When you’re in a career transition, rarely do you go down that straight path from old job to your new career. More often you have detours, and twists and turns in the road. Sometimes you have to make U-turns back to a previous employer or take a temporary position in your previous field to make ends meet while you work towards that new career. And sometimes you have that rare “fork in the road” moment when you have to make a decision.
It could be a true Robert Frost moment: your path has suddenly split into a well-worn, well-traveled road and a “road less traveled,” and many times that road less traveled is the one that leads to that new career. But sometimes that fork in the road presents the traveler with two equally-worn, equally-appealing paths. What do you do?
- Determine your priorities. What do you really want? What can you live without? What really matters to you in a job, a career? If you don’t figure out these things, you don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.
- Make a list of pros and cons for each decision. Sometimes you don’t realize that everything is not as equal as it seems until you make a pro-con list. Making this list also requires you to not just see the big picture, but it requires an examination of the smaller parts that make up that big picture.
- Understand consequences/circumstances. Every career or job has good points and bad points. Every job is subject to whatever’s surrounding that job: your coworkers, your commute, your field, even supply and demand. Nothing will be that surefire, golden ticket, wealth-power-prestige trifecta of a career. But there are things we would love to spend our time doing, and things we’d never want to do. Try to stay as clear as you can from the second part.
- Go with your gut. When your gut or your heart or your sixth sense is telling you which path to choose, listen and obey. That choice is most likely the better choice in your mind. Subconsciously, we make choices before our conscious mind can understand them, so we’ve already decided (think The Matrix: Reloaded)–we just have to listen to ourselves.
- Avoid feeling guilt or regret. When you have to pick one path, the other is not going to be chosen. While that’s fine if this were just a road, it doesn’t feel great when it is a job and co-workers and managers you’re leaving behind. Ultimately, you have to realize that people do not stop living or working if you leave. They may be disappointed in seeing you go or let down by the loss of a good employee and the arduous task of finding another. But they will recover. By the same token, so will you. When you leave a good opportunity for another good opportunity, you’re bound to feel regret. But always remember one thing: either way, you have a good opportunity. This is the ultimate win-win situation. So either way, you come out great.
Many times the “fork in the road” moment is the best time for someone in career transition. It allows us to have control of what can be a very out-of-control period. Instead of agonizing over it; enjoy it and embrace it.