Career Discernment: New Research on Making Decisions beyond Logic and Intuition

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Career Discernment: Logic and Intuition

The path of our professional lives is driven by several really powerful moments of decision. In these turbulent pandemic times, you may be grappling with a decision right now. If we could better understand how we make those huge career decisions we often face – like quitting our job or working at a nonprofit – we could not only improve existing career planning and coaching services, but we could also gain a better understanding of ourselves and our path.

Previous scholarly work has proven the influence of logic and intuition in making career decisions. My co-authors and I, Jeffrey Yip, Haoxiong Li and Susan E. Murphy, wanted to explore how we could expand the regular two-system model of logic and intuition and study the role of additional influences like relationships and spirituality. With this goal in mind, we began our research. You can find the Journal of Career Development article here.

We started by finding 18 executives who have successfully navigated their careers and interviewed each one for about an hour. We asked them various questions about how they approached big decisions throughout their career. For example, they were asked to share the strategies they used while navigating those defining moments that led them to where they are today.

We were very interested to find that 10 out of the 18 executives we interviewed indicated that spirituality had a significant influence on their career decisions. Another pattern arose, as many of the people we interviewed cited the influence of mentors and role models as well. Through these interviews, we were able to see clearly that spirituality and advice seeking were important factors to further explore.

We used this insight from the interviews to guide the creation of a new scale on career decision making which we tested for various forms of validity. Ultimately, we found evidence from the surveys to support all four decision making styles: logic, intuition, spirituality and advice seeking. This discovery expands our current understanding of what drives career decisions and can have far-reaching implications. University career offices, for instance, may consider helping their students define what style they rely on most and adapting their services in response.

Understanding why people make the career decisions they do is extremely relevant today. While some companies have remained silent as protests erupted across the country in response to George Floyd’s murder, others have shared umbrella statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Others still, like Ben & Jerry’s, have been extremely vocal activists. How a brand uses its platform during these heavy times may encourage an employee to stay with the company or leave. Additionally, which of the four factors primarily influences an individual’s career decision making process will help them make that decision. As a result, company leadership is strongly inclined to better understand this process and what is important to their employees.


What influences your career decisions the most? Is it logic, intuition, other’s advice or spirituality? To read the full article, see

For more on career discernment, you may find my video on LinkedIn Learning to be helpful. See