Making career decisions can be scary; but it does not have to be

Career decisions can be scary; what if you make a mistake? Wouldn’t it be nice if your career concerns magically disappear? What would that feel like? What if you could KNOW that everything was going to be OK — and whatever path you chose for your career would be the right path for you.

What comes next is the part where you read the first few words and decide this solution isn’t for you because it doesn’t follow the traditional career advice you have received from parents, teachers, or career counsellors. This is not a ‘cookie-cutter’ solution for everyone; rather it is something you do for yourself. It is simple and easy and you have probably overlooked it.

Find what motivates you.

Let’s be clear: You’re not ‘people’. You are an individual with complex and often competing individual needs, wants, and expectations. But, do you think you could name these “…complex and often competing individual needs, wants and expectations…?”

When was the last time you sat down and questioned your life choices? Sure, you have a basic idea of what you want, but let’s dig a little deeper…

Ask questions.

To find a career that fits your current needs, anticipates your future needs, aligns with your values, and satisfies your personal and professional life; start with what you already know. What has influenced your career choices so far — job security, money, family life, status, helping others? Which of these things (maybe none, maybe more) motivated you to choose one job over another in your career? These influencers are your values.

Your values are your underlying beliefs about the world around you. You might instead think of your values as a ‘gut feeling’, a ‘suspicion’, or ‘something that just felt right’. As you grew from child, to teen, to adult, your values were shaped and have heavily influence your decision-making ever since. You may not have realized they were having such an impact.

Align your values.

When your values align, all seems right with the world: you love the job you do, the people you serve, the people you work with, the tasks you do on a day-to-day basis. When your values don’t align, something does not feel right. You can’t seem to put your finger on it. The misalignment of your values is causing you great pain at work; but on paper, everything seems fine.

Knowing what you value (what’s most important to you) can help pinpoint where your personal and your company values are misaligned. For example, you are an environmentalist at heart, but your employer has lax environmental practices and it really bothers you.

To get to know your values, you can use a well-known exercise called the Knowdell Values Assessment. A simple and effective exercise helps you identify what is important to you. When you know your values, you learn to look for organizations and people who align with your values. It will clarify what you want and what will satisfy you at work.

Don’t be scared.

Clarifying your values can help you see the things that are directing you towards, or preventing you from, making tough career choices. While this exercise is not for everyone, it could mean the difference between a good job and a great job, a good life and a great life.


Maureen McCann is an award-winning, certified master resume strategist and executive career strategist. She is Principal Career Consultant with ProMotion Career Solutions where she assists executives, managers, and six-figure professionals through the full scope of career transition. You can contact Maureen at

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