Imagine that you’re planning to make a career move. You have a range of next steps to consider, including:
- You could look for the same job you’re doing now, but with better aspects (e.g., location, compensation, mission of the organization, etc.).
- You could try to get promoted at your current organization.
- You could move to a similar organization at a higher position.
- You could change careers altogether, starting by taking classes or going back to school full-time.
These are just some of your options.
Researchers Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg write
that the go-to decision-making framework for most people in this situation is the pro-con list. You list all the positive things (pros) and negative things (cons) about choosing a given option.
But as McCann and Weinberg point out, although a basic pro-con list is helpful in simple situations, it has significant shortcomings when making more complex decisions like deciding the next step in your career.
For example, a basic pro-con list presents all the pros and cons as if they have equal weight. Another shortcoming is that pro-con lists treat each item independently when many factors are interrelated.
McCann and Gabriel suggest that one easy way to make your pro-con list more useful is to add numbers to it.
Go through each of the pros and cons for a given option and put a score of -10 to +10 next to each one: negatives for cons and positives for pros.
This allows you to assign a relative value to each pro or con, indicating how much it matters to you.
In the career move example above, maybe location is more important to you than compensation. If so, location would get a higher score.
This scoring helps you overcome some of the pro-con list shortcomings. Each item is no longer treated equally, and if multiple items are related you can group them into one score.
As Gabriel and Weinberg put it, now you can more easily compare your options: “simply add up all the pros and cons for each option (e.g., job offers) and see which one comes out on top.”