How to Know You’re Making the Right Decision


Take the new job or keep your current job?

I often get messages from higher ed. leaders asking to speak with me to “be sure they are making the right decision” when a job opportunity presents itself. Obviously, I want them to make the best decision possible, but the most important thing is for them to let go of their need to make perfect decisions.

Needing certainty is a terrible obstacle to personal and professional growth, and to living a fulfilling life. That being said, being impulsive with big decisions can be reckless. The key is to find the right balance between being quick to jump and being frozen in fear.

Administrators can be tempted to make a rash decision when they are deeply unhappy at their current job and willing to take almost anything just so that they can leave. Others may be happy where they are but be seduced by an impressive job title or significant pay raise. Paying attention to only one benefit or only one source of pain is mistake.

How to reach your own conclusion with confidence

For some people, it’s easy. They simply trust their gut or their intuition, and the way they feel tells them what to do. However, too much enthusiasm can create a “fake yes” and too much fear can create a “fake no.” Personally, I like to listen to both my heart and my brain when I make important decisions.

Here are the steps to take to avoid making a decision you will regret.

1.     Evaluate your current job.

Are the problems you have a clear sign that you are in the wrong place (e.g. verbally abusive boss, expectations that you work 24/7 etc.) or are you having challenges that may follow you anywhere you go (e.g. not being assertive, lacking confidence, feeling under-appreciated, etc.). If you think you need to leave, what kind of timeline is appropriate for you? Don’t make urgent what doesn’t need to be rushed.

2.     Get clear on what you really want.

To avoid giving too much weight to one benefit (e.g. status, income, or simply the chance to leave right away) ask yourself what you want in your next position. Make 3 lists:

  1. What you must have (e.g. type of work, organizational culture and values, or compensation)
  2. What would be nice to have (e.g. Fridays off in the summer)
  3. What you must not have (e.g. a long commute)

Compare opportunities to your lists. That will stop you from settling for a job that pays less than you’re worth or that is so far that the daily commute will be detrimental to your health and happiness.

3.     Do your research.

Do a reasonable amount of research. Define what “reasonable” means to you. Don’t get lazy and cut corners but also don’t over-do it. Be clear on what you’re looking for and where you can find that information. Ask yourself if what you are paying attention to is what you really need to know. Some people only look at positive aspects and others are obsessed with identifying red flags. Don’t go into extremes.

4.     Redefine what “the right decision" means.

If you think “the right decision” is a choice you will never regret, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. It is not possible to know before you accept a position what you will know six months or a year later. The only way to know for sure is to take the job. Also, no matter where you go, things can change quickly. If your boss or your President leaves, new hires can affect your workplace positively or negatively. So please understand that “the right decision” doesn’t mean “one you will never regret” but it means “the best decision you can make at this moment in time with the information available.”

5.     Trust yourself more.

Making the “right” choice implies that other options would be bad. Don’t be so afraid of external circumstances not matching your preferences. Even if what happens isn’t what you wanted, you will still be more than capable of handling it. In fact, unexpected events are exactly what will help you grow as a leader. You need delicate situations to keep improving your communications skills, influence, professional relationship building skills, as well as organization and time management skills. Having to stretch and grow is a good thing. You can do it.  

6.     Be willing to forgive yourself.

Promise yourself that if you do accept a position and later find out it isn’t a fit, you will forgive yourself. Why would you beat yourself up anyway? If you didn’t make a rash decision, did your homework, and made the best decision you could with the information available at the time, there is nothing to forgive. A new job can mean discovering something unpleasant that wasn’t on your radar because you had no experience with this particular issue. That’s how life works. You don’t know something, until you do. You learn and keep going forward with courage and trust in yourself and your future.

In summary, know what you want, do your homework, and let go of your need for certainty. Nothing is ever certain or permanent. Do the best you can and if you need to course-correct later, you will. Challenges will be your greatest teachers. Trust more and move forward courageously.

If you would like to work with me on your job transition, I invite you to visit my website for more information and click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. 

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