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How to build a pros and cons list for a new career

Pros and cons list helps

Creating a pros and cons list is a smart move for any major life decision. It allows you to directly compare the positives and negatives of a new situation and enables you to make an informed decision quickly. But with a milestone change like a new career, you want to be sure you cover all the bases. Here’s how to build a great pros and cons list for your new career.

Format your list

Some people feel more comfortable using good old-fashioned pen and paper. But there are also online tools that can help you craft the perfect list.

Whichever path you choose, list the exact question you’re looking to answer and plan to start by listing all positives, then all negatives. Or, go one for one on each side of the list.

Consider financial implications

Making a career change will almost certainly have some kind of financial effect. You might be looking at a pay cut or a significant pay increase.

But, the financials to consider for your pros and cons list involve much more than just salary. Other financial considerations include:

  • The availability of retirement plans and whether or not the employer offers a match
  • The value of the benefits package, which includes medical, dental, vision, and life insurance
  • Amount of paid time off (PTO), holidays, and sick days
  • Whether the company offers childcare or if you’d need to pay for that separately
  • If you’ll need to pay for a new wardrobe that’s more appropriate for the new role

Think about non-financial pros and cons

While it’s easy to break down financial changes for a new career, there’s a bit more gray area when it comes to non-monetary considerations. Some areas to think about for your list include:

  • Growth potential: Room for advancement is something many people look for as they switch career paths. If the new career opportunity presents a clear path to where you want to be in a few years, that’s deserving of a spot in your pros list. But limited opportunity might need to hit the list as a con.
  • Quality of life: Another intangible to consider for your list is work/life balance. Will your new career allow more time and freedom, or will you be restricted by a longer commute or more hours?
  • Impact on others: If you have a significant other or children to consider, ask how the new career may impact them. A later schedule may mean you miss bedtime, and that falls on your partner. But on the pros side, maybe the new location is closer to daycare for evening pick-up.

As you think through these questions, here’s an example of a basic pros and cons list for assessing a new career:

Pros and cons of moving to a new role at Company B
Pros Cons
Higher salary by $5,000 Losing 3% 401(k) match at Company A
Rapid advancement possible (Management track within 2 years) Need to find daycare
Employer-paid term life insurance policy Adds 30 minutes to the daily commute

Take action

The purpose of building a pros and cons list is to use it to make a decision. Once you’ve listed out every positive and negative you can imagine, talk to a significant other, mentor, or friend about anything you may have missed. Then, go with what your list and gut tell you to nail down your next steps, even if that means gathering more information.

The bottom line on the pros/cons list

Whether or not to move into a new career can be a scary decision. But creating a pros and cons list is one way to remove some of the emotion when decision-making.

Doing so can help you look more objectively at the situation and study the facts. Once you begin to list out the benefits and risks of making a career move, it often becomes pretty clear where your next step will be.

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