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Obstacle or Opportunity? Four Ways to Tell the Difference

Very few careers tend to follow a perfectly smooth upward path, or a totally uninterrupted and unchallenged ascent like a walk up a flight of stairs. If you’ve never faced a single distraction, obstacle, or questionable shortcut on your way to career satisfaction, you can consider yourself part of a lucky minority. But for the rest of us, occasional distractions disguised as opportunities will appear on a fairly regular basis as we move forward. And the ability to distinguish a true stroke of luck from an enticing obstacle may have a powerful impact on our ability to get where we’re going. Here are a few questions to ask before you swerve from your chosen course.

1. If you’re offered a job or a way to make money, will the job stand in your way?

People with ambitious goals that require a high training or educational investment often accept “day jobs” to cover the bills while they wait for their investments to pay off. But a day job can easily take eight hours out of a productive day, every single day, and this is not a cost to be taken lightly. How well will you manage the hours your put into the job, and how will you keep those hours under control?  

2. If you have an opportunity to take out a loan, have you calculated the full cost of what you’re buying, including interest?

Loans may look like golden opportunities, and sometimes they are. But don’t sign on the dotted line until you’ve looked past the sticker price of what you’re buying (a home, a college education, a car) and calculated the real price. Are you really ready to pay $30,000 for an item that presumably costs $15,000? Remember, your interest payments are making someone rich. Who is this person (or company) and do they have your best interests in mind?

3. Are there any other—better, wiser, less expensive—ways to accomplish the same goal?

When you find yourself tempted by an opportunity or shortcut, don’t get starry eyed before you identify and list all the other options that will take you to the same destination.

4. Have you spoken to others who have faced this same crossroad before you? What did they decide to do and what was the outcome?

Nobody’s life and decisions are exactly the same as yours. But if you consult with mentors and talk to a statistically significant sample of others who have already made decisions similar to this one, you’ll gain some insight into the best and worst case outcomes of either choice. 

If you’ve asked yourself all of the questions above and you’re still stuck, don’t despair. Reach out to the NC staffing and career management pros at PSU and let us provide some additional information and guidance.