How To Decide If a Career Move is Good for You
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Between a rock and a hard place, that’s what I felt like when I was faced with the decision. Continue for as long as I can in a temporary position making $30/hr or take a 30% cut in hours but get paid $33/hr. The only benefit, or so I thought, of this part time position is that it is a permanent position. Permanent positions seem difficult to secure at my place of work.
So as you can see I was torn between my need for money and a secure career. The relief came with the fact that the temporary position (current situation) was work that didn’t line up with my career goals and left me feeling unchallenged and bored most days. The new position would keep me engaged and provide that mental stimulation I crave on a daily basis. I needed to figure out how to decide if a career move was right in my situation.
Making the Decision
How do I make a difficult career choice, and how do I know it is the right move?
When faced with this choice I immediately focused on the worst case scenario (who wouldn’t). With my current income at the time I could easily cover all my bills and have a little extra at the end of the month to pay down a couple hundred dollars of debt. I immediately thought that if I was making less money I would not be able to make ends meet and not only I, but my wife would have to suffer for this career decision.
I worried about the worst case scenario and never saw the good that could come of the opportunity. This went on for a whole week. I felt sick every day and couldn’t focus on anything.
I was stuck in a worry rut.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Worry Rut
Getting stuck worrying about a situation prevents you from focusing on possible solutions or things that could make your decision easier and put your mind at rest. The human mind is a curious thing. The human mind tends to lock onto the bad, blocking out the good.
Everyone has heard of the Pros and Cons list. But have you ever done a Pros and Pros list.
Focusing on the good of both situations helps put your mind at ease and to stop focusing on the worst outcome and start focusing on where you want to end up. Like in drivers training when I was 15, look where you want to go but don’t forget to steer yourself there.
Start with a list of Pros that come with your current situation, like below:
- More money monthly
- Full time
- Easy transport to and from work
Then focus on the good things about the new situation:
- Higher hourly wage
- More free time to explore my interests
- Permanent position
- Benefits don’t change
- More in line with career goals and interests
- More engaging work and faster pace
As you build your list sometimes you will find that the new opportunity might yield more pros. If so it is a good thing, you are focusing on moving forward. Once done these lists review them critically. Are you favoring one situation over the other? Does one situation deserve more critical review to notice more good things about it? Be fair and honest to yourself.
Now that you have completed your Pros-Pros list you can now focus on the Cons-Cons. It may be better to think of it as challenges/obstacles. Cons tend to have a negative connotation to them and can lead you back down the path towards the worry rut.
Start with the challenges involved in the new situation. It is important to be as critical as possible, especially if you are excited about the new opportunity:
- More challenging work
- Less hours = less money
- More difficult to find parking
- No obvious direction of career growth
- No opportunities to practice and improve skills
Now focus on your current situation and list all the challenges in your current situation. Don’t be too specific if you are not happy with your current situation, it is easy to get carried away listing everything that didn’t go over well and will take your focus away from finding the correct solution for yourself. Just write the general challenges you currently face:
- Boring work
- Not Challenged
- Less time to focus on my interests
- Don’t enjoy the work environment anymore
Make sure that you haven’t included your feelings in any of the lists so far. It is important to be objective in order to make the decision that is best for yourself rather than what you like the most. Sometimes we have to struggle for some time to build an even better career or maybe an even better opportunity is just around the corner and you don’t want to miss out on it.
Next review the lists to figure out what seems to be the better situation/opportunity objectively. This will give you a great starting point on making your decision.
Right in the Feels
Previously I said to not include your feelings in the lists. Now we will focus on your feelings about each opportunity. Start by listing the things that make you feel bad about your current situation without being too specific:
- I feel undervalued
- I leave work angry or sad most days
- I feel bored and unchallenged
- When I think about my current opportunity I feel sad and anxious
Next list the good things you feel about your current situation, I didn’t have much to go on:
- Some of my coworkers make me happy when I see or talk to them
I was starting to be able to see my obvious next career step even though I wasn’t finished figuring everything out yet.
Next I listed the good things about the new opportunity:
- Everyone seems very happy
- The work seems challenging and I like feeling the accomplishment that comes with it
- I will be able to learn more and grow my skills which is exciting
- When I think about the opportunity it makes me smile
Don’t stop here. You haven’t evaluated if the new opportunity might hold some of the same feelings if things don’t happen perfectly. Think critically and list the bad feelings you may have, this will put the new opportunity into context:
- I will feel stressed or overworked some days
- I will feel some anxiety about meeting deadlines
Review, Review and Review
Now that everything is in context you can go back and review everything and make an informed decision. Evaluate how much value to put towards your feelings lists and whether it is alright to "for-go" happiness for a while in order to build your career or secure your finances.
In my review I found that I was not happy in my current opportunity and in re-reading the challenges and Pros I noticed that in my current situation I was unable to improve and grow and my career was suffering for it.
I also noticed that the new opportunity although challenging, in that it results in a lower monthly income, also leaned towards providing me with the opportunity to be happy and to enjoy my career.
I never knew how much value a person should put into enjoying their work or their career but my decision was clear. It was time to move forward toward a higher value more enjoyable career.
Go Forth and Win at Life
I hope this guide was useful in your career path and hopefully it helped you make a decision and provided you the motivation to go forward with strength and confidence or to stay where you are resolute and confident in your decision.
Check out these great sources of career advice and help:
The Art Of Manliness (my personal favourite)