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How to choose a career path when you just can't choose

Erin Delaney

Careers Commentator

So, you’ve got a few career paths you’re interested in pursuing, but you just can’t decide which one to go down. Are you driving yourself crazy going round and round, getting to the same stalemate dead-end with your own logic? While there might be someone you haven’t already asked that could give you the magic answer, what is going to be a lot more helpful than someone else’s vague “I reckon you should… “ are some practical tools to help you come up with an answer you’re genuinely happy with.

In this epic battle for your time, sanity and wellbeing, we’re going to pit you against your brain in a showdown to end all showdowns and get that decision made!

Round one:

An oldie but a goodie, a pros and cons list.

Get as many pieces of paper as you have ideas, then on each one divide it with a vertical line running down the middle to create two columns, labelling one ‘pros’ and the other ‘cons’.

In the pros column of each one, write down all the good things you can think of about that idea. It might be things like “job security” or “high paying” or “creative”.

In the cons column, write down all the things you can think of that might make that job less than appealing. You might write “long hours”, “difficult to get into” and so on.

Hopefully, by the end, if you’re very thorough and spend a bit of time really thinking about each one, you’ll find that one stands out as the option with the most amount of pros and the least amount of cons — or, at least, lots of pros and the kinds of cons you can put up with for the benefits.

If you haven’t managed to whittle the list down to one, you’ll hopefully only have two that stand out now.

Round two:

If the pros and cons list wasn’t powerful enough, we’ll need to pull out the big guns: get some real-life data to work with.

Let’s say you’ve narrowed it down to two options: vet or web programmer. The pros and cons lists have equal benefits and difficulties for both, and now you’re stuck.

What can you do? You can get some real-life experience doing both things.

To get some experience, you can ask to volunteer at both your local vet clinic and web agency. You might simply be helping to run errands, but you’ll get to watch on and ask questions and find out whether the reality matches the hype — and the same goes for volunteering in a hospital, interning at a bank or shadowing an architect for a day.

You might find out you don’t really like the smell of the chemicals the vet clinic uses to sanitise equipment, or that you’d like to be on your feet more than a web programmer gets to be.

If you have difficulty finding a place to volunteer, or just want more information from other people’s experiences to compare with, check out GradAustralia’s graduate job reviews, Whirlpool and reddit forums, and ask your friends and family who have an interest in the professions you’re keen on. You might even be able to get your family and friends to help you land a volunteering spot, or shadow them for a day as they go about their work.

There’s nothing like real-life experience to help you make a good decision.

Round three:

If you’re still having difficulty, then there’s really only one more solution that can vanquish your indecision — make friends with your indecision.

Is there a way you can combine both career paths? Let’s stick with the vet and web programmer examples.

Can you, for example, decide to follow veterinary studies and learn web programming to make you some money on the side during uni? Perhaps you could create websites for other vets, or practise as a vet and then go on to create software that is really useful for a clinic to have that doesn’t currently exist.

Doing what you love doesn’t have to mean that you never get to do anything else. You can always find a way to incorporate your different interests, as long as you get creative.

Brain: 0, You: 3.