skills, and Psychodrama. Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA).Leah is a professional member of Australian Career Professionals International (ACPi-Aus). She has international accreditation and is Board Certified as a Career Management Fellow with the Institute of Career Certification.
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