Decision making is a skill that I have mixed success in. Get me on a hockey pitch and I’d say my decision making was pretty good. But in all other aspects of life, from deciding on university to which ice cream flavour to have, I’m not so strong.
I am at a time now where everyone seems to be asking about what career I want, what I want to do after uni and where I see myself in 5 years time. This can be a very stressful time for many young people. There is immense pressure to do something useful and to make the most of our degrees. The future is looming and no one knows what’s in store.
This uncertainty takes me back to 2014/15 when I was deciding on universities. To say making this decision was stressful is an understatement. I essentially had no idea what to do or where to do it. My school were very supportive in the application process for university. This was a doubled edged sword; it was great to have all the support, but at the same time, it put a lot of pressure on me to make a decision. I ended up picking a course and location that didn’t suit me just to say that a decision was made.
At the end of May 2015, just as my A level exams were starting, I realised that I really didn’t want to go to Durham or do Psychology. I waited until after my exams to give it more thought and I was feeling more relaxed and in a better head-space. I did further research into what I was interested in and where I might want to spend the next 3 years. This time around, I was actually ready to make the decision and I ended up finding Social Sciences at Bath – this was the place for me. Luckily UCAS has a function where you can decline all your offers and pick one extra choice. I did this in July 2015 and a few years on here I am almost starting the final year of my four year programme.
This process taught me that it’s ok to not know, it’s ok to wait rather than rushing into a decision. I went to an academic school that liked to control the university application process. This stressed me out, and my teachers were not good at understanding that I simply wasn’t ready to decide. When making important decisions now, I am a lot more relaxed. I weigh up the options, take my time and then come to a conclusion. That’s not to say all the decisions I’ve made since my school days have been the right ones! I’ve still made many mistakes, but the way I have come to make decisions has been a lot more relaxed and measured, and a lot less stressful.
The next big decision I need to make is what I’m going to do when I graduate in June 2019. Going into this process I have a very different attitude to when I was 17. I’ve got a few more years under my belt, a lot more experience and a better understanding of who I am and what I like. My principle philosophy going into this decision is not to rush. I’m not going to apply for random graduate schemes just because everyone else is. It’s not an excuse to avoid new challenges, wasting the next few years, and putting off a decision. I’m just going to take a bit more thinking time to figure out what will be best for me.
Throughout my year at the Welsh Government I have seen decision making from a different perspective. Arguably, the decisions made here are a little more important than the ones I’m making. Evidence based decision making is the way things are done (supposedly…it doesn’t always happen in practice). I was thinking whether I could adopt this philosophy to my personal decision making too – if it works for government, why can’t it work for me?
It hasn’t worked for me. I’ve tried collecting evidence on different grad schemes and different places of work. I’ve spoken to people about their interesting jobs and I’ve used this placement year to gather lots of information about various roles and organisations. All this is interesting and it provides information that may feed into my decision making process. I know it will help me in the future but at the moment it doesn't inspire me to action. Humans aren’t rational. All the evidence can support one thing and we can still choose the other because it’s what we feel is the right thing to do. Being logical isn’t the way we work; emotions, feelings and other idiosyncrasies come into every decision we make.
Having this understanding will help make my post-university decisions. Evidence is important in personal decision making, it helps inform, but it shouldn’t dictate, and it can’t make the decision for me. I just need to take my time and figure it out, so that’s what I’m going to do.
In the meantime, I’m just about to have lunch and I’m stressing about whether to have salad or soup!
This is one of a series of blogs, all available at http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/hss-placements/author/ar865/. If you have any thoughts please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org