We’ve all experienced having to make a tough decision about the next step in our careers – between one role and another at the same company, between jobs at different companies, or even sometimes between completely different life paths, like remaining at a job, going back to school, or staying home with children.
I’ve faced several of these crossroads in my own career and, over the years, have tried out many different techniques to help me choose the right direction. After much trial and error, I’ve landed on three techniques that have made the decision-making process much easier, and I want to share them with you.
1. The Grid
This technique is a classic that many people recommend. The idea is simple: create a grid based on criteria that matter to you, and then score your potential career choices against those criteria. Sample criteria can include anything that you believe is important, but common ones include the scope of the role, the people you’ll work with, compensation, geography, opportunities for advancement, opportunities for learning, and how worthwhile the work is. You can use whatever scoring system you’d like and weigh some criteria more than others, depending on which factors are most important to you.
At the end of the exercise, you will have a total score for each choice you are considering. But here’s where the rubber meets the road – based on the gut feeling in your stomach, you will either agree with your “final” score or you won’t. If you think, “Yes, that feels right,” then you know you have your answer. If something doesn’t feel right and you find yourself going back to the grid to add new criteria or change weightings or scores, well, you also have your answer. In the end, your gut will tell you which option you really prefer.
When I left Yahoo! in 2007 to take a job as a startup CEO, I had three offers to choose from, and I used this grid technique to help me decide which company to join. In the end, I chose the company that was the least far along and most risky, and not surprisingly, it hadn’t scored the highest on my grid. It turns out that subconsciously, I was placing more value on criteria like how much I thought I would learn from the people I’d be working with and the proximity to my house (since I had young children and wanted to be closer to them) rather than the potential security of the position.
And, in the end, it turned out to be a great decision. It may have been a harder road, since the company, which later became the Dealmap, was earlier in its evolution, but I learned so much and built incredible relationships, and we were able to build a successful company, selling it to Google in 2011.
2. The Conversation
The “conversation” is a decision-making technique that I recently described in an interview with Julie Bort from Business Insider. The concept here is that you can learn a lot about your feelings toward something by listening to yourself describe that thing to others– especially to people whose opinions matter to you.
Julie asked me why I chose to leave a lucrative, senior position at Google to join Change.org as president and COO. After I explained all the reasons to her (an amazing, world-changing company, an all-star team, big technology challenges, the ability to add meaningful value to the trajectory of the company, etc.), she kept drilling further, asking me how I knew the choice was the right one, not why it was.
I thought back to a conversation I had with my mother. She was initially skeptical of the decision, concerned about the risks involved and wondering why I would leave a safe role with lots of forward potential at a great company like Google. I agreed with her (and other friends and family members who raised similar concerns) that there were many good reasons to stay at Google – in fact, nearly the whole team that came over with me from The Dealmap is still there and quite happy. Yet as I talked more with my mother, I could hear myself trying to win her over, explaining why I thought joining Change.org was such a great fit for me.
In listening to myself try to convince her, it became very clear to me that this was what I really wanted. Similar to the Grid, where your gut will tell you the answer regardless of your final score, the Conversation works the same way: talk with people you trust, and you’ll know what your heart is telling you by listening to whether you’re agreeing with those people or are trying to shift their opinions. (And yes, in case you are wondering, my mother was fully supportive of my role at Change.org and all that the company worked to achieve!)
3. The ‘Sit With’
The third technique is one I’ve used not only for job decisions but for other life decisions as well. The concept here is to imagine yourself actually in the position you are considering, ideally for several days at a minimum, to see how it feels to you.
My dear friend Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, CEO of Banamex USA and formerly president of Citibank California, calls this the “Sit With.” She says that she will sit with the idea of something, imagining it is reality for several days or even weeks, before she decides to do it. I have used this technique myself, both for work-related decisions (like when I decided between job offers in consulting, brand management, and technology coming out of business school) and for life decisions (like deciding whether to make an offer on a house).
For work examples, you can do simple things like imagine yourself handing someone a business card with a different title or company on it, updating your LinkedIn profile with the new information, or introducing yourself to someone new by telling them about your new job. How do you feel? Are you excited to tell more people? Or do you not want to talk about it? How you feel during your Sit With will speak volumes about which choice you should make in real life.
The key to using the Sit With is to imagine only one option at a time. Really living as if you have made the choice already is the way this technique works best. When I used The Sit With to decide whether we wanted to put an offer in on a house, I literally drove “home” to that house every day for at least a week to see what it felt like. And I got more excited each day thinking that this house could become my home.
As you can probably tell, each of these three techniques – the Grid, the Conversation, and the Sit With – zeros in on one key element: your heart. They are each tricks to connect you more closely to what you likely already know inside – and it’s that internal knowledge that really tells you which choice is right for you.
– Jennifer Dulski
This post originally appeared on Linkedin.
Jennifer Dulski leads Facebook Groups — a product central to the new Facebook mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Prior to Facebook, Jennifer spent 4 years as President & COO of Change.org, a social impact company that empowers people globally to create change. Before Change.org, Jennifer held executive roles at Yahoo! and Google, and was CEO of The Dealmap, a mobile, local deals site that Google acquired in 2011, making Jennifer the first female entrepreneur to sell a company to Google. A prominent thought leader in Silicon Valley, she writes frequently about management and leadership for LinkedIn Influencers, Fortune and Huffington Post. Her first book,Purposeful, about how each of us can be movement starters, will be published by Penguin Portfolio in May of 2018.