For those of us with professional ambitions, opportunities will inevitably come our way. While this is an exciting prospect, discerning which opportunities will ultimately take us to where we want to be personally and professionally can be a challenge.
This doesn’t just pertain to opportunities in our careers, like promotions, new positions, or projects. It can also involve investment opportunities, financial decisions, and the way in which we choose to work. All of these decisions work together to ultimately culminate in our success or in falling short of our ambitions.
As a result, many of us face anxieties over career decisions.
Do I take on that project? Accept that promotion that means moving across the country? That new position that means more hours but better pay? Should I invest, even if it means risk?
The balance of risk and reward is inevitable, and navigating the balance can be paralyzing. Making an executive decision and determining whether or not an opportunity is going to create positive momentum towards your professional goals starts with these three guiding questions.
3 Guiding Questions that Reveal the Truth Behind Career Opportunities
1) Why do I want to say yes?
One of the first things to examine is your gut instinct. Opportunities are exciting, and you will likely have a natural feeling one way or another about them. If your gut says “yes,” you have to stop and actually break down your own motivations. What is leading you to want to accept the opportunity? Is it the idea of having more notoriety? More money?
There are some motivations that are going to last longer and be more ultimately fulfilling than others. Maybe the opportunity before you is finally going to open up an avenue to do something you’re really skilled in or passionate about.
Something that merely offers a larger salary, however, rarely is enough to compensate for longer hours and a grueling workload. There’s always going to be an opportunity cost and you must take these realistically into account.
The initial excitement and a hope for the best-case scenario may blind you to or minimize the downsides and drawbacks until it’s too late. By the same token, you may feel a sense of obligation based on loyalty or societal pressures to take an opportunity that doesn’t fit with who you want to be personally or professionally. Don’t say yes for the wrong reasons.
2) How does this opportunity affect my ultimate ambition?
Not every opportunity—even good opportunities—will serve your ultimate ambitions. I don’t know what you want in life. Maybe you have a “whatever it takes” approach to your future and you just want to have and do it all. It won’t be so hard for you to make decisions! But for those of us with very clearly defined goals for ourselves, we have to be much more discerning about what we choose to take on.
You have to ask whether or not an opportunity is taking you down the right path. Will it be honing a skill that you need, giving you experience that is beneficial for your goals, or forming valuable connections? These are all valuable considerations.
3) What do the people with more experience have to say?
When it comes to any opportunity, be they a promotion, new venture, or investment opportunity, it’s incredibly important to seek outside advice. While you must be aware of biases and that others’ experiences aren’t universal or indicative of your future success or failure, they can provide valuable insight.
People who have worked or are working in the position you have your eye on or people who have accepted similar opportunities can help you navigate the pros and cons in a very real way versus dealing in hypotheticals.
Sit down and have coffee with ex-employees. Speak to current ones. Suss out the pros and cons and try to get a sense of the reality of the opportunity you want to take on. While someone else’s experience can’t speak for you entirely, it can be highly beneficial in the decision-making process.
While the anxieties around big, important career opportunities can seem totally overwhelming, here’s something we have to understand from the very beginning: no one opportunity is going to make or break your career. If you miss out or botch things, you’re not doomed. The vision of success in your head isn’t the only path for you.
While things might not turn out like you plan, the ability to adapt is essential. In life, nothing is perfect. Even amazing opportunities come with their kinks and drawbacks. Instead of focusing on chasing these perfect chances, make the most of what you have, where you are. Know what you’re about and what you want. Success will follow.
What the biggest career decision you’ve ever faced? Share how it turned out in the comments.