Career Preference: Is It This or That?

You’re at the optometrist. The doctor has you sitting in front of the eye chart while you look through the phoropter machine. He is switching the lenses back and forth and asking you questions like, “Which one is clearer, this one? Or that one? Lens A? Lens B?” You know that some of the lenses are the same over and over again, but he’s also introducing some new choices along the way. Although you can’t think too much about that. What you need to focus on is the clarity. Sometimes neither option is clear. Sometimes, one is vastly superior to the other. Ultimately, your optometrist is narrowing down the options for the sake of clarity. 

We’ve all been there, right? Well, what if you could take a similar approach, but with your career options? That’s exactly what you get to do with the This or That exercise.

“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No…’” (Matthew 5:37a)

The idea behind the “This or That” career preferences exercise is to create a series of questions for yourself that force you into an either/or decision or a yes/no decision. This can be used to understand preferences, make decisions, evaluate opportunities, or manage risks when it comes to careers and job searches. By examining your reaction to different options, you’re narrowing down for the sake of clarity. Just like at the eye doctor. 

As part of understanding your Aptitudes (Step 3 in You Are Created For Good Works) we present to you an example of a quiz, using broad considerations that may be important to job seekers. We encourage you to create your own categories. Ideally, you would create your own quiz and then take it several times over a period of days or weeks and see if your answers or perceptions have changed. This will give you valuable information when making career decisions.

This or That? Career Preference Exercise

Career Preference ACareer Preference B
Work aloneWork with others
Big companySmall company
Competitive payNominal pay
Work remote/from homeWork in office
Private companyPublic company
Specific industryNo specific industry
Work insideWork outside
TravelNo travel
Flexible scheduleSet schedule
SpeakingWriting
Numbers/DataWords
Manager/decision makerNot in charge of others
Healthcare planNo healthcare plan
Advancement opportunitiesNo advancement
HourlySalary
Customer-facingNot customer-facing
Physical jobDesk Job
Something new every dayConsistency
Short CommuteLong Commute

Once you understand what your preferences are better through the This or That exercise, you can use those preferences as binomial criteria to assess one or more career decisions (Step 7 – Selecting in You Are Created for Good Works). It’s like looking at your options with a new set of lenses! This approach can help you examine whether or not a job opportunity or career decision would be a good fit for you. 

See the example below.  Based on this hypothetical comparison, I may be more interested in “Career Decision A” because it positively answers more of my criteria. Keep in mind that some of your criteria may be more important or bear more weight than others, and assess your results accordingly. 

This Or That? Career Decision Comparison

PreferenceCareer Decision ACareer Decision B
Work with othersYesYes
Small companyYesYes
Competitive payYesYes
Work in officeNoYes
Private companyYesNo
No specific industryYesYes
Work insideYesYes
No travelYesYes
Flexible scheduleYesNo
WritingYesYes
WordsYesYes
Manager/decision makerNoYes
No healthcare plan (on spouse’s plan)YesNo
Advancement opportunitiesNoNo
HourlyYesYes
Not customer-facingYesNo
Desk JobYesYes
Something new every dayYesYes
Short CommuteYesNo

Laura Miller works for Crossroads Career as a writer, editor, and podcaster. She lives in the Kansas City area with her accountant husband. Laura hosts and produces The Library Laura Podcast, which is a weekly dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm. Previously, she worked in the insurance and retail industries.

Special thanks to Dave Sparkman and his daughter for their significant contributions during the creation of this exercise!

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