Not having career options is the worst, but having lots of them is pretty stressful too. We all dream of new opportunities, cool job offers, and possible partnerships, but when these things actually materialize, many of us are paralyzed by indecision.
Will I be happier in my new role? Will this new contract come back to bite me? Can I handle this opportunity? These are some of the toughest questions professionals face. What's the best way to power through your anxiety and effectively weigh your alternatives?
It's a topic I write about a lot as there are lots of great frameworks for considering tough career decisions, and I recently stumbled on another useful article in this genre. Written by Paul Jun and appearing on 99U, the piece offers six clarifying questions to help you consider your options when you're at a career crossroads. Here's a bit on three of them to get you started.
Who will I become if I take this opportunity?
"The question behind the question is about understanding what kind of decision you're about to make and the path it's putting you on," Jun explains. "Are you taking this next opportunity because of the pay or because working at that company will shape you into the person you want to become? (Neither is wrong! Just be deliberate.)"
It's worth pointing out that Jun isn't the only person advocating for this question. Philosopher Ruth Chang suggests a very similar approach in her TED talk on how to make life's toughest choices. "Far from being sources of agony and dread, hard choices are precious opportunities" to shape your life and identity, she insists.
What is the opportunity cost of this opportunity?
Ask yourself: if you didn't do this, what would you do instead? Jun uses the example of Charles Darwin's famous trip aboard the HMS Beagle to illustrate. Sure, the journey was full of perils, but if Darwin didn't go he would be consigned to sitting in boring lectures barely moving the needle on human knowledge. With such a low opportunity cost and such a high potential payoff, how could he say no despite the dangers?
But you don't have to be an epoch-making genius for this simple question to benefit your decision-making. "This is also why I went from freelance to full-time," adds Jun.
What "frames" are around my options?
When we make bad decisions, we often do so because we're focused on the wrong thing. We're thinking about pay and status, for instance, when we should be thinking about career progression and personal fulfillment. Jun suggests this question to get at whether you're paying attention to the right variables.
"You want to ask yourself this question to create clarity in your reasoning to fully understand the impact of your decision. Why is your attention stuck on this picture? What happens if you removed those frames--what new insight reveals itself to you? What were you ignoring or missing?" he explains.