Want to Be More Decisive in Your Career? Accept Uncertainty

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Whether you’re deliberating a move to a new organization or just a new position with the same employer, at some point in your career you’re going to have some important decisions to make. And whenever that time comes, if you struggle to feel confident in your decision making, there is a way to set yourself up to successfully tackle your next big professional decision.

By working to find a balance between strategic thinking and embracing uncertainty, you’ll be on a path toward a more relaxed and confident decision-making practice.

Focus more on the process

When faced with a difficult decision, it’s natural to simply rely on your gut. While it’s important to listen to your inner voice, sometimes, even if you’re in tune with your emotions, it can still be a challenge to move forward with confidence.

Rather than letting your emotions get the best of you, be proactive and temper your feelings by employing strategies that are more conducive to making constructive decisions.

Putting it into practice

One example of a big decision that many of us are faced with in our professional lives is whether to stay in a current position or pursue a new job. Using this scenario as an example, here is a blueprint for how to get started on your decision-making process:

  • Create a pros and cons list: Identify the benefits and potential drawbacks associated with leaving your current job. For example, making the move may actually provide a perfect opportunity for advancement while remaining in your role could mean you’ll have to wait longer for the same kind of promotion. On the other hand, maybe the new job comes with a considerably longer commute but you’ll be able to work in an area you’re more interested in. The key is to stretch your mind to consider the positive and negative aspects of all options without editing or rationalizing.
  • Make a worst-case/best-case scenario list: This may overlap with a pros and cons list, but in this exercise, you’ll state exactly what you’re afraid of as well as what motivates you. For example, a positive outcome of turning down a new job could be that you’ll be inspired to advocate for a promotion at your current job. A worst-case scenario could be that your case for a promotion could be rejected and that you’ll have turned down an opportunity that may better serve your career goals.
  • Give yourself a deadline: Give yourself plenty of leeway before the actual deadline by which the decision needs to be made. Considering breaking down this work into smaller steps, such as reviewing your interview notes and sending follow-up questions, outlining pros and cons based on those responses and your interview experience, and conducting additional research about the culture of the organization.

While laying the groundwork for your decision with a simple pen and paper or your favorite note-taking app may not present an immediate answer, you’ll find that creating a procedure will help ease some of the stress and offer clarity around whether taking that new role is the best way forward.

Take a step back and reflect

After you’ve taken the initiative to create a thoughtful deliberation process, do yourself a favor and step away for a moment. Maybe that means sleeping on it or taking an entire day off from thinking about the decision at hand.

With a bit of distance gained, you may find it helpful to discuss what you’re weighing with a partner, mentor, or confidante. Bring your pros and cons list and your best/worst-case scenario breakdown with you to keep your discussion on track.

Pro Tip: If you decide to consult a trusted friend, refrain from letting this person make the decision for you. Simply use the conversation as a way to step back and see the bigger picture with someone who knows you well.

Accept that you may be wrong

Ultimately, it all boils down to the fact that while you can be diligent in outlining and setting a process for yourself—charting how one choice will lead to a particular outcome—there is a great deal that is simply out of your control and unknowable.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman believes in being less certain and encourages you to consider that even if you think one choice will lead to a given result, you should be prepared that it could actually be the opposite of what you predicted.

So whether you’re just graduating from college and you’re facing uncertainty about the future or you’re a mid-career professional contemplating a leap to a new organization or position, consider wholeheartedly how inviting the unknown into your life can help you learn about yourself.

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Have you struggled with indecision when it comes to making career moves? Which decision-making processes do you recommend?

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Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.
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