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Checking your ‘why’ when making career decisions


Checking your ‘why’ when making career decisions

Career decisions

Making professional career and marketing job decisions comes with varying degrees of contemplation, reward and risk. But it’s not just the decision itself that matters, but equally, if not more so, the reason a decision was made. 

There are many elements and incentives that sway a decision to remain in or depart from a role, agency or brand. Checking in with those reasons is essential, though potentially an uncomfortable and vulnerable experience.

The right reasons deliver a greater chance for long-term success and personal happiness. Whereas a bad reason, despite a quick dopamine fix, will eventually bite hard in the backside.

I constantly hear of people making decisions purely based on money, regretting the poor culture it can bring with it. There is a huge difference between being underpaid and not rewarded appropriately v. large dangling dollar carrots.

Likewise, many people are trapped in a self-imposed corporate prison, afraid to move on. And many of course ignore the many interview process red flags.

Warning bells for career decisions

After decades in recruitment, career strategy and coaching, I have identified five warning bells. Age and gender have less bearing than all hear the ringing and pinging.  

Career decisions

Wrong motivations

There are many motivators when choosing a new marketing industry role or career pivot. Some are really seductive and shiny, blinding other realities. Money, prestige, fame, security, a great agency or organisation to have on the CV, all big alluring motivators. And desperation of a job or situation can be deafening and can bite the proverbial hard.

Critical thinking is key to minimise deluded decisions that once the gloss has worn off may put you behind the eight ball. It’s not the actual individual motivator that matters but the combination with other factors and variables to consider.

But if the motivators are purely monetary or ego driven it may lead to unwise long-term decisions and dissatisfaction. 

Sunk-cost bias 

The sunk-cost fallacy is as prevalent as it is illogical and erroneous. Essentially it refers to the hardwired tendency to follow through on activities, a course of action and career where considerable cost (effort, time and money) has already been invested.

We all have fallen into this rabbit hole in some way and for career decisions it questions whether the current costs outweigh future benefits. And those biases can be applied from family and community expectations to deliver also. After long and laborious hiring processes the ego to win overrides wise decisions also. Desperation and the desire to conquer often shrouds evidence. Be mindful.


Fear of rocking the boat and holding self-power in the interview process is common and dangerous. Without full knowledge of what a role is and what it offers, wise and fully informed job decisions are compromised.

Let’s be very clear, hiring and job search is a two-way street, and more so for senior professionals and executives with decades of experience under their belt. 

Great leaders running big teams and budgets can become meek in the recruitment process. Negotiation skills, empowerment and fearlessness are hidden for fear of reprisals and being dumped from the process.

You need to lose the fear and dig equally with the hiring company or recruiter. It is mutually beneficial for all parties to learn as much as possible about each other. Neither should be meek but brave and respectful.

Corporate Stockholm Syndrome

Corporate Stockholm Syndrome (CSS) is when employees identify with, and remain loyal to, employers who mistreat them. Psychology Today has reported a rapidly increasing problem of employees experiencing CSS. 

As I wrote previously on Marketing mag, CSS is displayed by employees being emotionally attached to the employer at the detriment of their own emotional health. 

Confidence is eroded under cultures of hostility, unreasonable demands, overwork, excessive compliance, micromanagement and embedded approval seeking. Promotions are stifled with targets believing problems and abuse will rectify themselves despite evidence to the contrary.

As with any abusive relationship, targets believe it’s their responsibility to do better to win approval and peace. One of the issues that flames CSS is the over identification with work and professional personas. We gain so much self-esteem from our work and invest considerable time and effort to keep the mirage alive. 

Many are oblivious to the reality of CSS, but friends and family will see the manifestation clearly. Urging loved ones to seek support and resign can become frustrating when met with inaction.


Do you fear what other people will think? Do you fear backlash from your friends, networks and family about your career decisions?

Are you walking on eggshells around others in fear of their disapproval or even jealous responses? People will stay in a career or role to keep others happy and reduce conflict. Or are you following family pressures, expectations and traditions?

We only get one life and everyone has the self right to choose for themselves. I see so many talented people who are living in fear of judgement of others’ opinions.

It’s as plain as day that career decisions, change and the recruitment ecosystem is no walk in the park. But holding court and taking an honest look at why you are making decisions will save a lot of pain down the track. 


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Sue Parker

Sue Parker is the owner of Dare Group Australia. She is a national career strategist, personal branding and LinkedIn expert.

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