How to Make Better Career Decisions

by Staff - Original publish date: November 12, 2012

Which statement best describes how you make a decision?

  1. The best decisions are the result of thorough research, where several alternatives are considered, and the pros and cons of each are weighed carefully before reaching a fact-based decision.
  2. The best decisions are the result of input from a group—two heads are better than one, and three heads are better than two.
  3. The best decisions are the ones I make unilaterally. Just kidding—sort of.
  4. The best decisions are the result of brainstorming possibilities and choosing the one that everyone is most excited about.

If you are familiar with personality styles, you will recognize each style by those statements: 1) Systematic, 2) Considerate, 3) Direct, and 4) Spirited. Each point of view reveals the inherent strengths and shortcomings of each style as it relates to making decisions.

Systematic decision makers are analytical and precise. They want to gather complete information and examine all their options before making a decision. They trade off speed for a careful approach and analysis. This is valuable when there is time to make a decision, but it can be a hindrance in a crisis or time-sensitive situation.

Considerate decision makers gather input and advice from others. They want to collaborate with others in a structured decision-making process. This approach is valuable, especially when dealing with complex decisions, but it can be a deterrent when there are conflicting viewpoints that aren’t easily resolved.

Direct decision makers are not afraid to take risks and want to take action independently. They may even appear to be impulsive when the logic behind their decision isn’t apparent. They want to make the decisions that have the biggest potential for reward, even if they come with the biggest risks.

Spirited decision makers also like to involve others in decision making—at least in generating ideas and options. However, they can be prone to making a choice before all the information has been collected or analyzed. Their optimism about carrying out the decision successfully needs to be tempered with realism.

The best decisions use a combination of each style’s strengths.

A study from the Columbia Business School found that people who trusted their instincts when making decisions were consistently more accurate than those who didn’t. One big caveat: this applied only in situations where people knew something about the decisions they were making. In other words, they had accumulated experience and wisdom about the issue that formed their intuition. When faced with a brand-new problem, you don’t have a store of internalized experience, so relying on your intuition in this situation is unhelpful, if not downright harmful.

The bottom line: Take some time (but not too much!) to gather and analyze information. Then check the option that looks best on paper with your instinct. If your gut tells you to go with another choice, go back and review the information you gathered and see if you overlooked anything that your subconscious is trying to tell you.