Career problem solving and decision making: A life skill for starting or changing an occupation, job or course

Transitioning into an initial or new occupation, job role or course of study is a career problem that you are likely to face when you leave school and at various times during your life. Knowing the information you need and how to process it by applying a career decision making model can help you manage multiple career transitions.

You can apply the career decision making models below at any time in your life when you experience a transition 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 within your current workplace
  • 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

Click on the text in the diagrams below to show the information that you need to manage career decision making.

Whats involved in career choice

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.

Career Decision Making Problems

Seeking and gathering information about yourself, about career and course options and the rapidly changing world of work, applying the steps in the career decision-making cycle and continually monitoring your thoughts and progress during the career decision making process should help you to come up with optimal career solutions. However, 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. Lack of readiness. You may be showing signs of lack of readiness if one of the following applies to you:
    • You are not be motivated to make a career decisions yet.
    • You find many life decisions difficult to make and deciding on the next career step is just one of these.
    • You want to make the perfect career decision, which of course is unrealistic because no career decision can be perfect.
    • You are not entirely sure how to apply the steps in the career decision making process.
  2. Lack of information. You may be showing signs of lack of information if one of the following applies to you:
    • You don’t know enough about your interests, strengths, values or how you want to live your life.
    • You don’t have enough up-to-date information about career possibilities, course or study options, the labour market or the changing world of work.
    • You have not done sufficient in-depth research into promising career or course alternatives to feel confident about making a choice.
    • You don’t know how to research career and course information.
  3. Inconsistent information. You may be showing signs of inconsistent information if one of the following applied to you:
    • Some information you have may be unreliable. An example of unreliable information could be someone who has considered applying for a Bachelor of Arts degree but thought that a Bachelor of Arts might not lead to any job. This, of course is a myth, as a Bachelor of Arts degree provides a background for many different career options. Nevertheless, anyone believing this myth could find it difficult to commit to a decision to study a Bachelor of Arts degree.
    • You may have conflicting information. Conflicting information may be internal or external.

      An example of an internal conflict may be a gap between your preferences and capabilities, e.g., you want to study physiotherapy, but you are not sure if you will reach the required ATAR or OP. There could also be a conflict between your preferences and aspects of the occupation, e.g., you may want to work as an Animal Attendant and also earn a high income.

      An example of an external conflict may be that you have a career in mind, but someone close to you does not approve. Another example could be that a course you want to study is only offered in another state/territory and you are not in a position to relocate to another state or territory.

If any of these career decision-making difficulties apply to you, it may be is best that you see a career practitioner. A career practitioner will be able to help you explore your career indecision and support you in resolving any issues and making progress to informed career and course decision-making. School students and staff may be able to make a time to discuss career indecision with a school-based career practitioner. Alternatively, you can locate a professional career practitioner from the Career Development Association of Australia website.