This is part 1 of a 3-part series on career decision tools. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.
Predicting the future is
difficult impossible, which can make big decisions daunting.
The ones like: Do I leave this job? Do I take that job? Do I share my aspirations with my manager? Do I grow my team? Do I shrink my team? Do I pursue a credential? Do I start a business?
But in order to move forward, sometimes we need to put a stake in the ground.
Because not making any decisions usually doesn’t get you very far.
(or at least, wherever-you-get-to with that strategy doesn’t feel very intentional).
If you are in the murky waters of indecision, otherwise known as “stuck,” I have another post for you over here (read that later).
For now, I’m sharing some of my favourite tools for approaching career decisions, gathered from copious amounts of personal development literature, a bunch of formal coach training, and thousands of practice hours coaching clients (and myself) through the big decisions.
My top analysis tool: the decision matrix
What is it? a list of weighted criteria, and a scoring system, to evaluate multiple options (could be big picture career directions OR specific opportunities) using weighted scores against your criteria.
What’s great about it? Once you set your weightings and score your options, it’s just math. You get to step back from all your (often complicated) emotions and evaluate things as objectively as possible. If things don’t turn out the way you planned (and that can happen), you can at least know that you thought through the decision logically.
What is it missing? This tool is literally designed to remove your biases. So if you’re looking to rely more heavily on your emotions, your intuition, your gut feelings, this won’t help you uncover those (spoiler: part 2 of this series is all about that).
What do I need? (1) pretty strong clarity on what matters the most to you, otherwise known as your Core Criteria. Aim for about 5-10 specific-ish Core Criteria. Some examples: a specific earning target, location flexibility, industry or industries, stepping stone to X, etc. (2) sufficient information on the opportunities to assign scores; for example, if you have a specific earning target, you’ll need to research earning potential for your opportunities.
How do I use it? List your criteria in the left column of a table, and create a column for each of your options. Choose your scoring scale (I like a 5 point scale), and score each option against your criteria. Next, step back and assign a weight to each criteria. Multiply your scores by the weighting so you come out with a weighted score.
Need a visual? I have a template. Send me an email and I’ll share it with you.
What people say: I first learned a version of this tool in business school, and a lot of my business clients naturally gravitate toward it. They are accustomed to relying on spreadsheets, analysis, and numbers to drive decisions, so it feels comfortable. Most of my clients tell me this exercise affirms the direction they were leaning anyways, and gives them confidence that it makes rational sense. Others uncover new insights as to how two options stack up against each other. And others realize that their current role scores pretty high, and might be a stronger match for them than they thought.
For my clients who like details and want to move through an objective analysis, this works every time.
Honourable mention for analysis tools
The best and worst case scenario exercise: explore the extremes for each option. Great for understanding the potential risk / reward profile of each of your options, and ultimately what you’re up for losing / gaining.
The primary driver exercise: look at each option individually and ask yourself, if I went for this, what would be the primary driver of that decision? Great for uncovering what’s behind each option and intentionally lining up to your values.
Talk yourself out of it: for each option, come up with reasons not to do it, and challenge them. This might seem negative, but doing it ahead of time shines a light in all the tricky parts of your plan, so that you’re not sailing forward in denial of the challenges you’ll face (and every decision will bring new challenges).
If you are at a decision point in your career, I hope these tools help. And if they do, I would love to know. Comment below or DM me over here .
I’m cheering you on.
Want to learn about coaching? Here’s a link to get on my calendar for a free intro session.