Tackling Tough Career & Job Search Decisions
Are you in the throes of job search paralysis? Career choice and job search mean lots of decisions. From deciding what to wear to an interview (hmm, is a red tie or scarf too obviously aggressive?) to choosing between two (or more) possible careers or job offers, it can seem like every decision, big or small, is critical to the outcome of your life.
Procrastination appears to be the easy way out. You occupy yourself with diversions and "busy work" to delay the inevitable. The unease of the impending decision, like an underwater river, erodes your self-confidence.
Or perhaps your many well-meaning friends have volunteered their opinions about the "best" decision for you, based on the limited perspective they have of you, as well as their own experiences.
Or your family may be offering advice to get you moving in the "right" direction. Sometimes it can seem like they know better than you, or that it is easier to go along with what they decide for you.
Other times you may want to follow your own tendencies rather than those of others, but feel conflicted.
Negative Career Thoughts
If any of the above scenarios sound familiar, you may be experiencing negative career thoughts. Trying to choose a career or manage a job search can often lead to negative thinking in problem-solving and decision-making. This is actually quite common.
According to the Career Thoughts Inventory™ (CTI™), the three key constructs of negative career thinking include:
- Decision-making Confusion,
- Commitment Anxiety, and
- External Conflict.
The CTI™ assessment can be useful in identifying which one (or more) of the negative thinking constructs you are experiencing. Working with a trained career counselor, you can then challenge the underlying emotions or confused thought patterns and alter your behavior. The end result is more awareness of the decision-making process and what obstacles you need to overcome.
The decision-making process entails knowing about yourself, being aware that there is a choice or decision point, uncovering realistic options, and selecting one to act on. That involves digging deep within yourself, doing thorough research and soul-searching to narrow down possibilities, and taking action. Confused thinking can occur at any point in this complex process.
If indecision has become commonplace in your life, it may be that you are reluctant to commit to one choice due to generalized anxiety about the outcome. The lure of wanting to have all your options open for possible future action can impede your motivation to make any decision in the present. But not deciding is actually a decision! As time marches on, those future options may disappear. Procrastination and excessive delay in making important decisions can mean living your career and job search in the "default" mode, leaving your fate to chance or scrambling to develop last-minute options.
Summoning the mental and emotional courage to make your own decisions can sometimes prove to be daunting. Relying on the perceptions and advice of others as a consistent remedy to decision-making stress means that you have abdicated responsibility for your own life. That may appear attractive; after all, you don't have yourself to blame if the decision turns out wrong. But wasn't the ultimate decision to have others steer the direction of your job search and career YOUR decision? And why should blame be attributed to a "wrong" decision?
The AAA Approach
The next time career or job search indecision stymies you, you will want to improve your results by remembering these three simple steps:
Practice recognizing negative emotions or confusing thoughts. They will typically manifest in a physical manner such as headaches, stomach aches, or even more serious physical ailments and disabilities. When that happens, identify the struggle you are having with a decision. Where have you gotten stuck in the decision-making process? What was the decision really about?
Improve your odds of moving past negative thoughts and emotions by challenging your view. For example, will you ruin your career possibilities if you wear that red tie? Look for common threads of misperception in your decision-making struggles. Do you tend to catastrophic thinking, or all-or-none thinking? You may need the help of a trained human services professional to sort through any disabling emotions or convoluting thinking.
Start by getting support from others such as family, friends, or counselors that you trust. They can serve as your sounding board, provide insight, and give you emotional security while you are learning how to tolerate and manage the anxiety of decision-making. Seek reputable information sources and prioritize the importance of each potential decision. Then act!
As with most things in life, the more you exercise your decision-making "muscle", the easier it will be to use it effectively in the future. You may need to practice on small decisions first; that's fine. Keep the momentum going, evaluate the outcome of each decision, become more informed about realistic options, and adjust your thinking if needed. Then make another decision!
© Copyright, 2010, Susan Guarneri. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
About the Author
Job-Hunt's Career Assessments Expert, Susan Guarneri, known as the Career Assessment Goddess, specializes in using personal branding and career assessments to empower professionals, executives, and budding entrepreneurs with career insight and action. Author of the Career Goddess Blog and co-author of Job Search Bloopers, Susan holds 16 career certifications, including National Certified Career Counselor, Master Career Counselor, Certified Master Branding Strategist, and Certified Online Identity Management Strategist. She has a Masters Degree in Counseling from The Johns Hopkins University and 24 years of experience.