Career problem solving and decision making

Choosing an occupation, job or course is a career problem you are likely to face several times in life.

Knowing the information you need and how to process it can help you manage career, and education choices

The career decision making models below can help you at any time when you experience career or career-related problems such as:

  • Choosing school subjects
  • Moving from school to further education, training or employment
  • Changes in your personal or family situation that affect your work
  • Changes in your workplace that prompt a career transition.
  • Changes in skills required for occupations and job roles
  • Changes in your career, course or employment preferences

What’s Involved in Making a Career Choice?

What you need to know

Whats involved in career choice

From "A Cognitive Approach to Career Development and Services: Translating Concepts into Practice," by J. P. Sampson, Jr., G. W. Peterson, J. G. Lenz, and R. C. Reardon, 1992, The Career Development Quartely, 41, p. 70. Copyright 1992 by the National Career Development Association. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Knowing about myself means knowing your:

  • Interests (i.e., activities that you enjoy)
  • Abilities and skills
  • Values
  • Personal situation and your preferences

Knowing about my options means knowing facts about:

  • Occupations
  • Industries
  • Education and training courses and institutions
  • Employment options and the labour market

Knowing how I make decisions refers to how you make important decisions, such as career decisions.

Thinking about my decision making involves:

  • Being aware of how you are going in the career decision making process.
  • Keeping motivated to gather the information you need.
  • Understanding when you have enough information to make an informed decision.
  • Knowing when you need to review your choices.

What you need to do to solve career problems and make career decisions

Guide to good decision making

From "A Cognitive Approach to Career Development and Services: Translating Concepts into Practice," by J. P. Sampson, Jr., G. W. Peterson, J. G. Lenz, and R. C. Reardon, 1992, The Career Development Quartely, 41, p. 70. Copyright 1992 by the National Career Development Association. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

The career decision making cycle guides you in processing the information you gain about yourself your options.

Knowing I need to make a choice. A gap between where you are now and where you want or need to be signals a need to make a choice. You may feel worried, anxious or uncomfortable when you notice a gap between where you are and when you want to be. Examples of times when you know you need to make choice include:

  • Choosing elective school subjects for the following year.
  • Choosing an occupation or course for after Year 12.
  • Choosing your post preferred post-school TAFE, university or independent college.
  • Deciding on your order of preference for TAFE, university or private college courses.
  • Choosing between two or more apprenticeship, traineeship or job offers.

Understanding about myself and my options involves:

  • Clarifying what you know about yourself.
  • Reflecting on what you know about yourself and what you know about your options
  • Understanding what this might mean for your career.

Your school Career Practitioner can help you understand yourself and your options.

Expanding and narrowing my options. Expanding your options means identifying a wide range of occupations, courses or employment options. These should that fit with your interests, abilities, values and preferences. Your school Career Practitioner will have some tools to help you expand your options.

It is important to keep an open mind when generating options so that you don’t miss any promising career and course ideas. Here are some ideas on how to broaden your options:

  • Think about occupations and courses that may be non-traditional for your gender.
  • Explore occupations and courses that are similar or related to those that appeal to you. Career websites with information about occupations usually provide links to similar occupations.

Narrowing your options means identifying your 3-5 best alternatives.

Choosing an occupation or course. This means comparing the pros and cons of your best 3-5 options. You may like to think about your personal and family situation as part of the pros and cons of each option. Analysing the pros and cons will help you to work out your order of preference for your best 3-5 options. This will result in:

  • Your preferred option (for now).
  • Backup options. These are good in case something happens and you can't get into your most preferred option.

Implementing my choice. This involves making a flexible plan to implement your most preferred option. What this involves depends on the career decision you are making. Examples include:

  • Completing your school elective subject preference form.
  • Preparing a résumé and cover letter to apply for a part-time job.
  • Attending a job interview.
  • Testing out an occupation through work experience.
  • Applying for a post-school courses.
  • Applying for scholarships.
  • Adjusting your post-school course preference at offer round time.
  • Accepting course or job offers.

Knowing I made a good choice. If the gap or problem you started with has been fixed you have finished with the career decision making cycle for now. For example, you may:

  • Enjoy your elective school subject choices.
  • Be happy with the apprenticeship you are aiming for.
  • Feel confident about the post-school course you have chosen.

Whenever a new gap or problem arises, you need to revisit the career decision making cycle. For example:

  • You may change your mind about the occupation or post-school course you are aiming for.
  • You may not enjoy a school subject you have chosen.
  • You may be offered an apprenticeship in an occupation that is similar to, but not in the exact occupation you had in mind.

There are many reasons for revisiting the career decision making cycle.


Read these articles on myfuture: How to make good career decisions.

A quick guide to making career decisions

You can get some help with your career decision making. Your parents or carers, school Career Practitioner, teachers or other trusted people may be able to support you.

Career Decision Making Obstacles

Some people get stuck in the career decision-making process.

Professor Itamar Gati has researched career decision-making for many years. He identified three main factors that make it difficult for people to make career related decisions. These are:

  1. Not ready for career decision making. Signs of not being ready for carer decision making include:
    • Finding it hard to be motivated to make a career decisions.
    • Finding it hard to make important decisions in different areas of life.
    • Wanting to be absolutely certain you will make a perfect career decision.
    • Not being sure how to apply the steps in the career decision making process.
  2. Lack of information. Signs of lack of information include:
    • Not knowing enough about your interests, abilities, values or how you want to live your life.
    • Not having enough up-to-date information about career, course or study options.
    • Not knowing how to research career and course options.
    • Not enough in-depth research into top career or course preferences to feel confident about making a choice.
    • Inconsistent information such as: Unreliable information, e.g., "The only way to get a good job is to go to university." Of course, a belief such as this is inaccurate.
      Conflicting Information, e.g., a conflict between what you want to do for your career, but someone close to you does not approve.
      A gap been what you want to do and reality. For example, wanting get into medicine immediately after Year 12, but not having the prerequisites.

See your school Career Practitioner if you have if you have any obstacles that make it hard to make career decisions. There are usually alternative pathways around obstacles to career decision making.

You can also locate a professional Career Practitioner from the Find Career Support link on the Career Development Association of Australia website.

If you are struggling with career decision making after you finish Year 12, you can get free support from a professional career practitioner through the School Leaver support program.