“Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” – Arnold Glasgow
I was recently put in a position at work to decide between two great, and equally promising assignments. The first was to continue on my current engagement which was a new industry for me. Although I knew I didn’t enjoy that type of engagement after trying it for a few weeks, I thought maybe it would be a good character building opportunity to toughen up and get the job done. The other opportunity was in an industry I enjoyed but had been doing for the past year. Was I pigeonholing myself too early in my career? Would the other team be mad that I switched out?
I’m naturally a pretty indecisive person (my friends know to never ask where I want to go for dinner) and making this career choice was a stressful one.
I was feeling so anxious about my decision, I did everything possible to try to help me justify my decision. What can I say? I’m a career girl and I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing.
Pros and Cons.
I remember being in elementary school and learning about pros and cons and why it’s important to be able to list both sides to a situation. For an elementary student, this was mind-blowing. I’ve been a pro/con list maker ever since. This time was no different. While out running errands with a friend, I scribbled my list onto the back of my business card (this was the only paper I had in the car). Laying out the pros and cons took all the thoughts that were circling my head and organized them in a logical way. This helped me feel less frazzled but I was nowhere near feeling confident in making a decision.
Be honest with yourself.
Sometimes we may know what option we want to choose but we’re afraid to go after it. I knew I wanted to do the project that I would enjoy. Nothing makes me happier than being motivated to get up each morning and do what I love. But I was still afraid to take it. What if I chose this option and still wasn’t happy? What would others think if I switched teams? Will they be mad? Will I be leaving them in a tough spot to scramble for a replacement? Isn’t it worse if I stay when my heart’s just not in it? I knew what I wanted, I just couldn’t say it. I lied and said I’d be okay either way, but I had a gut feeling that I would regret it if I didn’t follow my heart.
Ask the hard questions.
In relation to the self-honesty, I found a list of helpful questions online that I wrote out answers to. Legitimate answers, with full honesty, no biases, and no holding back. These questions got me thinking about how I really felt, what my goals were, what these opportunities would mean to me. It was a discussion I had with myself to help me understand each option.
- Does it motivate you to learn something new?
- Does it push you to learn something about yourself?
- Does it scare you, just a little?
- Does it change the way you evaluate success?
- Will it surround you with passionate people?
- Does it excite you to talk about it?
- Who do you want to be?
Talk to people you trust.
The first thing I did was ask my friends what they thought I should do. My friends are incredibly smart and really care for me. I trusted their opinions. I told them my pros and cons, my concerns and thoughts. But what I really wanted to know was, putting themselves in my shoes, what they would do and why. Am I not considering something I should be? Are my priorities in the right places? Am I interpreting the facts right? Though most of my friends told me to follow my passions over feeling obligated to do work I didn’t really enjoy, I felt awful about leaving a team that was counting on me.
It wasn’t until I had a talk with my mentor at work that I felt better about my decision. He understood how the staffing system worked, he understood the perspective of a manager, he had my best interest in mind. He told me to do what I enjoyed and don’t worry about the rest. In fact, it might be better to specialize and actually get good at what I do. And everyone at the firm is so driven and career oriented, they’d understand why I had to make the choice I did. Hearing this affirmation was the last piece to the puzzle to make me feel confident about my decision.
In hindsight, I think I was overly dramatic in making my decision but I also think it’s hard to stay level headed when making a career choice that could potentially affect, at the very least, the next year of your life. I hope this was helpful if you’re at a cross roads right now.