Welcome to the community, @Christina_Quinn! :grinning_face_with_big_eyes: I’m not sure what you mean by a “picklist” field. Airtable doesn’t have any field type that uses the term “picklist.” At first I thought you might be referring to a single-select or multiple-select field, but then you mentioned “going back to the linked field and directly copying the picklist option text exactly” so it’s possible that you’re referring to a linked record field. Could you please clarify which type of field you’re talking about?
Regarding your question about why the available options for any of those field types aren’t immediately selectable in an automation when updating a field, it’s hard to say. In order to allow data from the trigger step or other prior actions to be selected for any field type (the blue “+” button at the end of the field settings line) as well as manual entry by the user, it’s possible that such an open entry method was the most efficient solution from a design and/or programming standpoint. That’s just a wild guess, though. You can always contact Airtable support and ask them and see if they’re willing to share their thoughts. There’s no telling how they’ll respond, but it couldn’t hurt to ask.