Are You a Career Management Decider or Drifter?

As some of you might know by now, I like to take articles I find that aren’t necessarily written with job seekers and career management individuals in mind and turn the concept around to their advantage. That’s the case with an article I read recently by Nick Tasler, called “Are You Hiring Deciders, or Drifters?” Tasler’s article was published on and addressed to recruiters/HR professionals, but its points are worth noting for job seekers and others committed to managing their careers effectively.

Core Self-Evaluation as a Decider Advantage

Tasler talks about research by a well-known industrial psychologist named Timothy Judge, who came up with the concept of core self-evaluation as a kind of super trait that “is a person’s fundamental bottom line evaluation of their abilities. That self-evaluation has an enormous impact on their job performance.”

How enormous? Judge led a team that tracked 12,000+ people from teenaged years to middle age and found that they could use core self-evaluations to predict who did and didn’t make the most of the advantages their life offered. The upshot was that people you might think would have had a leg up on the competition–bright individuals, with well-educated and successful parents, for example–didn’t reach the income levels of classmates who didn’t have those advantages.

Here’s the kicker, according to Tasler: “…the supremely confident sons and daughters of roofers and plumbers who had only mediocre SAT scores and below average grades earned a 30%-60% higher income than the smart kids with dreary views of their abilities. And those kids with all the advantages…plus a firm belief in their competence earned three times as much money as their equally blessed peers.”

The Difference between Deciders and Drifters

Tasler labels people who have a high core self-evaluation as “Deciders,” who “…have such a firmly rooted belief in their ability to shape the events more than events shape them, that they aren’t afraid to make decisions.” He goes on to state that their lack of fear in decision making provides an increasingly huge advantage over less fearless individuals as they go through life.

Drifters, on the other hand, “drift through each day deferring decisions” to others–bosses, colleagues, and so on. They don’t make many decisions, which might mean they make fewer overt mistakes, but it also means they get very little practice in decision making and taking charge of their actions.

So are You a Career Management Decider or Drifter?

As Tasler notes in his article, Judge came up with a “Core Self-Evaluations Scale” that lists the following 4 qualities you can expect to find in yourself if you’re a Decider:

  • Self-efficacy (believes he/she can overcome challenges in many areas of life)
  • Internal locus of control (takes control of his/her work, rather than trying to place blame on outside factors)
  • Confidence not narcissism (not “in love with” himself/herself and able to help teammates when needed, etc.)
  • Emotional stability (not easily discouraged and more resistant to stress and burnout)

It appears that Deciders more often take action to make things happen, whereas Drifters mostly just let things happen to them and try to cope with the result. While some people might argue that you don’t have much choice in which one you are, I don’t agree. Deciders might in some cases be born with that inclination, but I believe it’s equally likely that you can cultivate the outlook and habits of a Decider, even if your natural inclination is to be a Drifter. The probable benefits of doing so seem very attractive–well worth pursuing.

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