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Career Decision Making

Once you have assessed your skills, values and interests and explored possible career options, you are ready for the third step in career planning: decision making.  While there is no full-proof way to insure that every decision you make will turn out well, the methods described below can aid you in making decisions and avoiding the pitfalls of solely relying on hunches, misinformation, or the opinions of others.  (Some of the language for these exercises is adapted from

Pros and Cons Method

1.   At the top of a piece of paper, list the decision you are trying make or the alternative you are considering.  Write the decision as if you have made it (e.g., “Major in Accounting”).

2.   Draw a line down the middle of a page, with “Pros” and “Cons” at the top of each column.

3.   Under “Pros” list the positive aspects or outcomes that you believe could occur.

4.   Under “Cons” list the negative aspects or outcomes that you believe could occur. 

5.   You might need to do additional research or talk to people for outcomes that are too hard to predict.

*Note:  Some outcomes might carry more weight than others, so the number of pros and cons in each column is not necessarily indicative of whether you should move forward with the decision.

Imagining Your Decision

This exercise is a variation on the Pros and Cons method.  Sometimes we do not recognize the impact of a decision until we have made it.  Therefore, imagining that you have made a decision in favor of or against an alternative can help you clarify the full implications your choice.

1.   In your own mind, decide what you will do and write the decision as if you have made it (e.g., “Accept the job offer with the ABC company”).

2.   Visualize what will happen, how your life will change, or what you will need to do as a result of your choice (e.g., Will you need to move?  How will your income be affected? ) 

3.   Visualize what a typical day or week will be like or as a result of your decision (e.g., Visualize your commute.  Visualize the time you will need to leave home.  Visualize performing the duties of the job and working with your colleagues.  What is the setting?) 

4.   Write down what you are feeling and thinking, now that the decision is set.  What will you need to give up and what will you be able to gain because of your decision?

5    If necessary, live with the decision for a few days or tell an objective third party what you have decided.

Now that you have fully imagined living with your decision, what new thoughts or insights did you gain about how you should proceed?

Decision Matrix

The decision matrix allows you to compare several alternatives at once, taking into consideration the importance you assign to your criteria.

Return to the Career Planning Cycle page.


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