I have always been anxious, worrying about whether my decisions will lead to the outcomes I want in the future. With every decision I make, I have a fear of regret I may feel for making a wrong choice—this anxiety about making decisions made its way into making career decisions too. I felt overwhelmed and torn between multiple career paths, causing decision paralysis and making career planning difficult.
Through research, journalling and watching way too many videos on youtube, I have collected three strategies that I go back to whenever it comes to career planning and even general decision-making. They don't eliminate the anxiety (I have yet to discover something that does that), but they help massively.
One of the best ways to determine whether a decision is correct for you is to allow yourself to experiment and try new things. Giving yourself a safe space to try different things with low risk can increase your confidence about whether something is right for you.
The Loop is a framework that encourages continuous experimentation; it has three essential parts:
- Identify - Identify an area of interest or potential career path
- Experiment - Experiment with different ways to explore that area
- Iterate - Iterate by using the information and insights gained from your experiments to make more informed decisions
Every time you go through a small experiment, you learn new information, which allows you to make better decisions. It can be a great way to learn more about your feelings towards a specific thing as you are giving yourself a sandbox environment to try something.
Some low-risk experiments that you could try to include:
- Volunteer roles
- Youtube videos
- Side projects
My favourite is taking courses about subject areas I'm interested in before deciding to invest more time and energy into those areas.
Reflection is a powerful tool that can drive positive change in your life by steering you in the direction you want. Through reflection, you can understand your thoughts, patterns and behaviours. Beyond that, reflection can be used to identify what you want. It can encourage you to think of your blind spots and find things you are amazingly good at.
6 Month Review
One way I like to encourage reflection in my career planning process is to do a six-month review twice a year. During this review, I reflect on the past half-year by considering the following:
- What Went Well - As part of this, consider all the great things that happened, big or small. Celebrate them all by making a note of them.
- What didn't go well - Write down all the things that have gone wrong or bothered you without judgement. The goal of this is not to put blame or be judgemental; it's about being aware of what has happened and how it made you feel.
- What Could be better and how - Write down what could've been better and how
Taking time out to review how things have been going can be influential in helping you understand what it is that you want or don't want. The great thing about doing the review above is that it doesn't have to be every six months; it can be as often as you need it to be. It serves as an exercise that encourages you to process what has been happening, giving you the much-needed time and space to honestly think about how things have been going.
The final strategy is taking aligned action. Aligned action means doing things that align with what you've learned through the previous two approaches whilst considering your values and where you want to be. This strategy is about understanding what you need to do to get to where you want to go and then doing it!
Current Self vs Future Self
One way I like to identify the specific actions I need to take is by evaluating my current state vs my future desired state. I like doing this with pen and paper so I can add in doodles, highlight certain things and compare current me vs future me side by side. Here's how:
- Identify key areas that are important to you. Some examples include hard skills, soft skills, networking, projects, culture, and compensation.
- Write down a few bullet points for each one on what your current state is.
- Write down a few bullet points for each one on what you would like your future state to be.
After you've completed this exercise, you can use it to identify the actions you need to take in each key area to get you from the current you to the future you. You can ask yourself, "What do I need to do to get from where I am now to where I want to be?" Write all these actions down and use them to create a plan of action, which you can break down into bite-sized steps.
So these are three approaches you can use to help with dealing with indecision in career planning. You can use them together, as I do or pick the ones that resonate with you the most.
In its simplest form, the three things are experimentation, reflection and action. Experimenting with different areas of interest, regularly reflecting on your past experiences, and taking action towards your desired future self can help you gain clarity and confidence in your career path.
After reading this, I hope you can use one of the strategies for your career planning process. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below on how you have effectively dealt with indecision in career planning. Let's start a conversation and learn from each other!
How To Build A Life You Love - This video explores The Loop method.
How To Move On In Your Life (Processing Emotions) - This video covers the importance of reflection.
Current Me vs Future Me - There are a few videos on this, but this is where I learned about it