The Paradox of Choice: How to Avoid Making The Wrong Choice

We’ve all been there. Whether the split road pertains to work, education, our home life, or relationships, life challenges us to choose. Only, for some people, the anxiety of choosing can be paralyzing enough to result in a third option: Doing nothing.

It’s easy to want to stick to the status quo; to imagine that taking one job could lead to missing out on a better one that’s just down the road. But what seems to happen more often than not is talented and experienced people staying still—turning away one career opportunity after another while making no progress in the meantime.

This failure to make choices, and dissatisfaction with the outcome, is known as the Paradox of Choice, popularized by psychologist Barry Schwartz. “With so many options to choose from,” he states, “people find it very difficult to choose at all.” We’re afraid to make choices because we’re afraid we will regret them. But as Schwartz points out, regret often comes from our belief that we could have easily chosen the better option. In actuality, the other options we choose from often result in similar levels of satisfaction. However, it’s the ease in which we’re able to imagine “attractive features of [the] alternatives you reject” that results in heightened expectations, and, thus, disappointment within ourselves.

So, when we have career choices in front of us, how do we avoid feeling paralyzed? Or worse– Feeling like we chose the wrong one? With more career options, how do we avoid raising our expectations? How can we quiet the self-disappointment constantly asking if something better was out there?

1 – Help Diminish Choices: Trust the Professionals

By working with a recruiter, you’ve already started to eliminate the “wrong” options. Financial recruiters have incredible insight into the accounting industry with an abundance of experience placing candidates in the right firms. By trusting a recruiting company to help take the next steps in your career, you can be assured that you’ll be guided by professionals with a deep understanding of how to find perfect matches between candidates and clients. This will help eliminate anxiety about fitting in to your next workplace, as teams such as ours work tirelessly to find the best fit. With the aid of a recruiter, you’ll only ever be seriously considering positions that are guaranteed to be right for you.

2 – Get a Sense of Your Options

When working with PFS, we’ll be sure to utilize our extensive network in order to give you the contacts you need. We encourage you to take advantage of these resources in order to fully explore your options. Not only will you be working with people intimately acquainted with the workplaces you’re considering, but you yourself will be able analyze your experiences with each firm to assess which place is right for you. Contemplating things like location, salary, and workplace environments are a good way to categorize the pros and cons of each option. Narrowing these down helps to make the eventual choice clearer.

But what then? You’ve done the research. You’ve gone on the interviews. Now you’re faced with choosing an offer.

3 – Shift Your Mindset

As the theory of Paradox of Choice suggests, our unhappiness and anxiety regarding decision-making stems from not wanting to regret the outcome. When we have an array of options, it’s easy to imagine that one exists, somewhere, that’s “perfect.” This, in turn, raises our expectations, and delivers a stronger sense of disappointment when “perfection” isn’t achieved.

But the truth is… there is no “perfect” choice. It’s easy to imagine one, but when the time comes to pick between a handful of job offers, chances are they’re going to retain similar levels of satisfaction. Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put thought into your choice, or that your choice won’t matter; but it does mean you shouldn’t be afraid to make one at all.

“Good enough is almost always good enough,” says Schwartz. “You don’t need to find the best. There’s virtually no difference between the best and any number of alternatives that are almost as good as the best.” By alleviating the fear that one option might be completely wrong for you, the choice between offers becomes less stressful.

Recognize that these options exist to be a progressive step from your current situation. To advance your career, earn more money, and gain more experience. With PFS shepherding you, you can be assured that there is no “wrong” answer. You’re just choosing one of the “right” ones.


by Alexandra Campbell – Research Associate