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Marquette University
Career Services Center

Holthusen Hall, First Floor
1324 W. Wisconsin Avenue
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-7423
Fax: (414) 288-5302
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What To Expect

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Decision-making is not to be taken lightly. People make decisions a variety of ways.

Career decisions may include:

  1. Choosing a major
  2. Narrowing your career goals or occupational targets
  3. Selecting a career-related experience
  4. Choosing a post-grad service program
  5. Choosing a post-grad education program and institution
  6. Comparing job offers

Determine Your Satisfying Occupational Characteristics

This is similar to the steps used in “Career Exploration” in that it focuses on your interests and values. This time, focus on those priorities you need in this position for it to be satisfying. Limit your most important qualities to less than 10.

Some items to consider might be:

Employment qualities

  1. Pleasant surroundings/office space
  2. Opportunity for advancement
  3. Salary (current or future)
  4. Benefit package: paid time off, 401K, sick days, health insurance tuition assistance
  5. Commuting time
  6. Company image and ethics
  7. Size of organization
  8. Flexible work hours
  9. Overtime vs. no overtime
  10. Travel
  11. Local arts, entertainment, cultural activities
  12. Variety in work

Location qualities

  1. Specific metro area or local, regional, national, international location
  2. Distance from family and friends
  3. Urban, suburban, rural
  4. Weather and other location-type qualities (water, mountains, woods)
  5. Cost of living
  6. Significant other’s career

Gather Informational Facts and Data

Depending on which type of career decision you are making, you will want to gather the appropriate information. Much of this is detailed in the Career Research section. Once you have gathered this data either from your career research or job offers, you are ready to evaluate.

Evaluate Possibilities

Using a spreadsheet makes this process much easier. Here is an example of a career decision-making grid for determining which job offer to take.

Satisfying Occupational Characteristics Job Offer A Job Offer B Job Offer C
Salary + Benefits $42,000 + A Benefits $48,000 + C Benefits $44,000 + A Benefits
Distance from family 2 hour drive 20 minutes 2 hour drive
Flexible schedule None None None
Urban Yes Suburban Yes
Commute >15 minutes None – live at home 30 minutes
Cost of living Medium Cheap – live at home Medium
Advancement After 6 months After 12-month training Don’t Know

Gut Instinct

Based on this spreadsheet more information may be needed — such as an actual budget if you’re not living at home. Another great way to determine if a position will be a good fit is to “live with it” for a while. Spend the day imagining you have taken one offer. Imagine your life with that position. The next day do the same with the other choice. What is your gut telling you?

Check in With Stakeholders

Think about all of the people invested in your career. Who has contributed to your success? Who has helped you along the way? Be sure to share your career decisions with these people. You can begin to develop and grow your professional network and garner additional support for your career path.

Adjust Your Academic Plan Accordingly

Begin looking into which skill development and educational requirements will best help you gain the skills needed for these career fields.

Talk with your academic adviser about declaring or changing your major if necessary.

Should I Change My Major?

Not all career fields or occupational targets require a specific major. Having career-related experience specific to your occupational target is equally important as what you might major in. If you are considering a change in major, weigh the pros and cons in terms of length of time it will take to complete your bachelor’s degree as a result of a change versus your ability to gain career-related skills that complement your current major. Obviously some occupational targets will require a specific major, but don’t assume this is true for all occupational targets.



Reality Check: Remember that you are not alone in the decision-making process. If you want help working through one or more of these decision-making models, or if the outcome of using one of the models is confounding or surprising, make an appointment with a Career counselor.

Pros & Cons Model

On a piece of paper, write down the decision you are considering making. Write it as if you had already made the decision (for example, "Accept the XYZ Company job offer in Chicago.")

Divide the piece of paper into two columns, with "Pros" at the top of one column. Write down the outcomes of the decision that you believe are positive.

In the "Cons" column, write down the outcomes of the decision that are negative or less desirable.

In the course of writing down your pros and cons, you will probably notice that there are some outcomes that are uncertain or are too hard to predict. Write these outcomes down on a separate piece of paper.

Conduct Research about the outcomes that you are unsure about, then add those to the Pro or Con column.

For the outcomes that are simply too hard to predict, you might want to talk with other people to get their input or opinions. If possible, evaluate if the outcome is a pro or con and add that to your table.

As you begin to complete the table, it may become clearer if the decision you are considering is advisable.

Note: Some outcomes carry more weight than others, so the number of pros and cons in each column is not necessarily indicative of whether or not you should move forward with the decision.

Imaginative, Visualization Exercise

If you are more of an intuitive decision-maker, you may prefer this imaginative exercise. You may want to have a friend or a career counselor lead you through the visualization, or you may just want to read through the exercise and imagine on your own.

Find a quiet, calming place to close your eyes and relax as you imagine...

You are walking along a path...it could be in the woods, on a beach, in a valley...whichever is your favorite place in nature. As you walk along feel the air around you...notice the smells...be conscious of the sounds...take note of any plants or vegetation around and what the path feels like under your feet...

Ahead you notice the path divides in two different directions. You take the first pathway that represents the first option you are considering. As you go down that path, experience that option. Try it on fully. How does it make you feel in your body...your heart...your mind? Notice everything inside you and outside you and what is happening...

Walk back to the fork in the path and try the other pathway that leads to your second option. Experience that option fully. How does it feel to experience this option?

Walk back again to the fork in the path. You suddenly see a third path that you had not been able to see before. You take the path and experience a solution you had not thought of before. What is it? What does it feel like?

Return back to the fork and then back down to where you originally started. You feel clear about something from these experiences. You take a deep breath, open your eyes, and come back to the present to write about your observations.

Write down your responses to the following questions:

  1. What is your reaction to this exercise?
  2. What feelings, thoughts or experiences did you have?
  3. What did you realize about yourself and your plan that you did not realize before?
  4. How have you or your goals changed as a result of this experience?
  5. What goals would you like to set for yourself now?
  6. If you are not ready to set a goal for yourself, what additional information do you need?
  7. What are any barriers that are preventing you from setting a goal?
  8. What can you do about these barriers?