Career decision-making

Last week, I ran a couple of career planning workshops and it made me think about how hard it is sometimes to reach a career decision; to narrow down your decision into one choice, one job and letting go of all those other possibilities that you’ve also imagined yourself doing.

In my workshop I taught that there are two stages that you’d be advised to go through first before making that decision. I explain these below:

1st stage – Self-awareness

Being honest about your own achievements, as well as your strengths and weakness is key here. What your skills are, say – are you good at any of the following?:

  • communicating with different types of people
  • numbers
  • presentations
  • training people/ teaching
  • doing research

Also thinking about what is important for you to have present in your career, i.e. your work values. For a list you can go to see the free resources section of my website.

Thinking about your personality type and how you work with teams could be important too e.g whether you prefer working with lots of people, or alone. Or whether some mix of the two is important.

Finally thinking about the stresses or strains that you might come across in a career, e.g. long hours, high expectations etc.

There’s a lot more I could say about this stage, and if you need extra outside help, then you could consider seeking advice from a careers adviser.

2nd stage – career exploration

If you go through the 1st stage, this should really clarify your career exploration. So now you want to use what you’ve found out to explore career areas that you think will meet most of your requirements from stage 1.

Looking at role descriptions and person specifications on job websites is helpful here, so you get an idea of what experience/ qualifications you’ll need.

Next – Look on websites to find information about roles. Some examples:,,,  See if you can find from these websites what the job market is like and at least a vague idea about how many roles there are likely to be.  If it’s quite a niche area and there aren’t too many roles, then it’s important to think how you can be as competitive as possible.

After this – if you are narrowing down your career choice, then think about how you can meet people already doing the role. You can ask them questions about what it’s really like, what the good bits are or the challenges. Going to careers fairs, or networking meetings will be useful here.

Then when you have at least some ideas about what career to pursue, it’s really good to have at least 2 or 3 ideas that you might think about. That will mean that you’ll have a plan B (and C) and will take the pressure off your final decision.

Now you can think about making a career decision!

3rd stage career decision-making

You can make a decision by

  • being logical – i.e. a pros and cons list
  • intuitive – trusting your gut instinct. The decision – ‘just feels right.’
  • talking it through with someone – this might help you see things more clearly
  • by trying out the career – are they any ‘taster sessions’ / shadowing or ‘insight days’ you can attend?

Going through stages 1 and 2 will help you make the decision. It’s often tempting to miss these stages, but by doing so you might have overlooked what you want to get out of a career and all of the opportunities that are out there! Remember also happenstance (i.e. being on the look out for ‘chance’ opportunities).

Finally, this doesn’t have to be a definitive decision, there are often chances to try something out and if the career is not how you imagined it, you can have a rethink and try out another idea. Here’s where your back-up plans come into action.

Talking a decision over with a trained careers adviser will be really helpful at this stage.

I wish you all good luck with your career decision-making!

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