“I’ve Considered A Thousand Options, Yet Made Zero Progress. How Do I Decide?”

Mark has spent so much time and energy exploring different career directions that he's reached analysis paralysis. Now, he's struggling to work out what's right for him and is scared of choosing the wrong path. How do you narrow down your options and commit?

What's your career history and current job?

I'm a marketing manager for a financial software company.

After my degree, and before my current job, I did several internships in marketing and worked for a technology start-up which had the potential to make a big impact.

Unfortunately, while I was really enjoying the work, I found that the founders cared more about empire building than making positive change, so I left that start-up and took some time out to explore my options before taking up my current role.

How do you feel about your work?

One of the reasons I got involved in marketing was because I thought it would be a good way to combine storytelling and the industry environment to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Like a lot of people, I watched Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, and got really passionate about issues like climate change and science.

Sadly, I've ended up in an area that really isn't shaking any political spectrums in the way I hoped I'd be a part of.

I enjoy the fact that I get to interact with people and do some public speaking. But I don't like the stuffy office of a corporate environment, or being trapped in a cubicle all day.

I prefer being out and on my feet, being creative and taking action.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'd rather be working on problems that affect the world and where I can make a difference.

Some of the options I've explored include videography, design agency work, archaeology, charity fundraising, energy conservation and ocean mapping.

I've considered thousands of options, but I'm no closer to knowing what to do.

All I know is that I'd like to work with people and on an issue where I feel I can use my skills and have lots of learning opportunities.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I feel overwhelmed by the number of possibilities.

I don't want to commit to the wrong choice so I'm avoiding making one.

About a year ago I left my job and spent a few months doing some voluntary work with a charity that works with seriously ill children.

During that time I thought I'd try to figure out what I really want to do.

I did every career test under the sun, read books, met people from different industries, met with career counsellors, spoke with friends, read lots of articles on the internet, looked into taking some more qualifications so that I might stand a better chance of getting a job in science...

At the end of those few months, I felt mentally drained with analysis paralysis and like I'd made zero progress, so I went back to my job. I felt really defeated.

One of the things I did was ask people of all ages and from different industries how they got into their world.

A lot of people were really dismissive of their industries, maybe I was asking the wrong questions or maybe people were being defensive but all I found was a lot of negativity.

Now I have a dilemma. I'm in a great job; maybe I should just get my head down and keep working. But then my personal aspirations and today's society suggest I don't need to settle for something that isn't a good fit.

I think I'm expecting things to be perfect, even though I know things never are, so instead of making the first step in any particular direction, I'm always trying to grab more information.

How can I narrow down the possibilities and decide what path to choose?

Can you help Mark?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Mark could move his shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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