Effective decision making

Learn how to weigh up options and make informed career decisions.

What you will learn

  • The difference between effective and ineffective decision making 
  • The benefits you can get from making clearly planned career decisions

There will always be moments when we need to make big decisions from choosing to go into further education, learning or changing career - are you much more likely to be stick with what you know or go for a job that you would love to do? We can spend a lot of time at work so it helps to be confident when you are making choices about your next career steps.

Effective decision making: task

Think about any decision you have made in the past. What did you learn from this decision? Did you make the right decision? What would you do that is the same and what would you do differently? Atkins and Murphy’s cyclical model is a great tool to use in reflective practice – this asks you to reflect on: awareness of any previous experiences that you may have struggled with, describe the situation, analyse  any assumptions made, evaluate your decision and identify any learnings from the decision. You should also have a think about how you would feel if you didn’t make the decision and were in the same place in 6 months or a year. 

If you’re currently struggling to make your own big career decision, here are some of the factors you need to take into consideration along with useful tips that will help you to make the right choices. 

Clarify your decision

Make sure you have a clear idea of what decision you want to make. Are you choosing what job to apply for, between two job specific offers, or something else? On what basis are you choosing what job/course to apply for? Are there time factors impacting your decision such as a deadline to meet? What's your future goal? What are your options after the decision is made? 

Think like an analyst 

Making decisions about your career and education can come naturally to you, you may go with your gut and be more decisive in that aspect or you may find it more useful to think like an analyst. If you struggle to come to a decision with ease it may be better for you to gather as much information as you can before making your final choice.  

Analyse and gather as much information as possible and use tools such as: Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Facebook Reviews, Google Reviews – this will help you get a feel for this new opportunity, and see what people, customers and employees are doing and saying about the company/organisationUse this information to start your pros and cons list. This could be used to match your own career skills and experiences to a new opportunity which can help drive you forward with your decision.  

Visualise yourself 

By visualising yourself in the decision you have made, you’ll have a better way of understanding how your decision will impact your goals. Ask yourself questions like:

  • How will this choice affect my long-term goals?
  • What kind of new skills or type of growth will this company/course give me? 
  • Will I be happier with this decision? 

Consider your options

If you’re trying to consider your options, it may be useful to take both a bottom up and top down approach to identify your options: 

A top down approach involves working back from the long-term options that seem most promising: Which jobs / courses / projects best support you getting into your top long-term goal? Which options will help you test that your long-term goal is the best one for you?  

A bottom-up approach involves starting from what specific opportunities are in front of you right now and working out which option seems the most promising. Speak to your friends, those working in places/industries/studying in places you want to be in, and people you admire, and ask if it would be a good fit for you. Check what latest jobs that are available (LinkedIn is great for this as it aligns with the skills you have selected on your profile) Are there any interesting opportunities that you have come across that are only available now? 

Talk about your decision with a someone you trust 

When feeling anxious or pressured, we tend to play out worst-case scenarios. You should also think of the best-case scenario and what will most likely happen in order to keep perspective. While it’s good to anticipate possible outcomes having a negative outlook may stop you from your effective decision making.  

A good way forward is to discuss your worries with a friend or mentor. Talking to someone who knows you, your skills and your strengths can help you see how these fit with your future career plan. 

Take time to consider your options 

It often feels that when you’re trying to make big decisions, time is always against you - everyone needs an answer by the end of the day Take time to reflect on where you are coming from, what you have to offer future opportunities/career and where the future career opportunities may lead.  

If you need more time to think, ask for it! If a company truly values your worth, they’ll give you time to think things through. A big career decision can potentially impact on you for the rest of your life, so you should take as much time as you need. 

You’ll never know the outcome until you make your choice. But if you’ve done your research, talked to the people who matter the most and know in your gut that your decision is right then you will have made a very informed decisionWhat’s important is to keep moving towards your goals, knowing that the decisions you made will take you there. 

If you need any more advice with your decision making, you can get in touch with Skills Development Scotland.  

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