Choosing your career path is a big deal. You may worry: Am I making the right decision? Is this the right time? Try these strategies when you’re feeling unsure.
When you plan your career, you need to make some decisions. This is true whether you’re a high school student imagining your post-secondary path, a post-secondary graduate deciding where to specialize, or a mid-career worker thinking about going in a new direction.
Sometimes, the thought of making a change can paralyze you. You get so bogged down in thinking about all the ways your life might turn out that it seems impossible to make a final decision.
Prepare to make a change
Take action so you can start making a few career decisions and move forward, even if it’s just a bit. To move forward you need to know:
- Who you are
- What your priorities are
- What your strengths are
- What you want to achieve
Is a tweak enough?
Change doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and you don’t always have to make a big change to move forward or choose a path. If analyzing who you are and what you want to achieve seems too much for you, maybe a small change is all you need to decide right now.
For example, have you always wanted to travel, but you don’t like the idea of quitting your job to take a long trip? Put your worry on hold and ask your employer if you can take an unpaid leave. You might have to tweak your plans to negotiate a leave. But it could mean you keep your job, so you’ll have more options in the future.
Conquer your indecision
Feeling indecisive can be like wearing a wet blanket every day. It weighs on you. Try these strategies to help you move forward.
If you really don’t know what to do:
- Write down short descriptions of your career options.
- Research your options if you need to know more. Find out everything you can.
- Choose the option that feels best to you and imagine you’ve made that choice final. How do you feel about it?
If your indecision is driven by fear of making the wrong choice:
- Realize that if you don’t make a decision, you are actually making a decision—to stick with the status quo.
- Recognize that no choice is going to be perfect. Instead of aiming for a perfect situation, focus on the option with the most upside.
- Understand that career decisions are always a bit risky, but the potential rewards make calculated risk-taking worthwhile.
If you make decisions best by “gut feel” or what feels right—explore that:
- Shadow someone who has chosen one of the outcomes you’re thinking about or has made a similar decision.
- Try on your decision. Live for a day as if you had made your choice. See how you feel.
- Talk it over with your supporters at work, school, in your family, and at the activities you're involved in. These people can be your very own board of directors.
If the decision you want to make feels overwhelming:
- Consider whether you need to go “all in” on the decision. Taking a small step may be enough for now.
- When you take a small step, it doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on other decisions. You can always make another choice later.
For example, if you think you want to be a surgeon, you can’t make one big decision and become a surgeon right now. It will take years of effort and planning to reach your goal.
What you can do right now is:
- Research what a career as a surgeon would look like.
- Take a course that will help get you ready for medical school.
- Apply yourself in that course.
Each of these decisions is fairly small and manageable, and doesn’t mean you’ve turned your back on any future decisions. If you decide not to be a surgeon, you will still have had the benefit of an interesting pre-med course.
Still feeling stuck?
If you still can’t move forward, consider the following:
- Find career planning information online. CAREERinsite offers several resources to help you with this planning.
- Get help with career planning. If you’ve explored your options and still think you need a big change but you can’t seem to make it, contact a career advisor. They can help you explore your education and employment options in Alberta.
- Use what worked before. Think back to other personal or professional transitions in your life. How did you manage then? Could some of those strategies help now?
- Call on your support network. Talk to friends, colleagues, or family members who will listen to your concerns and challenge you to do your best. Their insights may help you choose a direction. You may discover a mentor in your network who can offer advice, encouragement and a team approach.
Having a plan can help you feel organized and purposeful, so you can see your options more clearly and make the best decisions.
It’s important to realize that the career decision you make today is not going to be the last one. Building a career is a process, not a moment, so take it one step at a time. No matter what choice you make right now, there will be many more choices to make and doorways to go through as you move forward in your career.