Evaluating Career Opportunities

There are few decisions in life that have a bigger impact on your future potential than selecting a new job. When making a career move, you need to use your head and do your research. The time to start deciding is before you start looking. While we are conditioned to evaluate opportunities based on compensation, there are a wide range of other factors that need to be weighed. So creating a framework for evaluating opportunities before you start looking will help you say yes to the right opportunity and walk away from everything else.

Some pre-emptive filtering based on your personal needs, your preferences and your long term career goals will help clear confusion around the decision making process. Be smart and go into the job search with a clear idea of what you want. By targeting the companies and industries that can meet your objectives, you’ll be able to toss off the ones that don’t meet your criteria and work your way down to a few offers from which you can choose. By deciding with both your head and your heart, you will experience a better outcome.

Here are a few things to consider…

Where do I want to be in the future?

You need to identify that big career milestone, assess the skill gaps between where you are now and where you want to be down the road, identify a subset of those skills that you want to gain in your next position and then find companies and industries that both value your current skills and will help you develop the new ones. Where you can find this kind of information:

  • in company job descriptions, corporate career sites
  • by networking with people in different industries and companies
  • engaging with bloggers at companies that have knowledge of the work you want to do
  • LinkedIn
  • web searches
  • conference presentations, user group meetings, MBA Alumni socials, etc.
  • talking to recruiters

Pick your location

Some people are fairly mobile and can pack up and move at any time. Others cannot do it as easily. Your job is to know which one you are and which locations will meet your needs if you are willing to move. And beyond things like cost of living and weather, you need to think about lifestyle and social networks that you will be able to build in the new location.

Don’t forget that most large companies offer a range of resources to potential recruits based on their geographical locations. Some may set you up on an area tour or allow you to work with a relocation specialist before an offer is even made.

The Work Environment

If you put off thinking about this until you start interviewing, you are running a risk. Let me be clear about one thing: on the interview day, companies are making their best impression. That’s not to say that some don’t leave a bad impression, despite good intentions. But what you get on the interview day, while it may provide glimpses of reality, is not reality. You get what the company chooses to show you. Your best bet is to research this online. For larger corporations, you’ll find references to corporate culture and atmosphere in articles and discussion groups. For smaller companies, you may have to dig deeper into blogs and social networks.

Through networking and research, you can find some actual employees and ask them to tell you the truth – the good, the bad and the ugly. Every company has its blemishes but when you understand what you are getting into, you’ll be happier about your decision.

Career Progression

Checking this out is fairly straight-forward. First, look at the company’s career site to see if they have the types of roles that you could see yourself moving into down the road. Then look up the bios of people working at that company and look for evidence of job changes within the verbiage (for example, if someone “has held a variety of roles”). And again, it would be wise to engage your network to discuss this with employees of some of your target companies.

Compensation

Sure, compensation is important; it pays the bills. And you probably know to check the cost of living (or cost of housing, tax rates) estimates in any locations you are considering. But there’s more to think about when it comes to compensation. You definitely have to look at the big picture. Something may sound like a “benefit”, but if it was something that you were paying for before, it impacts your compensation. It might make sense to pull together an Excel spreadsheet and work this through.

Plan Ahead

There should be other categories that you are assessing based on what is important to you in your life and you will certainly weigh some categories more heavily than others. The point is to know what these categories are and think about them now and frequently.

The time to build your network is when you already have a job, when you have something to offer those in your network and when your judgment isn’t impacted by the fact that you HAVE to find a new position. So right now, even if you are very happy in your current position with no immediate intention of moving, you should have in mind where your next career move might potentially be. And to do this, you need to take a hard look at what truly makes you happy at work and create a simple model for evaluating your next step.


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