How many decisions do you make in a day? [Career Coach]

You may not believe this…


I’ve often wondered about this. I’m glad I tripped across a study to help me out in understanding just how many decisions do we make in a day? The study I’m referring to is from the University of North Carolina. They found that, on average, Americans make over 35,000 decisions over the course of an average day. Obviously some are bigger or require more thinking than others do, but nonetheless, over 35,000 per day.

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If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ve probably seen that the number of advertising messages a day that avearge Americans are subjected to daily is around 3,000.

Many people look at me like I have 3 eyes when I say this, thinking that they probably only see a few hundred. I guess it’s all in how you see it (pardon the pun) as to whether you believe that figure.

My contention is, we see some number of ads when we read magazines, newspapers, road signs, websites, and so on. Also, if you listen to the radio in your car when you’re driving to work, you probably hear 18-20 minutes of ads each hour. That’s 36 to 40 ads per hour just from the radio.

How many schools do you pass? The nickname of the sports teams is a logo, and an ad for the program.

How about the logo on the side of your garage door opener? How many logos do you see on the stores you pass? The restaurants you pass? The gas stations you pass? How about the logo on your car? Your license plate? Your license plate FRAME? All of the other cars on the roads?

Then, when you get to the office, you see the logo of your company, and any other in your building. You also see the logo on your coffee cup, the pens and pencils on your desk, as well as the name of your computer. Oh yeah, then there’s the name of your printer, and if you have to refill either the ink or the paper, there are a couple more ads.

How about when you visit the cube or office of a colleague? They have different pens, pencils, coffee cups, and so on than you do.

Go out to lunch (when you could), and how many restaurant logos do you see? Do you order Coke or Pepsi? 7-Up or Sprite? Orange or Root Beer?

Go to a bar at night, and how many beer signs and lights to you see? The labels on the hard liquor bottles? Then, get home and watch a little TV. You also see 18 minutes of ads per hour of programming.

Now that I’ve got you intentionally thinking about it, how many pieces of advertising am I missing?

Also, you may be asking yourselves, how does this relate to job search? I’ll get there, believe me.

ethnic woman choosing food in supermarket
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According to the study I found conducted by the University of North Carolina, the average American makes over 35,000 remotely conscious decisions every day. The study estimates that we make 226.7 decisions on food alone.

Should I get a coffee, or a coffee drink? Should I get tea? Should I get an entire breakfast, or just a breakfast sandwich? Should I go to Starbucks (oops! another ad!), or to Caribou Coffee? Should I just get coffee out of the Bunn machine at work?

So how does this relate to job search?

Fair question. Easy to answer, though. Your resume is your “ad” for your set of skills, and what you use to get your foot in the door, so you can have an interview, and hopefully land the job.

That means that your resume is just one more of that ~3,000 advertising messages we hear and see each day. To retain our sanity, we simply ignore a good many of them, so we don’t go crazy trying to put each of those sales messages into their correct boxes and make sense of them.

Since this study shows us that we make about 11 times that many decisions of any sort during the day, how can we get our message through to the people that need to hear it? How will we know when’s a good time to call or email? How will we know they have an opening right now? Especially one that we can fill? Just how many decisions do you make during the day?

Simple answer to that is “networking.” Yes, networking. And yes, we can still network, even though there is this thing called COVID-19 right now. It’s time to move networking on-screen, but we can still do it. It may be a bit tougher to set up, but it can still be done.

Don’t forget – most people are just like you. They want to help people whenever they can. The biggest challenge for most people is to move outside their network to network. Most people don’t like to make small talk. Most people feel uncomfortable speaking to people they don’t know.

That’s been going on for generations. Get over your fear of that. Learn the art of small talk. Ask open-ended questions like “have you been on any great trips lately?” Ok, that’s a toughie, due to the pandemic. How about “have you read any good books lately?” Or, “have you seen and good movies on Netflix (or Disney Plus, or hulu, or Apple TV+, or whatever).” “Oh! That sounds great (or lousy)! Tell me more! What did you like (or not like) about it?”

cheerful man using laptop for video call
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You see, people love to talk about themselves. A lot. And when you talk about them (wait for your turn another day), they will walk away from the conversation thinking “what a great conversationalist s/he was!”

As a rule, networking meetings never provide much the first few times you attend. You have to go back again and again until you’ve built a reputation with the group. The others have to feel comfortable with you and what you say you can do. You see, they are putting their reputations on the line when referring you.

Would you give the phone number of your best friend the VP of Operations at ABC Company the first time you met me? My guess would be “no.” Nor would I blame you – you don’t know me. You don’t know whether I’m an axe murderer. Whether I can actually do what I said I can do in my elevator speech.

Listen with both ears, so you can figure out what questions you can ask as follow ups. Then ask open-ended follow up questions. If their answers are one word “yes” or “no,” you’re not asking open-ended questions.

THought for the post

You have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Speak – and listen – in proportion.



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