How to avoid career limiting decisions you may live to regret

Avoid career limiting career decisions

Ever thought about quitting on the spot after a heated discussion with your boss? Or telling your co-worker exactly what you think of them after they’ve undermined you one too many times in a meeting?

Thinking about it and doing it, of course, have quite different outcomes.

The difference between those who can restrain their impulses at work and those who can’t?

Those who can, buy themselves time.

Time to cool off, think rationally and respond, rather than react. As leadership coach Peter Bregman suggests, it is possible to override autopilot and make smarter choices in the moment – in fact, he believes all the time you need is four seconds to breath and think, before deciding how to respond.

But what about those other big career decisions we make that are emotionally driven and not necessarily quick fire reactions or responses? For example, when deciding what to do after being made redundant or losing a job?

In this case, the same applies – buy yourself time. Time to explore what your best options are and to make the most of the opportunity for a fresh start.

If you let your emotions call the shots and make an impulse decision to take the first job that comes along, chances are it won’t be ideal.

I’ve had people come to me for career coaching who had done exactly that – taken an unsuitable job on impulse and before they knew it, four of five years of their life had gone by, being miserable.

Two ways to avoid making impulse decisions

1. Know your true financial situation (do the maths)

Often when people are job hunting there is a sense of urgency based on the assumption that they couldn’t afford to have any time at all without a job.

But more often that not, when my clients actually do the maths they are surprised to realise they could survive without a pay cheque for quite some time. Admittedly for some it could mean eating into savings they had tagged for other things, or adding to the mortgage, but at least they know there are options if they need it.

I’ve had other clients too, who have realised through doing this financial health check, that they could afford to take a pay cut in the short term, which opened up more options for them in terms of the jobs they could consider.

Armed with factual information about your financial situation, you are better placed to make reasoned decisions based on reality, rather than impulse decisions based on fear or assumptions.

2. Deal with unhelpful mindsets

As outlined above, untested assumptions can be unhelpful when under pressure to make career decisions, as can unhelpful thoughts that sit in the subconscious, undermining confidence.

Thoughts such as: “I’ll never get another job”, “I’m too old”, “I’m too inexperienced”, “I don’t know enough” etc.

These stories don’t serve us well and, left unchecked, will impact our behaviour and the decisions we make, severely limiting options.

Being mindful and conscious about the stories we tell ourselves is key.

Research suggests that bringing attention to the thought (or story) by naming it, is all that’s required to diffuse it. Sounds simple, but the challenge is to remember to take notice of the unhelpful thoughts as they occur.

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About the author: Lucy Sanderson-Gammon, MBA, is a Wellington-based career coach helping mid-career professionals who have fallen out of love with their jobs to find meaningful work. She also provides career development for those who want to get ahead at work or make a transition after redundancy. Find out more about Lucy's coaching services here.