Have you ever regretted a career decision? Even the smartest people make rash decisions in their professions. Poor choices can lead to some major career mistakes.
What does it mean to make rash decisions in your career?
Rash decisions are impulsive choices that we make at work without really thinking them through. Some examples are taking on commitments you didn't want to or doing something like quitting a job hastily, later leading to anxiety and frustration.
Sometimes it's easy to make fast decisions without considering how they'll impact you later. However, a lot of us have made rash decisions in our careers!
Most people make rash decisions in their careers
Even if you’re the Albert Einstein of your department, you have most likely made at least one opposite-of-genius move at some point in your professional past (or present).
Rash decisions can make you question if you know what you’re doing when it comes to your professional life. They may leave you paralyzed with regret and defeat at the sound of your alarm every single morning.
And these choices can even force you to ask yourself, "did I really make that poor decision?"
That said, it's important to be aware of what these common yet rash decisions are, so you can catch yourself next time.
Common rash decisions you may have made
Here are some decisions that people often make and later regret. Use these examples to make better choices at work and know what not to do when decision-making.
Taking on opportunities in a rush
Ever move on to a new opportunity without giving serious thought to whether that move made sense for your ultimate career goals? Then you realized you’d made a huge mistake that would take years to undo?
That's an example of making a quick decision without taking the time to think it through. You may have said yes to something fast, based on emotion, and then later realized it wasn't what you wanted at all.
Sometimes people feel rushed about giving a response to their boss or colleagues. It's important to take time to figure out what you should do before you talk to them.
Taking on a new project when you don't have the bandwidth
Ever agree to join a side project at work even though your plate was already filled to capacity with other tasks? You probably couldn't give the project your full attention, which made you look like a slacker. Oops - rash decision.
It affects not just you but the rest of your team, so think hard about what you can commit to before saying yes, and learn how to say no in a nice way.
Undermining your ability
Have you ever wanted to take on a project or opportunity but turned it down because you weren't sure you could handle it or didn't know if you'd be good at it? Part of making a balanced decision is knowing what you excel at and believing that you're capable.
It doesn't mean you should take on too many things at once, but it does mean you should recognize when you have a chance to take a step forward in your career. And you should be confident about how great you are at your job.
Not looking for new opportunities
Ever convince yourself to just “keep your head down and do your job” even though your eyes glaze over from boredom every time you think about what you do for a living? It leaves you unable to operate at the level you know you’re capable of.
You should always consider how you can advance in your career and take on more responsibility. It's also important to be open to other opportunities you may be suited for.
So, you may be wondering, why do smart people — people who solve complex problems, people who think things through logically — people like you — totally miss the mark when deciding how to navigate their career?
The reasons may surprise you.
Why we make rash decisions in our careers
You probably think most people make decisions based on what they truly want. That they always do what’s in their best interest and that of their career. But actually, that’s not true.
You might make a decision at work based on peer pressure or what your friends think.
For example, you raise your hand to be considered for a promotion because all your colleagues raised theirs, and you don’t want to be left behind. Never mind the fact that you have no desire to do anything listed in the higher-profile job description.
Another thing that can happen is you believe that there is one path that is right for everyone, so you follow that even though it doesn't work for you.
For example, maybe you quit your job to become an entrepreneur because everyone else is doing it. You think if you’re not your own boss, then something’s wrong with you, and you’ve somehow settled for a mediocre life. However, you wind up disliking the unstructured environment and the pressure of having to constantly be thinking about your business.
Just because something is right for one person doesn't mean it is for another.
Regardless of all the career advice out there or what your colleagues say, you must make decisions for yourself and truly do what's best for you.
How bad advice and rash decisions lead to career mistakes
Because most people are making choices aligned with others’ professional desires (and not their own), they’re more susceptible to using well-meaning but incorrect anecdotes as reasons to make silly decisions.
You may get random advice and make rash decisions if you listen. You might hear things like:
Just follow your gut
There are times when it is okay to use your gut to make a major decision. Things like relationships, buying a home, or your health. But deciding your next career move doesn’t have to be one of these times.
To avoid making career mistakes, give serious and objective thought to which option gets you closer to your ultimate professional goals. You should be clear about how and why your decision is the best choice for where you’re trying to go professionally.
You need to figure it all out by (insert milestone age)
Newsflash: you will not self-destruct if you haven’t found your career groove by 35, 45, or even 65. That means you should slow down. The most successful (and fulfilling) career journeys are those treated like a marathon, not a sprint.
Experiment with your interests and weigh your options before taking any big risks and before rash decision making happens.
Focus on the future, forget about the past
Part of what makes high-performing athletes so great is the habit of reviewing game film. No, you shouldn’t beat yourself up or be critical of every wrong move you’ve made, but you should figure out the lesson behind every mistake.
Questions like: what could I have done differently and what have I learned are important to ask after each setback or rash decision.
You need to stay on the right track
The worst thing you can do is force yourself into a box, afraid to explore your interests. Take that class on a topic unrelated to your day job. Apply for that position in an entirely different industry.
Don’t feel pressured to do things in the “logical order” as predetermined by someone else. There is more than one path to success.
Always ask for advice from others
The most valuable advice I’ve ever received was, don’t seek counsel from anyone you wouldn’t trade places with.
Outside of my mentor and my career coach, I don’t rely on many people to inform my career decisions. Who better to steer your career in the right direction than you?
To avoid mistakes, trust in your own knowledge and experiences when thinking about making your next move. Ultimately you are responsible for your decisions.
Just follow your heart
Let me be clear: I agree that you should take the time to figure out your professional purpose and spend your days doing work that excites and energizes you. But the idea of simply doing what you love is oversimplified and can lead to rash decision making.
Ask anyone who has found work they’re passionate about, and they’ll tell you their journey was a series of little decisions that compounded on top of one another.
Finding work you love is definitely the goal, but you shouldn’t avoid making decisions just because you’re not passionate about your options.
Steps to take when making decisions in your career
Now you know why people make rash decisions at their jobs and what you should look out for. But how do you make a decision wisely in your career when you need to?
Follow these suggestions to make good choices.
Ask for time to decide
If you're asked to be in charge of a project, speak at a conference, or do anything else that will require planning and time, decide slowly. Now your colleagues and boss may be waiting on an answer, so it's polite not to take too long.
What you could say is something like, "That sounds like a great opportunity. May I have until (tomorrow, the end of the week, etc) to think it over?"
It's a tactic that works well when whatever you'll be working on requires a big time commitment or life change.
What about things that are more time-sensitive? Say something like, "The project sounds great, and I know you need an answer soon. Can I go take a look at my schedule and let you know in half an hour?"
That gives you a few minutes to think calmly and logically, as well as ensure you do, in fact, have the time for the project.
Consider the options
When you're asked to do something that may change your career, consider the options.
Ask yourself if you like your career the way it is and what would change. Think about other options you may have at the company or perhaps in other companies. Basically, don't say yes to something without knowing that it's the best option for you.
Get the advice of a trusted mentor or friend
As was stated earlier, asking for advice from just anyone is a bad idea. But if you're really stuck and can't decide what to do, ask a friend or someone who's mentored you.
It's important that this isn't someone who will be impacted by your answer. (For example, ask a close friend who works in a similar industry, not your work supervisor.)
Sometimes getting the opinion of someone who isn't biased and cares about you and your career is the best thing you can do. They can provide you with a lot of great insight as you make your choice.
Leverage these tips on how not to make rash decisions in your career!
Yes, there is an argument to be made for embracing career mistakes and learning from every decision you make.
But why put yourself through the emotional, financial, and professional stress that comes with trying to course-correct after the fact if you don’t have to?
We can all make rash decisions that leave us in places we don't want to be, like working too many hours or disliking our jobs. It can throw us off track with our professional goals.
In order to make smarter choices in the future, remember to take your time, consider your options, and ask for advice from unbiased people you trust.
You’re smart and perfectly capable. It’s time to make sure your career decisions are as well. And while you're at it, you can level up your career strategies for growth, and learn how to find a new occupation if that's best for you!