At this point in the global pandemic, people are taking stock of their careers and what they value. Not a bad thing to do at any time. Today it simply has a higher degree of sharpness and urgency to it. Like the U.S. housing market, the talent acquisition market has a degree of fever and enthusiasm that hasn’t been seen in years.
I recently heard from a friend who had decided the time was right to accelerate his career. This person is capable, dedicated, and a truly decent person. Unsurprisingly, he found a great job alternative that spoke to his need for personal growth in a brand-new industry. The new role had abundant opportunities for learning and personal development plus he would be reporting to a new leader who had the potential to be an excellent mentor. All in all, it looked like a fantastic career move. But then came a hiccup in what was supposed to be a relatively smooth transition out of the old role and into the new. When his present employer learned he was resigning, they swung into action—a bit late but with some force. They made a good counteroffer. A very, you-need-to-sit-up-and-take-notice-because-this-is-serious kind of counteroffer. Awesome, right? Except that in response, the potential new employer made a no-you-need-to-pay-attention-to-this-amazingness-right-now counter-counteroffer. Suddenly a run-of-the-mill job change became an all-out bidding war.
Isn’t it wonderful to be loved?
Well, my friend was confounded. What had been a clear decision was now thorny, complex, and completely challenging. A great “problem” to have, but very difficult to unravel. Where to begin to sort through this? How could he be sure that he had weighed all the important factors and made the right choice? There was no time to be indecisive or make a snap judgement he would regret. Instead, he stepped back and reframed his decision in terms of objectives. Now he was getting somewhere.
Begin by asking, what do I want from this decision? What benefits do I seek? What constraints do I face?
In the battle for effective decision making there is a tendency to oversubscribe to the Pros versus Cons paradigm, assessing one alternative and then the next. A more effective approach is to set priorities. Begin by asking, “What do I want from this decision?”, “What benefits do I seek?” and, “What constraints do I face?” These questions get to the heart of your priorities. Meeting your priorities is what should drive the decision.
Our job candidate began to write down the objectives that had prompted him to look for a new role. They had been influencing his job search all along but at no point had he written them down in one place. He then prioritized each objective relative to his other objectives – defining what was important by giving each objective a numbered weight. The greater the number, the more important the objective in guiding the decision.
Each alternative could now be assessed against the same framework and show how well it met or didn’t meet the weighted objectives
What emerged was a decision framework against which his job offers might be considered. He could use the weighted objectives to see how well his current job, the potential new job and even a previously unthought of alternative met his list of objectives. Each alternative could now be assessed against the same framework and show how well it met or didn’t meet the weighted objectives. A decision started to emerge.
The great thing about using a process like this, and making your thinking visible, is that what you want drives your outcomes. Rather than being torn in two by competing interests you have control over the decision process by framing it on your terms: those things you value most highly. This not only reduces the tension and emotion of making tough decisions, it gives you the comfort of being able to assess what’s being offered and what’s at stake with clear eyes.
A visual, systematic decision-making framework also makes it possible to include others’ perspectives and input. You might share a career decision with trusted family members, friends, or advisors. Groups use this approach to ensure buy-in by making sure everyone’s objectives that should be considered are included and weighted in relative importance.
When it comes to decision making, according to a recent research study, “process mattered more than analysis—by a factor of six.” This means that how you go about making a decision matters more than the analysis of the data itself. For my friend’s career move, he was able to appreciate being offered two great alternatives and felt a whole lot better about his final decision. The process demonstrated that he knew what he wanted and he chose the best balanced alternative based on what was most important to him. The flight might have been rough but eventually the landing was smooth.
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