Career Development

How to Create a Meaningful Pro-Con List

December 22, 2020

There are many decisions you’ll encounter in a job search. A pros and cons list is a simple way to compare the benefits and challenges of your choices. A carefully constructed pro-con list can make the right decision for you clear as well as illuminate the thoughts behind the decision. In this article, we present the ways in which you can create a pros and cons chart, as well as the steps to creating your own pro-con list to assist in future decision making.

What is a pros and cons list?

A pros and cons list is a chart that helps you make a decision. On the pros side of the list, you add all of the positive outcomes of a decision. On the cons side, you add all of the adverse outcomes. It allows you to visualize different aspects of a decision and potential outcomes so you can make a more thoughtful choice.

In many situations, one side will have more points than the other, making the decision-making process easier. For example, you could make a pros and cons list to determine if you should ask for a raise. If your pros side is longer than your cons side, you could feel more confident in asking your manager for a raise.

You can create your own pros and cons list, or many online applications can assist with formatting. When creating a pros and cons list, choose the format that works best for you, whether it’s on paper, your phone or your computer.

Related: Types of Graphs and Charts

How to create a pros and cons list

To get the best results out of a pros and cons list, organize it and complete it in the following way:

  1. Format your pros and cons chart
  2. Select a method of populating your list
  3. Brainstorm and list the pros of the decision
  4. Examine and list the risks or cons of the decision
  5. Add third-party pros and cons

1. Format your pros and cons chart

At the top of the pros and cons list, write the decision you’re considering. For example: “Accepting position with Parakeet Inc.” Under that, create two columns. On the left, write “Pros.” Label the right column “Cons.” This format is why a pros and cons list is also referred to as a T-chart.

2. Select a method of populating your list

Before you begin filling your pros and cons list, consider the process that is easiest for you. Some people list a pro and then a con. Others prefer to generate all of the positives or negatives at one time and then switch to the other side.

Use whichever method complements the way your mind works. If you take the first approach, you are more likely to create a balanced structure, whereas the second approach may more clearly indicate your preferences as you may end with a higher number of reasons on one side than the other.

3. Brainstorm and list the pros of the decision

After you construct the T-chart, consider the benefits of your decision. Some advantages could be obvious and immediate, while you may discover others after careful thought and reasoning. Asking questions can help you realize some of the benefits associated with each outcome, such as:

  • What are the main benefits of this decision?
  • What favorable outcome would you receive that you don’t currently have?
  • What could you accomplish?
  • How will this contribute to your current career goals?
  • How does it position you in the future?
  • How does it impact others in your life?

4. Examine and list the risks or cons of the decision

The other side of the pros and cons chart should include reasons that this decision is not in your best interest. Again, some will be obvious, such as a long commute in traffic. Others will require you to examine your career goals. You can ask these questions to help you determine some of the cons:

  • What are you giving up?
  • What are the risks associated with this decision?
  • What challenges does the position present, and could you overcome them?
  • How would this position impede or possibly defer your career goals?

5. Add third-party pros and cons

In some instances, you may need to consider how the decision could affect others. Toward the end of your list, consider how others may feel about your decision. Try thinking about how your coworkers, manager, mentor and family members may feel about your decision or how it could affect them. Write these perspectives down as well.

Pros and cons list example

Using the ideas above, we’ve created an example of a pro-con list for accepting a job offer. On the left are the benefits of accepting the position, and on the right are the things you’ll give up in this example:

Decision: Accept position with Moreen Enterprises

Pros

  • $10,000 increase in salary
  • Two extra weeks of vacation
  • Dream company
  • Gym membership paid for
  • Career and future potential
  • Higher salary = buying a house
  • High-profile position
  • Valuable experience for resume
  • Partner likes the new location

Cons

  • Pay for parking
  • No sick days, they come from vacation
  • Not dream job
  • Longer commute
  • Requires new wardrobe to fit dress code
  • Need daycare
  • Higher risk
  • Can’t work with current mentor
  • Moving expenses

Job decisions are multifaceted, and understanding the positives and negatives can help you make a more informed decision. A pro-con chart is an easy way to compile and visualize the components which most affect your selection. Learning to master this simple tool can help you in many of your future decisions inside and outside the workplace.