Career decision making? It ain’t easy. 5 hazards to look out for.

Posted by Laura Brammar on 18-Apr-2016 10:30:00
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 All of us at some point in our lives will have made a decision about our career. In fact, we are more likely to have made several such decisions throughout our life time.  Whether to pursue a career based on your degree, or whether to work within a particular organization; these are choices which you will have made at different stages in your career development.

Like all decision making though, career decision making can be a complicated business.  We each have our own preferred decision-making style; some prefer to make swift or ‘instinctive’ decisions, whilst others like to systematically weigh up the different options before coming to a finalconsider1.jpg judgement.  Regardless of your preferred style though, chances are that, like all human beings, you may fall prey to what could be described as certain thinking mistakes, or cognitive biases (Kahneman & Tversky, 1972)[i].


For whilst we all like to think that we are being perfectly rational when making career decisions, in reality many of us can be influenced by these cognitive biases.  If you are not aware of them, you may end up making career choices that will lead to disappointment in the long run.


For example, sometimes people feel need to change their current job as they are finding one particular aspect of the job, such as their current manager, too difficult to work with.  This one factor has totally dominated their career thinking and they are unconsciously overlooking the various other aspects of the job (flexible work pattern, easy commute, future development opportunities) which are also important to them.


If they move jobs just to escape the manager they may find themselves in a new role which doesn’t actually offer the additional benefits which remain vital to them.  This overemphasis on one element is known as the Focusing Effect and in the long run may lead to dissatisfaction in the future.  Indeed, it can be helpful to think of these cognitive biases as hazards to be aware of as you make your journey through your next career decision.


5 career decision-making hazards to look out for

Bandwagon effect

How much of your thinking about what careers are appropriate come from other people’s opinions (family, friends, colleagues, etc.)?

Authority bias

Are you giving too much weight to an option because you like or respect the person who told you about it?

Confirmation bias

Are you just paying attention to information that confirms ideas you already have about yourself and about different career options?


Contrast effect 

Are you reacting against a bad experience you have had by looking for too much of the opposite in future options?


Impact bias

Are you overestimating how exciting or boring something is likely to be?


Remember these are just a few questions that might stop you falling into common traps.  It’s important to stress that this isn’t about making the ‘perfect’ career decision.  There is no such thing as it will always be possible to look at any career choice from different perspectives.  Think you’d find it helpful to talk this through with a careers coach?  Why not book a session with us?

Want help making these career decisions?  Give us a call!


[i] Kahneman, D.; Tversky, A. (1972). Subjective probability: A judgment of representativeness. Cognitive Psychology 3: 430–454.


Topics: career change, career choice, career coaching, career success

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