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Do You Have Too Many Career Options?

I encounter this type of client from time to time, and certainly quite common in covering professionals in Manhattan for as long as I have: the type-A go-getter from a top-name school, multiple post-grad degrees, brand names galore and a sterling personality. Who knew there were so many of these types crammed within a three-mile radius of Midtown? In any case, this person seemingly has it all but more often than not, has no idea what to do next due a plethora of amazing options. If you are someone who can excel in any industry, can live in any city or country, and wants to save the world, how do you narrow down your choices? Well, here a few questions to ask that if you answer specifically, should help you narrow down your focus.

Too Many Career Choices (Photo: iStockphoto)

Figure out where you want to be and stick with it
Just decide. New York or San Francisco, Paris or London, Hong Kong or Singapore. Decide now and live with it. You have to answer this question first because it will make every step in the job search process easier. Your networks can find contacts to refer you to in the city you choose more quickly, and you can concentrate your efforts on cracking the hot industry in that locale with greater vigor.

Do you want to earn money or rescue trees?
People with too many options tend to come from backgrounds of privilege (a massive generalization I will admit, but anecdotally true). Those of us who have never experienced having too many options are likely to place more emphasis on the “steady paycheck” and “saving for retirement.” Of course, the person with too many options may have just saved intelligently for a very long time, hence leading to the ability to choose from many good alternatives, and can rightly tell me to stuff it. That’s fine with me. However, if you are the lucky one and not bound to work for the sake of earning, and you have too many choices and can therefore choose between non-profit and for-profit work, decide what truly motivates you at the core, not what you think you should value. There is nothing wrong with maximizing your ability to earn and you should go for it.

Stop asking other people what you should do
Don’t take the easy way out and kick your career focus problem down the street. The decision as to what you should do next should come from you, and really you alone. Get input from at most three people whose opinion you value and trust, not 13 people from random stages in your life.

If you have to work but are paralyzed with too many good options in front of you, consider yourself incredibly blessed first before complaining about the “hopelessness” of your situation. You likely can’t go wrong with whatever you want to do and should just take the plunge. If you fail or don’t like your choice, well, you said you had more than one option, so there should be no reason you can’t go down another path shortly in the future, no?

Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at

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