3 Ways to Make Tough Career Choices with Confidence

a woman thinking about a career decision

Should you take that promotion? Maybe you should quit your job? Or change industries altogether?

The choices we make in our careers impact our finances, our well-being, our relationships, and our overall sense of self. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, stuck, or scared, not knowing how to make the right decision.

Fear not, because in my new LinkedIn Learning course, Making Tough Career Decisions, I share simple strategies to help you navigate these turning points with greater ease.

Here are a few of my favorite insights from the course to help you make tough career decisions with confidence and clarity. Watch the full course for more.

3 Tips for Navigating Tough Career Choices

1. Take a step back to move forward.

Self-knowledge is key to making career choices that you’ll feel happy and satisfied with. Taking a step back to assess what you value – and why – can help you make an informed decision about how to move forward.

For example, valuing stewardship may mean you prioritize giving back, whereas valuing wisdom means pursuing insight and personal growth above all else. Whenever you find yourself at a crossroads, ask yourself:

      • How do all of my options align with my core values?

      • What action or choice gets me closer to living out my values?

      • Which option is in conflict with what matters most to me?

      • Where am I not willing to compromise?

      • What value, if any, am I willing to overlook?

    This last question is important because there may be times when you encounter a values conflict. For example, say you are offered a high-paying role that honors your value of stability but would be monotonous and stifle your value of fun. What do you do? 

    Consider the season you’re in and what that suggests about the value you most want to bring forward. If you’re starting a family, for instance, then it may be worthwhile to let stability lead the way. Likewise, consider how you can find a both/and solution. Maybe you go for a role that includes more adventure and excitement, but you balance that by saving more so you have a feeling of financial security.

    2. Overcome your fear of making the wrong choice.

    Maybe you’ve been confronted with a big career decision, and you stall or feel anxious because you don’t want to choose incorrectly. You don’t want to have regret, disappoint others, or feel like you have to backtrack.

    To get yourself out of binary “good” or “bad” thinking, try this exercise. I think you’ll find it will help you use extremes to your advantage.

    First, consider the absolute worst that could happen if you made a certain choice. Let’s take the example of moving across the country for a job. Maybe the worst that could happen is you hate it, your family is unhappy, and you can’t find childcare or a school for your kids. What if that happened? How would you deal with it? It wouldn’t be pleasant, but I bet you’d come up with a plan. Confronting the worst case and thinking through your approach can help you feel more secure, confident, and resourceful.

    After that, go to the other extreme – consider what would happen if everything went right. What if your move went better than expected, you absolutely loved your new role, and your family was happy in your new location? Studies show that optimism can help you not only manage your emotions more effectively but also feel more comfortable with your career decisions.

    Now that you’ve considered the extremes of what could go right and what could go wrong, try to find the gray area in between. What’s the most likely outcome? Chances are it’s somewhere in the middle. With your cross-country move, it’s reasonable to expect that you may need time to acclimate. Not everything will be smooth sailing, but you can get creative to cope and make adjustments.

    3. Prioritize small steps

    There’s an old saying that goes, “you don’t climb a mountain by jumping straight to the top. You do it one step at a time.” Tough career decisions are the same. While some moves happen overnight, most actually roll up into a series of smaller steps.

    Take what happened to my client, Mia, who had returned from maternity leave three months prior to her role as a data analyst in the insurance industry. Her leave gave her time to reflect on wanting to pivot into a more customer-facing role. But bridging the gap between where she was and where she wanted to be felt intimidating.

    Mia shifted her mindset. Instead of thinking about her role change as one sweeping decision, she envisioned it as a project with its mini milestones. For example, she needed to do more research first about what customer-facing roles existed at her company and which she was most interested in. At some point, she’d have to speak with her boss about the idea and if he was on board, she’d probably have to train someone new to do her current role.

    Try this for yourself – if you’re currently at point A and you want to get to point Z, what are the microsteps or milestones you need to reach in between? What should you do first, second, third? Better yet, create a timeline for completing each step. Having a deadline will keep you focused and accountable for moving ahead.

    Likewise, look for low-risk ways to build up to a bigger commitment. What small experiments can you run to make a big change less overwhelming? How could you test-drive your choice before making a full commitment? Perhaps you:

        • Volunteer for an organization

        • Shadow someone in your company or externally

        • Attend a local or online meetup

        • Try a consulting project

        • Take a course to explore an interest

        • Prioritize small steps over big leaps. With every little decision along the way, you’re learning about yourself and increasing your confidence in the process

      Remember, the greatest achievements often emerge from moments of uncertainty when we dare to trust ourselves. Sometimes, difficult career decisions can be stepping stones to something extraordinary. 

      Want to Learn More? Check Out My LinkedIn Learning Course

      Should you take that promotion? Leave your job? Find a new career path? You’ll be armed with tools and strategies to make big decisions with a clear head and conviction.

      That’s where my LinkedIn Learning course, Making Tough Career Decisions, comes in. 

      I poured my heart into creating an insightful, practical course, packed with helpful strategies to help you navigate tough career decisions with confidence and clarity.

      You’ll discover how to:

      • Avoid common pitfalls like perfectionism and procrastination
      • Unhook from difficult emotions to make the best choice possible
      • Navigate fears about making the wrong decisions or feeling overwhelmed
      • Determine whether it’s time to leave your job or pursue a new path

      Get started on the course now for free with LinkedIn Premium, or sign up for just $24.99.

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      Hi, I'm Melody

      I help smart, sensitive high-achievers break free from imposter syndrome and overthinking so they can find the confidence to lead effectively.


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