How to Make Difficult Career Decisions

No career path is a straight and flat road. It’s a road of many bumps, turns, and obstacles, and the only way to navigate it is to make a few tough decisions along the way. Which way should you turn? How should you overcome the next obstacle? Are you going in the right direction?

You make countless decisions every day, but career decisions are of a different kind. They may cause stress and anxiety or even keep you up at night. It can take a lot of questioning and advice-seeking to find the right answer. Sometimes, you don’t know the right path and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

When you are faced with a tough career decision, there are often too many unknown variables to determine a single “right” answer. But you still want to make the best decision for yourself and your career. So, the next time that you must make a tough career choice, try these tools to help in your decision process.

Create a Decision Matrix

If you want to determine your choice objectively and quantitatively, try scoring your options using different criteria. Make a chart with decision criteria/factors for the rows and your options as the columns. Your decision criteria could include things like, “I will have opportunity to advance,” “Compensation,” or “Flexibility.” Because you are making the chart, you get to choose personalized criteria that fit what you think is most important for the final decision. Your options, or the columns, would be the things that you are deciding between. For example, if you have been offered two different jobs, each job would become its own column. Then, give each box (i.e. row 1, column 1, etc) a numerical value for how well it corresponds to the criteria. Total up each column to determine the highest score.

This works well because you are able to personalize the chart to what matters to you. Aside from the overall score, you can also compare each option based on the individual criteria. The chart and scores give you a great idea of what objectively seems like the best choice.


Of course, some decisions should include subjective considerations. If you’re trying to choose between different jobs, for example, imagine your day to day experiences with each job. Experience the drive to that workplace and back home. Imagine telling people where you work and pay attention to whether you are excited to tell more people. And if you have had a chance to meet potential colleagues, consider who you would be working with every day. The more you can visualize your day to day experiences, the more accurate of a picture you will get to help you decide whether it’s the right choice.

Ask the Right Questions

Make sure that you are asking relevant and important questions when making the decision. The questions should dig deeper than the surface-level questions you may ask if you are making the previously-mentioned score chart. Ask questions that make you seriously consider which option suits you better. Do you get excited thinking about taking a certain path? Does it make you motivated to learn new skills and further develop old ones? Would a certain option surround you with highly-skilled, passionate, and curious individuals? How will it help you grow? Ask thought-provoking questions to think about how each option will affect you.

Ask the Right People

Most people seek advice when they are making difficult career decisions. Doing so can be hugely beneficial, as it offers outside perspectives and different experiences. However, make sure you carefully choose whom to listen to. Ask trusted friends and family members, not necessarily everyone in your contact list. After all, it’s a big decision, and you need to trust the opinions that you are receiving. It’s important to remember, though, that at the end of the day, it is still your own choice, and the most important person you should ask the questions to is yourself.

Think Who over What

When you are making a career decision, you typically consider what you want to do or what path you want to choose. Instead, try thinking about who you want to be and how that would align with each decision. Does it help you reach your personal goals and does it seem like it would make you happier than the other options? While you think about what each option is, don’t forget to think about who it will make you.


At the end of the day, making a career decision can take a lot of consideration and time. Don’t rush it. Consider your options carefully and use these tools to help determine what will work best for you and your wants and needs.