GUEST POST: Keep your head and hold out for the right job for your career

12 06 2012

This guest post is contributed by Colleen Harding is a staff writer for Bachus & Schanker .

With the economy so often in the news, it is tempting to jump at the first job you’re offered; but that may be the wrong move for your long-term success. Ask yourself these questions before signing on to any team, and you’ll be happier, more productive, and more impressive to future employers.

  • Does this job have a future?

If your prospective job doesn’t have a clear path for professional advancement, you should already be planning your next step. How will you use this job to get training, experience, and connections that you can leverage into a better position? If you can’t see how it will accomplish those goals, you should seriously consider holding out for something better.

  • Is the job a good fit for my skills and abilities?

This is one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle; you don’t want a job that you can’t do well, but you also don’t want to find yourself sleepwalking through a job that is beneath your ability. One of the best ways to ensure a good fit is to be absolutely honest and thorough with your resume. Be sure to include every relevant skill and ability you possess, but never lie about or exaggerate your qualifications. A dishonest resume might land you a better paycheck in the short run, but a little extra money won’t be worth the stress and embarrassment of being in over your head.

  • Are the benefits suitable for your needs?

Depending on your future plans and family situation, benefits might need to weigh in your decision-making as much as salary. If you have children or are planning on having children in the near future, make sure that your job’s benefits will provide the health care they need. Average healthcare costs in the US are around $8,000 a year, so if your family is not insured, it might make sense to push more urgently for benefits than you would for a salary increase.

  • Make sure you can handle the hours and commute

If you’re torn between two job offers, think carefully about your commute. If you’ve been offered a job with downtown, for example, consider the cost of your commute—apart from gas and wear and tear on your car, if you have an hour commute to and from work, you can spend ten or more hours of your week just getting to work, with no compensating benefit. If your prospective job involves a long commute, do the math and work out whether you’re really making more money, or just working longer hours.

  • Do you want the lifestyle the job offers?

If you’re considering a promotion to management or some other position of higher responsibility, don’t assume it’s a better fit for your temperament and lifestyle. Many workers fall victim to the “Peter Principle”—they are so competent and effective in their lower-level responsibilities that they are promoted to responsibilities they don’t want. The skills required to be a great programmer or salesperson are not the same as the skills required to manage programmers and salespeople. If you don’t like the thought of being accountable for the mistakes of others, or having to motivate co-workers to perform, then a promotion to management may not be worth the ego boost.

  • Are you headed toward something, or away from something?

Many workers look for a new job because they feel stagnant, trapped, or unappreciated in their current work environment. While you definitely don’t want to stew in a job with no future, make sure there’s no opportunity for growth within your current job structure. If you get along with your co-workers and your supervisors, and feel like your boss would give you a fair hearing, it may make more sense to get a little more bold in asking for a promotion within the company, rather than seeking new employment altogether. A new employer is a roll of the dice in a dozen different respects, so make sure you’re prepared for it.

About The Author

Colleen Harding is a staff writer for Bachus & Schanker; a personal injury lawyer on topics relating to employment, labor and state law. Her passion for the legal realm started with a job as a Legal Aid and continued when she accepted a role as a Human Resources Coordinator for a mid-sized U.S. manufacturing company. She is also a member of Amnesty International as well as an active volunteer in her community.

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