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Career Development Center University of Illinois Springfield

Career Barriers

The career planning process can sometimes be impeded due to career barriers we may not be aware of. It’s common to have barriers related to “negative” thoughts, behaviors and emotions when choosing a major or career. Career barriers can also involve inadequate self-awareness, insufficient decision-making skills, lack of motivation, external pressures and influences from peers and family, or physical and learning barriers. However, not resolving these barriers can counteract the process of effective decision-making when developing your career plan and should be addressed in the earliest stage of choosing a major or deciding on your career path.

  • Do I make decisions independently, or do I conform to what others want me to do?
  • Do I conduct my own research, or do I rely solely on what others say?
  • Do I feel confident in my abilities to make an informed decision?
  • Do I fear making the wrong decision will impact me negatively?
  • Do I worry about the disapproval of others when it comes to my major or career choice?
  • Do peers and family pressure me about making a major or career choice?
  • Do I have difficulty making a commitment to a major or career choice even though I have been very thorough in exploring my options?
  • Do I procrastinate in making a decision about my major or career?

If you have answered “yes” to any of the questions above, a career counselor can help you overcome the challenge.

Picture of person jumping a hurdle

 » Decision-Making Confusion
 » Commitment Anxiety

 » External Conflict
 » Additional Resources


Decision-Making Confusion

If you are having trouble making a decision about choosing a major or career, you may begin to experience negative thoughts, feelings or confusion which can consist of increased anxiety, anger, or depression. The more negative and confused you are, the more difficult it is to begin the decision-making process and make informed decisions. Although your instinct tells you to make a choice, confusion can impede the process. The outcome can be increased negative thoughts and feelings resulting in increased stress and procrastination. Unless you become proactive and challenge yourself in areas of concern, you may continue down the same path and avoid making a decision until you are forced into one or until it is made for you. This can greatly limit your options and potential to achieve what is best for you.

If any of the information above is similar to what your experiences have been when attempting to make a decision, contact a career counselor to help guide you through the challenges. Learn more about career counseling.

The Career Thoughts Inventory is an assessment which might also help you in identifying career barriers. Learn more about the Career Thoughts Inventory. Hands on Resource

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Commitment Anxiety

If you are finding it difficult to commit to a specific choice whether it is choosing a major or a career path, the anxiety you may be feeling can make the process even more difficult.

Perhaps you have been successful in narrowing your options to a few but not as successful in making a final decision. A couple of reasons may exist for not being able to commit. One relates to the need for further exploration to continue to explore possible options, or the other might be due to anxiety as it relates to making a commitment because of the importance of the decision. As simple as it sounds, a fear of making the wrong decision could be the culprit in preventing you from making a commitment. This becomes even more taxing if you pressure yourself into making a “perfect” choice. Waiting to discover the “perfect” choice may continue to compound your anxiety especially when we have to challenge if a “perfect” choice even exists.

Making an important commitment of any kind may be difficult, especially if commitments have been made in the past resulting in a sense of failure. It’s important to remember mistakes and failure are part of the learning process and may enable you to make a more informed and successful decision in the future.

If any of the information above resembles what you are experiencing, contact a career counselor to help guide you through the challenges. Learn more about career counseling.

The Career Thoughts Inventory is an assessment which might also help you in identifying career barriers. Learn more about the Career Thoughts Inventory. Hands on Resource

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External Conflict

Sometimes we are very secure about decisions made regarding our academic major or career path, because we are confident the appropriate channels have been followed to make an informed decision. On the other hand, one may determine enough time is available and there is no need to rush into making a decision or commitment and prefer to take additional time to further explore options. Another scenario might be that others in your life, such as friends and family, have different views and do not share in your enthusiasm about choices you have made. In turn, feeling pressured to make decisions can result in uncomfortable feelings. Therefore contrasting opinions can complicate the process of evaluating the importance of your own desires with the desires and opinions of others.

Important people in your life may not approve of the choices you are considering or have already made. The feedback you receive from those close to you may leave you feeling less confident about your choices. If this continues, you may begin to have difficulty distinguishing your own opinions from the opinions of others which can cause anxiety and confusion. As anxiety and confusion increase, self-confidence can diminish and dependency on others to decide for you becomes more prevalent and less problematic. However, this is only a short term solution and can limit your long-term options for happiness and success.

If you are having difficulty resolving similar issues, contact a career counselor to help guide you through the challenges. Learn more about career counseling.

The Career Thoughts Inventory is an assessment which might also help you in identifying career barriers. Learn more about the Career Thoughts Inventory. Hands on Resource

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Additional Resources

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