How To Create a Meaningful Pros and Cons List in 4 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 24, 2022

Published December 12, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Both searching for and working in a job involve making decisions between alternatives. A pros and cons list is a simple tool to help you compare the positive and negative aspects associated with each of your options. Whether you're currently employed or seeking new employment, understanding how to create a meaningful pros and cons list can be instrumental in making informed career decisions.

In this article, we define the purpose and utility of a pros and cons list, provide step-by-step instructions for creating such a list and offer both a template and an example to guide your understanding.


What is a pros and cons list?

A pros and cons list is a chart that helps you make a decision about a topic that comprises both positive and negative characteristics. The chart consists primarily of two sections. The first is the pros section, in which you list all of the positive outcomes of a decision. The other is the cons, where you list all of the adverse outcomes. As a job seeker or a professional, you may find numerous reasons to use a pros and cons list to make better career decisions. Some common scenarios include:

  • Accepting a job offer

  • Asking for a raise

  • Relocating for a job

  • Seeking a new job

  • Staying at your current job

In any of the above instances, the itemization of good and bad qualities allows you to visualize the different aspects of a decision so you can make a more thoughtful choice. Typically, the section of your list that has more items is the driving force behind the decision you do make. Imagine, for example, that you've created a pros and cons list about asking for a raise. If your pros side is longer than your cons side, this indicates that asking for a raise is a good idea.

Related: 13 Types of Graphs and Charts (Plus When To Use Them)


How to create a pros and cons list

To optimize the use of your pros and cons list, follow these steps:


1. Format your list

The first step to creating your pros and cons list is to outline its format. The most common format is typically the T-chart, which consists of a horizontal line along the top of the page and a single vertical line down the center, thus creating a "T" shape. On side of the "T," write the word "Pros." On the other side, write "Cons." Then, at the very top of the page, above the chart, write the decision you're considering. For example, a pros and cons list about accepting a job might read, "Accepting Position With Parakeet Inc."

Alternatively, create two separate lists. One list is for the pros of the decisions, and the other is for the cons. Remember to write the same decision across the top of each one.

Related: How To Accept a Job Offer


2. Brainstorm and list the pros

Next, brainstorm the positive aspects of making the decision in question, and write down each one on the relevant list or side of the chart. As you do so, think carefully about potential outcomes. Some advantages may be obvious and immediate, while others may come to mind only after analysis and reasoning. Try asking questions throughout your brainstorming session, such as:

  • What are the main advantages of this decision?

  • What benefits would you receive that you don't currently have?

  • What could you accomplish?

  • How might this contribute to your career goals?

  • How does it position you for future professional growth?

  • How does it impact others in your life?

Related: 12 Strategies for Brainstorming Effectively


3. Brainstorm and list the cons

On the other side of the chart, or the other list, write the reasons why this decision isn't in your best interest. Again, some disadvantages may be obvious, but others may require deeper analysis. Ask these questions to help you brainstorm 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?

Related: How To Make an Informed Decision: 6 Steps, Tips and Example


4. Add third-party pros and cons

In some instances, you may want to consider how the decision could affect others. Toward the end of your list, write down the names of people who may experience the impact of your choice. They could be family members, friends, mentors, colleagues and managers. Ask yourself whether an affirmative or negative decision may help or hurt them, or how they may feel about your decision. Write these perspectives down as well.


Pros and cons list template

Use and adapt this template to fit your preferences as you create your pros and cons list:

Decision: [In phrasal form, write out the matter on which you're trying to decide]

Pros

  • [Write a bulleted list of all of the advantages associated with making an affirmative decision.]

Cons

  • [Write a separate bulleted list in which you note all of the disadvantages of making an affirmative decision.]

Third parties

  • [Name or description of the affected party]:


    [Description of how an affirmative decision may affect them]

  • [Name or description of the affected party]:


    [Description of how an affirmative decision may affect them]


Pros and cons list example

Based on the template above, we've created the following example of a pros and cons list for accepting a job offer:

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

Third parties

  • Family: Would have to change school districts but may enjoy increased financial freedom

  • Colleagues: Left with ongoing project mid-completion


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