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June 18, 2021, by indybamra1

How To Approach a Difficult Decision at Work or in Your Career

By Gemma Foxall, Employability Officer

We make hundreds of decisions every day, some are easier than others. Decisions about what to eat for lunch, or whether we need to wear a raincoat today might be straightforward enough. But making decisions about your career, which roles to apply for, or which area of specialism to focus your training on can seem really big. Plus, decisions in the workplace, about a project you’re working on, or even about a patients’ care can have wide-ranging implications. How do other people make these decisions and what strategies can help?

A previous line manager once told me there was no such thing as a bad decision, just a decision. Reflecting on this now, I think she was right. You never know what the right decision is until afterward, and if we spend too long trying to work out what the right decision is then we could end up not deciding at all. So, what actually is a good decision? A recent report published by the Association for Project Managers (APM) suggests that a good decision is one that is taken (amongst other things):

  • In a timely manner
  • In an objective manner
  • Using appropriate data
  • For the right reasons.

After considering what a good decision might be I wanted to find ideas or strategies that others have successfully used to make any future decision-making easier. To do this I used the University’s online learning tool – magpie. I searched for decision-making and found various articles and videos on the subject. Here’s a few I found interesting and that you may want to check out:

From these various sources, I’ve pulled together a few key and recurring themes to support future decision-making:

  • Clarify the decision. Really consider what the problem or question is before you start looking into options. Jumping into a decision straight away could lead to misinterpreting the question or not considering all the options.
  • Phone a friend. Be open-minded and consider alternative perspectives, other people may see things differently and be able to offer new possibilities.
  • Use data and question whether an argument is a fact or fiction. Informing your decisions with reliable data is key. Try not to ignore information that doesn’t necessarily support your initial thoughts or goals and consider whether any biases are affecting your decision-making. Are you jumping on a bandwagon, or relying too heavily on one piece of information? If so, go back to your phone a friend option and talk through it objectively with someone.
  • Reflect on the decision. After you’ve made the decision, think about the process, how did you come to the decision and what can you learn and how can you use this when faced with your next decision. So next time you’re faced with a decision such as choosing your research project title or dissertation topic take some time to really understand the decision and all possible options.
  • Research those options. What do the facts say, which topic might align with your future career plans, which project would give you the experience or skills you might need. Discuss all this with a friend, colleague, or tutor. Talk through any data, and the options to gain a different perspective. Then, once you’ve made a decision, reflect on the process. How easy was the decision, what helped you in the process, and what might you do differently next time? You can explore magpie for your development, whether it’s to read more on decision-making, or perhaps to improve your leadership skills or emotional intelligence. There’s a wealth of information and the more you use magpie, the better it tailors the content to your interests.

If you frequently put off making decisions or find yourself procrastinating, then this blog on how to deal with procrastination has some helpful advice. You can also book a careers appointment to discuss any difficult decisions or career-related concerns you may have.

Posted in Applying For JobsCareers AdviceChoosing Your CareerFurther studyInterviewsMagpie