I’m sure just about everyone has gone through the following conversation:
“What do you want to eat tonight?”
“I dunno, what are you in the mood for?”
“I don’t know. I could go for anything.”
“I don’t care you pick.”
“I don’t feel like making anything, , let’s go out.”
“Okay. Where are we going?”
Eventually, you wind up at a McDonalds because it’s the only thing open after you decided to go out for dinner three hours earlier.
Some would call this indecisiveness, but the technical term for this phenomenon is analysis paralysis, which happens to rhyme. I usually call it “paralyzed by choice”, which doesn’t. I’d make my version of the term rhyme too, but I wound up having so many options to choose from (I actually started this article in February).
Officially, the term analysis paralysis means spending so much time analyzing something that you fail to make a decision. It’s actually something I do quite often, but my version of the term refers to having so many options you waste time trying to decide which one to take. Eventually you do make a decision, but usually because you’re out of time, or the line behind you at Starbucks is getting restless.
At the moment, I’m facing a career change. I retired after 21 years (and 139 days) in the Air Force and now have to find another job. The problem is that in the Air Force, you may have an official job title, but you spend an awful lot of time doing many (many) other jobs. Officially, I was a Cyber Transport Technician. Don’t bother looking it up, it’s basically an IT installer and maintainer. Unfortunately, while I do have experience in that, I’ve spent the last few years as a manager. Again, in the Air Force you wear many hats, so I’ve been a Project Manager, a Human Resources Manager, and an Operations Manager; frequently all at the same time.
This presents a bit of a problem looking for a civilian job. I’m basically qualified and experienced in four different career fields. I know, the easy solution is “do what you love”. Well, what I love is writing… and it doesn’t pay crap. Maybe in the future I’ll have that luxury, but right now I have a family to support.
I decided to go for Human Resource Management. I’m interested in helping and guiding people, so it seemed like a good fit. I went to the job boards and found a handful of HR jobs, and a few I meet all the qualifications for. While researching HR jobs though, I found some IT manager jobs and Operations manager jobs I’m qualified for as well. And hey, there’s a Communications Manager job I might be interested in as well. Having so many options must be a good thing, right? Not exactly.
Anyone who has looked for a job recently knows that there is not such thing as “your resume”. Oh, sure, you have a resume, but in today’s job searching world, it has to be customized and tailored for each and every job you apply for. Automated software scans for keywords, and everything has to match up to the job descriptions. Additionally, many job application sites require you to basically re-write your resume in a narrative form, plus fill out pages and pages of other information.
This takes time. Hours and hours of time. And having to manage 4-5 different master resumes takes even more time. I am paralyzed by choice. There are so many options to choose from, I feel compelled to choose them all, and I am suffering. I want to be selective, but the reality is that it takes weeks to hear back from a potential job, if you even hear back at all. I’ve seen statistics saying for every hundred resumes you send out, you’ll only hear back from 3-5 of them. I haven’t sent out a hundred yet, but so far, those statistics don’t seem that far off. So, I’m taking the shotgun approach, and frankly, job hunting is a full time job in itself.
Paralysis by choice isn’t limited to job hunting. Like I mentioned earlier, I like to write. I also have about a hundred different ideas I’d like to write about. All these choices make it hard to decide which one I want pursue. I like screenwriting and have about five ideas that are either in progress or I’ve started outlining. Unfortunately selling a screenplay is two hundred times harder than finding a job (probably worse). I have several ideas for novels. Getting a novel published is pretty easy nowadays (making money off it, not so much), but novels take a lot of time to write. So which one do I want to commit to? They’re all good. Or maybe they’re not, but I’ll have wasted a lot of time trying to figure that out. I used to have to wonder what I was going to write about. Now, I have way too many choices.
The good news is that I’ve made efforts to help avert paralysis by choice. When I go to a restaurant, I usually have a policy that I’ll order the first thing that catches my eye. When I dated, I committed to one person at a time and put blinders on until it was time to move on. With my kids, I chose a favorite and let the other ones fend for themselves.
America is a wonderful country. The fact that we have to choose where we want to go eat or what place we want to vacation is a testament to how good we have it. But all things come with a price, and ours is time wasted trying to decide which choice we want to make. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to decide on something to watch from my Netflix queue.