The key to making smarter career choices in 2023

With the tight labour market Australia currently finds itself in, owner of Dare Group Australia and ex-recruiter, Sue Parker, writes that for talent, there are three common pitfalls to avoid when it comes to making the next career move.

What we say ‘no’ to is of equal importance to what we say ‘yes’ to. This holds true for clients, campaigns, pitches, staffing and investment opportunities in the media and marketing world.

Likewise for job choices and career decisions. What we push a big ‘no’ towards is equally important as the big ‘yes’ placards we hold high.

Job and career choices have wide ranging impact across all areas of our lives. Anyone who says professional lives do not impact personal lives, health and wellbeing is living in fairyland or on the moon.

I estimate circa 50% of job choices and career paths ultimately meet with regret and in hindsight, a ‘WTF did I do that for point?’.

As an ex-recruiter to this sector, I have observed regret starting to gnaw within the first few months of starting a new gig. Admitting a gaffe to yourself is hard, but even harder to others.

The question is how to minimise those risks and make smarter job choices to minimise the WTF’s?

Justify, rationalise and reassure

The big warning sign is listening to your gut what you are saying to yourself and those around you.

Loud proclamations to justify, reassure and rationalise a decision is a clear red flag of unease and misalignment.

Making smarter choices for the right reasons builds self confidence and affiliation. But unwise choices erodes both consciously and sub-consciously.

When a choice is a wise one, a collective sense of harmony and excitement is felt. It just feels calm with a real knowing. There is no need to rationalise, justify and reassure yourself or others.

Making smart choices is about avoiding pitfalls. The three most common pitfalls are the wrong motivations, sunk cost bias fallacy and fear. They form the spokes of a risky decision wheel.


Wrong motivations 

There are numerous motivators when assessing a new role or career shift. Hooks can be so bright and shiny to blindside other pertinent realities.

Money, prestige, fame, security, a great agency or organisation to have on the CV are big alluring and illusionary motivators. And ego fuelled reward cultures don’t help motivations to remain balanced.

And desperation is never a good motivator as it bites bums ferociously for those out of work.

Critical thinking is key to minimise deluded perceptions that once the gloss has worn off may put you behind the eight ball. It’s not the actual motivator that matters in singular form, but the alliance with other factors and variables to factor.

We all seek to survive and thrive with some seeking to make a significant difference. But if the motivators are purely monetary or selfish they lead to long range dissatisfaction.

A deeper analysis of skills, values and genuine goals is necessary to clarify the right ‘next’.

Sunk cost bias fallacy

Falling into a pit of s’unk cost bias fallacy’ is widespread and erroneous. It’s the doggedness to follow through on activities, study, actions and careers where considerable cost (effort, time and money) has already been invested despite evidence a positive outcome isn’t occurring.


Many fall into this rabbit hole and for career decision the question arises if the current costs outweigh future potential/hoped for benefits.

Assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Business, Christopher Olivola, believes there is a specific reason we feel the need to stick to the plan:

“Olivola cites cognitive dissonance, a phenomena that occurs when we feel remorse after making a decision, as the main reason why we most often fall for the sunk cost fallacy.”

“This cognitive dissonance often leads to defensive behaviour and thoughts in regards to an original decision – but this emotional reaction could cause you to continue downa path that clearly isn’t working for you. “


Fear is bloody pernicious and manifests in a myriad of ways. Knowledge is power (when applied) and without the full picture, smart decisions are compromised.

Let’s be very clear, hiring and job searching is a two way street, and particularly for leaders and managers. Yet, candidates, irrespective of being at the $80,000 to $800,000 level fall prey to the master-slave hiring ecosystem.

Recruitment agencies, panels and hiring managers are equally complicit. Holding a two way mindset is holding a clear understanding that today’s candidate can be tomorrows hiring manager, and memories are long.

Strong leaders with responsibilities of hundreds of staff and multimillion dollar budgets can become acquiescent and meek in the hiring process.

Negotiation skills, empowerment and fearlessness are hidden for fear of reprisals. So candidates don’t dig enough, ask tough questions and challenge for mutual value. And it is of mutual benefit for all sides to be curious and learn as much as possible about each other.

Like an ostrich with its head in the sand, many choose not to ask the hard questions for fear of reprisals and being dismissed in the process.

Final words

There is no guarantees in careers and job choices. Minimising unwise decisions and maximising smart ones is about taking stock of your real motivations.

It’s taking dual control of the process and embracing a marketing curious mindset to fortify confidence.

And not ignoring the gut instinct and evidence of dangers at the front end is essential. Be brave, creative and persistent in 2023.

Sue Parker is the owner of Dare Group Australia. 


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