For Your Consideration
When you were fresh out of college, you might have taken any job that fit your major and paid enough to cover your share of the rent and student loan payment. But as you move through your career, your needs change in alignment with where you are in your life. If you’re newly married, you might want to stop traveling so much. If you’re a new mom, 60-hour weeks might not fit in with your new juggling act. If your kids are grown, you might be ready to move from the cruising lane back into the passing lane.
Wherever you are in your career, one thing is certain: A new job is more than just a snazzy title and a bigger paycheck. There are many other factors that come into play when deciding whether a job is right for you right now and that includes everything from corporate culture to job perks to opportunities for growth and new challenges.
Here are six things to consider before you take your next job.
What Life Stage Are You In?
Do you have small children? Do you have aging parents who require your attention? Or are you single, but hoping not to be for long? Where you are in your personal life can help determine where you want to be professionally.
“Sometimes you're in a place in life where you want opportunity for visibility or advancement. Other times the thing you want the most is health care coverage for you family and a short commute,” says executive coach Paula Thompson, Ed.D., founder of Foresight Coaching and Consulting. “What is a job perk for one person isn’t for another. So to me, the No. 1 question you ask yourself and that you discuss with the significant people in your life is how the job will fit in with other priorities.”
Figure out what hours you want to work, where you want to work and how hard you want to work. And then ask yourself if that job offer meets those parameters. Also consider this: The job that makes your life work might not be your dream job. Sometimes, you have to choose between the two.
“What might make you happy is to be able to stay home with the kids and not work,” says executive coach Cornelia Shipley, creator of the Design Your Life summit. “But given that you have to work, the question becomes, ‘What job gives you the flexibility to pick up your children from school every day?’”
What’s the Office Vibe?
If you have the opportunity to tour the office, turn on your five senses. Is everyone in jeans or in hose and heels, and how do you feel about that being your wardrobe every day? Would you have an office or be in an open-space environment where you can hear everyone else’s chatter — which would drive you insane?
“I was in a job interview once where everyone was doubled up in offices,” says Thompson. “That said to me that they’ve run out of space and didn’t have the money to acquire more space.”
If you can, observe how the team you’ll be working with interacts. If you can’t, ask pointed questions.
“If you’re a big ‘rah-rah’ corporate person who likes big corporate sales meetings, ask, ‘How often does the sales team get together, and what are those meetings like?’” says Shipley. “If collaboration is important to you and you see everyone is in their offices with their doors closed, asking how people collaborate in that environment becomes really important.”
Don’t Be Seduced By Money
More money often means more responsibility and more prestige. It also might mean moving away from the reason you really love what you do. If you’re a graphic designer and love to create, moving up to a design director job might rob you of what motivates you to go into the office. If you love nothing more than sealing a big deal, becoming head of the sales team might not be as rewarding.
A job is more than a paycheck. Shipley has worked with many clients at the director level or higher who face disconnect or disappointment that they don’t have the satisfaction they thought they’d feel from getting the important title or bigger paycheck.
“Ask yourself: Is the job going to give you joy and satisfaction, or are you doing it just to meet some external expectation that’s not your own?” says Shipley. And if you’re being offered a fancy new title, be sure it lives up to its promises.
“Make sure the job title, job description and salary range all mesh,” says Thompson. “If they’re calling it a VP position and it’s salaried at $55,000 something’s weird there. Or if they’re calling it a vice president but the job functions seem more junior or mid-level, that might be an indication that they’re trying to bring someone in with good title but they don’t have any staff to help you do all you need to do.”
Be Realistic About the Position
Your new job might come with eight weeks vacation a year. Sounds great, right? But vacation time means nothing if you’re never able to actually take it. See how hard people are working in the office. Ask the human resources department how much vacation the company buys back each year. That will be a good indication of the priority given to your earned time.
Also, be coy when you ask about benefits. The ugly fact is that if you go into an interview asking about maternity leave and flex time, eyebrows will be raised about where your priorities are and how reliable you will be. To circumvent this, Thompson recommends asking for a copy of the entire benefits plan. And if your goal is to get a job that’s less demanding of your time, make sure you ask questions that don’t reveal that’s your goal. Instead of asking, “What are the hours?” ask, “Tell me what an average work week looks like.”
And be observant, because a lot about the demands of the job are hinted at during the interview process.
“If the person who’s hiring you only makes 20 minutes to meet with you, that’s probably an indication that you're never going to get more than 20 minutes a week out of them anyway,” says Thompson. “Similarly, if it’s a group interview and other staff members are checking their phones during an interview, that says they can’t even put it aside for a few minutes and meet and be present with you.”
Is It Really a Raise?
Consider salary, of course, but also your benefits package. How will health insurance premiums compare with what you are paying at your current job? If you’re planning to start a family, how much does coverage cost once you add a baby to the plan? Does the 401(k) program come with a company match? Does the salary increase bump you up to a higher tax bracket that brings your take-home pay close to what you are currently making? If you’re relocating, what taxes will you have to pay in your new city, and what are the housing and commuting costs? Not all benefits are negotiable, but one Thompson suggests everyone ask for is more vacation time.
“If you've been at your current job long enough that you're making four weeks and then you have to start over at two weeks with a new job, that’s actually something that’s super easy for them to modify because it’s not a law,” says Thompson. “They can make exceptions especially for mid- and senior-level people and give you the four weeks immediately.”
What’s Your End Game?
Some careers are full of stops and starts. In your twenties, you might start out aggressively trying to advance, then put it in neutral in your thirties, only to amp it up again in your forties and fifties. Your pace isn’t as important as your path, says Shipley. With each job offer, visualize what job it is you want to retire from. Will this position keep you on track to get there? If you’re in the overachiever phase of your career, getting as high as you can go as quickly as possible might be your path to happiness.
But moving on isn’t always about moving up, says Thompson. “Lately I have more conversations with my clients about parallel moves than upward moves,” she says. “People are more drawn towards interesting work right now, work where they feel like they’re doing something that feels good in their heart and maybe relate to larger purpose. And a lot of women tell me they do not like supervising, and the move-up jobs tend to involve a lot of staff supervision and mind-numbing meetings.”
So if you enjoy the work you are doing, making a parallel move isn’t settling. It’s being true to your own objectives.