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You Must Choose: So Choose Wisely!

By June Dressler, PhD, MA Counseling, Career Counselor/Educator, Pacific University

A scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade CLIP HERE features a venerable knight guarding the Holy Grail. Only those who choose wisely can drink from the chalice and live, while those who choose poorly . . . end up a pile of ash. Career advisors often have a front row seat to the many forms of ash left in the wake of misaligned careers chosen poorly. As career professionals, we have great opportunity to help clients make informed choices. Dr. Itamar Gati claims unabashedly that career counseling is decision counseling!

Why is career decision making so difficult for many of our clients?Gati has contributed a robust body of work to identify career decision-making difficulties. He locates several unique features that contribute to the complexity of career indecision. These include the quantity and quality or occupational information, the uncertainty about individual’s future preferences, and non-cognitive factors.

The quantity of career information is unlimited with information overload being the norm. It can be overwhelming to sort through online data, and problematic to determine the quality and credibility of contradictory reports. Biased, inaccurate, and/or subjective career information offered by well-intentioned family and friends can be misleading. Uncertainty about unpredictable factors can be perplexing e.g., the economy, technological advances, demographic shifts, future X factors that are presently unknown. Non-cognitive factors i.e., emotions, personality, actual and perceived social barriers also complicate the decision process.

What specific career decision difficulties do clients face?Although difficulties are unique to each person, Gati and his research team identified ten foci of career decision-making difficulties organized as follows:

    Lack of Readiness
  • 1.      Lack of motivation: lack of willingness to make a career decision—just not ready yet
  • 2.      Generally indecisive: difficulty making decisions in general
  • 3.      Dysfunctional beliefs: distorted perception of the career decision making process or irrational beliefs and/or unrealistic expectations

Lack of Information about

  • 4.      Career decision making processes
  • 5.      Self: unclear about abilities, strengths, values
  • 6.      Occupations: alternatives and concrete information
  • 7.      Ways of obtaining information: data bases, career conversations, credible websites

Inconsistent Information

  • 8.      Unreliable info: contradictory information
  • 9.      Internal conflicts: contention between two or more options or when factors are incompatible
  • 10.  External conflicts: contention between client and significant other—parent, friend, partner

How can we help our clients/students address their career decision difficulty?
First, identify what their specific difficulty is through conducting a guided interview or taking an inventory such as the Career Decision-making Difficulties Questionnaire (CDDQ) a free online tool available on LINK HERE. Once you and the client are clear on their specific difficulty, introduce intervention(s) appropriate to their need. For example, providing more occupational information for a client who lacks self-awareness is less effective than helping them explore their abilities, strengths, and values.

Although Dr. Gati has made great strides defining career decision-making difficulties, there is still much we as practitioners can do. By providing targeted interventions appropriate to client’s decision difficulty, we are better equipped to facilitate informed career choices. Career advisors have a front row seat to many inspiring accounts of clients overcoming difficulties by making informed decisions, wiser choices only to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes.

Questions for us to consider

  • §  What methods do you use to identify your clients specific decision difficulties?
  • §  What resources/interventions have you found to be effective to address client indecision?
  • §  What measures do you use to determine the efficacy of your interventions?
  • §  What client stories inspire you—individuals facing numerous difficulties who emerge from the ashes to find a new path to an encore career? If so, what are lessons learned from their career decision-making processes?


Amir, T., & Gati, I. (2006). Facets of career decision-making difficulties. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 34(4), 483-503.

Gati, I., Krausz, M., & Osipow, S. H. (1996). A taxonomy of difficulties in career decision making. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 43, 510-526.

The Oregon Career Development Association is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable and educational entity.

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