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Job Choices and Your Career

I recently experienced a first world problem.  A plethora of job opportunities hit all at the same time.  Those options inspired this post.  How to choose between job opportunities.

Later in your career the job finds you

When you get a bit further along in your career the job search changes.  Unlike when you first started out where you apply for every job under the sun in the hopes that someone might take pity on your lack of experience, the jobs often start to find you.   It starts with cold calls from recruiters and references from former coworkers.  At a certain level if you are considering internal options it morphs into something else entirely.  

Internal jobs can have little competition

The higher up you go the pool of internal applicants get smaller.  It gets to the point that you know your competition is only one-two  people in the company so long as they are looking internally.  The search for a new executive or high level expert, if it considers mostly internal employees, is often limited to a few likely candidates long before a job posting is placed.  Sure nothing is ever written in stone before you accept a job.  I can honestly say in my career I’ve had more than one job opportunity where the question was almost would I accept rather than would I be chosen. 

Don’t apply for higher level jobs you don’t plan to take

 This is both good and bad.  Good in that you have a high likelihood job.  Bad in the fact that if you actually apply and then don’t take the job this can hurt your future career prospects considerably.  As such applying at these higher levels should only be done internally if you actually want the job.  So you often need to evaluate the position before applying.

Job opportunities come in bunches

Those opportunities often appear as a result of expressing interest in your next position to your bosses or others in positions of strength in your organization long before the opportunity appears.   The thing is, I’ve also noticed these opportunities tend to be bunched.  IE when the good times roll the opportunities flow, and your likely to have more than one.   However, they may not all have the same assurance of acceptance or impact on your career.   I recently experienced just such a scenario.

My experience with multiple job opportunities

Now this isn’t the first time in my career I’ve had such a choice.  Early on I got lucky with one of those poke and pray job searches while unemployed and had two options for a job.   One guaranteed and one likely.   But frankly, that was different.  In that case I was unemployed and basically need to ensure I had a job one way or other.    I didn’t have the opportunity to gamble on what might be over a sure thing. Which brings us to our first point.  A bird in a hand is worth two in the bush.  If you are desperate to move on from your current position, take the sure thing rather than waiting for your dream job.

How to determine which job to take when you are happy with your existing job

But what if you already have an ok thing.  You have a few job opportunities that float up.   Most people would ask about the money.  That might be the right question, but often times it’s not.  The first thing you should be asking about a job opportunity is how does it fit into both my near and long term plans.    

Does that job give you experience you’ll need for your future career goals?  Remember both lateral and vertical moves can give you that experience.  Most people who go high also go wide.    Unless you are on your glide path towards retirement this is one of the first things you should be looking at.  Many a dead end job pays well, but certain unemployment or career stall later on is not worth a few extra dollars.

Will you learn something from the job?   Put another way will it challenge you? Note the difference between experience and learning.   Sometimes you have to tick a box of experience in order to go to the next level regardless of your knowledge level.  You could take a great job for your stature in the company but it could be absolutely useless for your learning.  That might be good in your current company but it might hurt you if you go somewhere else or the world passes your skill set by.  Besides there is intrinsic value in learning.

Will you enjoy it?  So often overlooked.  So many people just build their careers until they are miserable.  They feel they should go be the highest ranked worker just because they’ve alway climbed, only to find that top level job sucks.  No work life balance, political BS, etc.    Don’t go up just to go up.  Go up because it is the right fit for you.

Is the culture and organization a good fit?  Even within your own company there are sub cultures.  This is even more true in other countries.  Does the company or organizations culture fit well with you.  Unless you are in charge (and even then its an uphill battle) its foolish to think you’ll change a groups culture by joining.  Kind of like trying to change your spouse, its a road to misery.  So make sure it works for you.

Is the manager a good fit?  Another often overlooked but important question.  People leave managers not companies.  A bad manager can make your life a living hell.  So find out if you can live with that manager, and if you can assess whether they will stick around for a while.  I’ve had at least 2 jobs in my career I’ve loved to death until my boss changed and they became nightmares.

Is there a path from this job to the next?    Unless you plan on leaving a company, even if a position provides learning you should be sure there is an exit option.  This is true whether you want to climb the corporate ladder or not.    See my comment above about a manager.  Not all jobs, even those that meet all the criteria above have a clear path beyond.  Especially if others above you in the organization never leave.

Way down at the bottom we come to money.   Don’t get me wrong money is important.  But to be honest if you are under about 35 the pay jumps you’ll see in your future career make the jump you get from your next job look like peanuts.  So if you really care about money you should be thinking two or three jobs ahead, not to that 5% raise you’ll get from moving to the next level.  

Your position in your career changes the money question

If you are on your glide path at the end of your career the money question changes.      In fact all of the questions change as the near term increases in importance.  So honestly you reassess at each level.  This is especially true with the last evaluation.

Does it fit with your lifestyle?  Lifestyles change over time.  Say you have young kids, well then that job with 50 percent travel is not as enticing as it once was when you were young and single.  Older kids, maybe you don’t want to work long hours so you can see little Johnny’s big game.  You get the point.  Make sure what you are signing up for won’t become your life, but will fit in with it.  That doesn’t mean a job that requires a workaholic is the wrong job.  It means it’s the wrong job if it doesn’t fit into the way you want the rest of your life to go.

So by now you are wondering what the jobs were.  Well for the purposes of discretion I won’t mention the job I did not take except to say I was well aware my competition was extremely limited and my odds were very high of getting the job.   The job I took meanwhile also had a fairly limited candidate pool.    Both jobs I would have enjoyed, both were good paths forward, and both would have brought advancement opportunities.   So what skewed my mind one way or the other?

My new position

The job I took was a better organizational culture fit to me personally.  It also had more opportunities for me to learn.  That is ultimately what tipped the scales.  So as of this writing I have a new position as an internal consultant of Mergers and Acquisitions.  Business development should be an interesting and new frontier for me.

How do you go about deciding between job opportunities?

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