Monday, February 22, 2016

5 Questions You Have to Ask Before Taking a New Job

In the past couple of weeks, several friends of mine have asked me whether or not they should seek out a new job. Several new positions opened up during some organizational change, causing many more than usual to consider a change of pace.

But my friends are not alone. According to CareerBuilder statistics from 2015, three out of every four workers consider themselves open to new job opportunities if they aren't already actively seeking employment.

How do you know when you should jump to a new career, though? What questions can you ask to make sure that you are headed down the right path?

What Do You Want Out of a New Job and Your Career?

Before jumping ship, you need to evaluate what makes you tick and what drives you. I've linked before to the Dan Pink talk on drive and people's being motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If you haven't seen it yet, take some time and watch it. Figure out what factor is most important to you. Does that factor drive your desire to change jobs right now?

You might not be thinking in that big of a picture, though. People seek new jobs for several other reasons, some of which are better than others.


You need more money. Obviously a new job could provide you with more money. Unless you are grossly underpaid, though, in your current position, more money likely means more responsibilities. Whether span of control or new management duties or just additional work expectations, seeking new career choices simply for money needs to be balanced with what it may cost in your quality of life.

While you might find it difficult to get paid more to perform your current job, you might have a discussion with your supervisor about some additional tasks you might take on to get a raise instead of abandoning ship.


Tired of the day-in-day-out monotony of your current role? The "every day is the same" syndrome shows up in this Houston Chronicle list of reasons people leave. The downside of using this as your motivation? You have to seek out a job where you won't fall into the same rut.

A few jobs, such as consulting, can offer new challenges on a frequent basis. I would caution this as being a sole motivator for an exit, though, because you may find yourself slipping into the same bored and tired routine at a new position a few years down the line.

Your Boss

Can't stand your boss? Working for someone you dislike can make even pleasant jobs into misery. Before you flee, though, make sure you know what you are getting into. You don't want to trade a bad boss for another bad boss, or the nightmare scenario of an even worse boss. 

Try to talk to employees of the new boss and see if you can feel out the management style, interaction, and demeanor of the potential new boss before you make the leap. You will find their feedback helpful even if you already know the person as you might not have ever worked as a subordinate to him or her before.

Where Are You After This New Job?

You might even need to ask yourself this question before the first one. If you are looking to make a change to your job, you need to make sure that it is guiding you in the right direction for your career.

I tend to ask people, "What job do you want after this next job?" or "What do you consider your dream job?" first (or maybe even "What do you want to be when you grow up?"). Thinking about where you want to be down the line puts the entirety of your career in perspective (of course we all know my dream job).

Then ask yourself, will this job get you closer or further away from the goals you have long-term?

Let's say, for example, that you dream about becoming a COO, but you have spent the last several years in outside sales. If you are looking at a position in marketing or a different sales position, do those jobs really move you any closer to your dream of running operations? Seek out jobs with operations objectives that can build skills you will need in the job you want down the line.

If you don't know where you have skills gaps, do some research. Jump out on LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, The Ladders, and a few other job boards. Search for the job that you want long-term. Make a list of all of the required skills and then do an honest assessment of yourself. Would you hire you for this position today? If not, what could you change about yourself that would change your mind?

Which Direction Are You Running?

When you can, you should control your career. Everyone at some point may go through a layoff or unexpectedly find themselves under the gun to find a new job, and that requires different approaches. But when you are looking to improve your situation proactively, you should ask yourself whether you are running away from something or towards something.

Obviously to be in control, you need to be running towards a goal. I've even written a whole post about this. But how do  you know?

Are bad benefits, horrible hours, or a rude boss driving you crazy? All of these factors will cause you to run away from your current role. You have a fire burning all around you, and you need to flee.

You might find problems in this approach, though, as your flight may lead you "anywhere but here." That may land you in an even worse spot than where you currently sit.

Instead, try to identify something to run towards. Maybe you need a new skill. Maybe you want to change industries. Maybe you want some management experience. Whatever you seek, make sure you are pursuing it.

Even if you are fleeing a fire, there's no need to panic. Stop and take a few minutes to look around before you run. You may find a safe place to run to that puts you in the same direction that you want to go longer-term.

How Much Time Do You Have?

You don't have to possess magical powers and foresee your own demise to know that you won't likely work forever. Your career has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Even though Gallup has found that 37% of Americans expect to retire after age 65, most don't intend to work forever. You should assess where you are along your career journey and how many more changes you have ahead of you. Do you have twenty years to fulfill your career goals? Five? Thirty-five? 

As you advance in your career, the lack of time remaining should be yet another fire chasing you away from the status quo. Make sure that you have enough time to make the pivots you want to get to the career you desire, but avoid sitting in the wrong job for too long, lest you never hit your goals.

How Often Will You Have this Opportunity?

Perhaps you find yourself stuck with another question I hear frequently, "Is now the right time for me to switch?" I tend to think that question comes about as our fear of change tries to rationalize why we should remain exactly where we are, in the good old comfort of the status quo.

Instead, you should be asking, "Will this opportunity come again, and when?" I have talked to several people about whether they should apply for management positions in companies where those positions are only available every few years.

The answer, of course, is "YES." If you want an different position and it comes available, go for it. Availability of opportunity means now is the time for change. (Click here to tweet that).

Availability of opportunity means now is the time for change.


You are not alone if you are looking for new opportunities. To weed the good ones from the bad, though, you first need to take a look at your own motivations and understand why you want a new job and what you are trying to gain from it in the long run.

Every job change presents an opportunity for you to grow, learn, and expand. Make the most of each and every one that you can.