The 5 Minute Career Coach

Helping Career Changers Around The World

May 2013


So you are thinking of changing career?  In fact you have been thinking about it for some time now, but somehow you just can’t decide…

Well maybe that is not such a bad thing because according to Chip & Dan Heath, we are not very good at making decisions.  So before you finally take the plunge and do it (change career I mean), just stop and review how you are trying to make that decision.

In their new book Decisive, Chip & Dan Heath recommend a process for checking your decision making which they summarise with the acronym WRAP.

WRAP helps us to look before we leap and double check that our decision making is not marred by some of the common mistakes that we all make.

WRAP? What’s all that about I hear you ask.

Let me explain.

W – Widen Your Options

Far too many decisions are framed as ‘either/or’ choices. Stop and check if it is really that simple.  There are usually many more possibilities than we allow ourselves to see with this ‘spotlight’ approach to a problem.

In the case of career change there may be a range of options that lie between the ‘quit or stay’ poles, such as setting up a small business on the side or exploring changes in your working hours.

Coming up with a wider range of options prevents you from being too invested in any one so you are better able to weight up the good and bad points of each dispassionately.

And a great strategy for widening your options is to look at what other people have done in a similar situation.  Let’s face it, many thousands of people have changed career so what can you learn from their approach?

R – Reality Test Your Assumptions

We all suffer from something known as confirmation bias when we are making decisions.  This means we can unwittingly seek out and/or favour information that supports the choice we really prefer.

We need to stand back and look at each option objectively and ask ‘what would need to be true for this to be the right choice?’ Make sure you are willing to test your assumptions or you risk being blinded by them.

The other way to reality test you choices is to take them for a test drive.  It is easy to get bogged down in research looking for the one extra bit of information that will clinch your choice, but to be honest you’d be better off just getting out there are trying it out.

Rather than trying to predict if your new career idea will work, test it.

OK you can’t just ‘become a doctor’ for the day but you can certainly find opportunities to work shadow and volunteer so you are working alongside someone doing the career you are aspiring to.  You’ll learn a lot more this way than spending another 3 hours surfing the internet.

A – Attain Distance Before Deciding

Many decisions get skewed by emotions and they unfairly bias our thinking.  If you are hating every minute of your current job, those negative feelings will heavily influence your thinking about career change.

The Heath brothers recommend a tool developed by business writer Suzy Welch called 10/10/10. The tool helps you to consider your decision in 3 time frames.

If I decide now to quit my job and go back to school to retrain how will I feel about that decision in 10 minutes time? In 10 months time? In 10 years time?  Just using this way of generating a different perspective helps prevent the current short term emotional tone from biasing the decision.

And remember you will be more emotionally attached (for good or bad) to what is familiar so you need to work hard to separate yourself from those feelings in order to make a balanced choice.

P – Prepare To Be Wrong (and to be gloriously right!)

If you change career, you cannot ever tell for sure how it will work out, but it is easy when you are dithering on the brink to over-emphasise one possible outcome – usually disaster!  Make sure you allow yourself to explore the full range of possible outcomes.  Yes, one extreme is that it all goes pear shaped, but the range also includes how it might turn out to be the best thing you ever did.  Give them both equal weight.

Inertia, ‘the deep footprints of past decisions’ as Chip & Dan describe it, can really blind you.  Those past decisions were not necessarily right and yet they can feel like a ball and chain holding you back.

To stop this happening, you need a regular ‘tripwire’ to snap you into awareness.  How about checking in with yourself once a month by asking – how many of the last 30 days at work have I enjoyed?  If the numbers really begin to pile up, there is a message there for you.

So how do your decision making habits stack up?

If you are struggling with making a decision about your next career move, make sure you ‘WRAP’ your decision carefully!

Something to think about

When researchers ask the elderly what they regret about their lives, they don’t often regret something they did; they regret the things they didn’t do.  They regret not seizing opportunities.  They regret hesitating.  They regret being indecisive.
~ Chip & Dan Heath ~

Cherry Recommends


How to make better choices in life and work

Chip and Dan Heath


Well given that I have taken the majority of the ideas in my article from this book, I really have to recommend it.  But I can honestly do so wholeheartedly.

As with their previous books, Chip and Dan Heath provide us with a practical guide – in this case to making better decision.

They draw on psychological research and illustrate their arguments with case studies from both personal and corporate domains, providing a book that is easy and entertaining to read as well as full of sound advice.

You can read in more detail about the WRAP process I have outlined above and there is no doubt that this book really fulfils its claim that it will show you ‘how to make better choices in life and work’

And while on the subject of Chip & Dan Heath, I can also strongly recommend two of their other books.

How to change things when change is hard


Made To Stick
Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck

Made To Stick

With best wishes for your career change success

5MCC Back Issues from May 2012

About the author

Amy Thomas

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