It is great to have a job offer to consider, but what if you are in a position to keep your options open? You do not want to join the ranks of unhappy professionals who accept a job in haste, only to realize after the honeymoon that they’d made a terrible mistake. A bad match may genuinely catch you unaware, but you have a greater chance of avoiding career catastrophe if you learn to identify red flags about a potential poor fit by careful evaluation and asking the right questions.
Factors to evaluate
- How the size and culture of this company will impact your goals.
- How the skills developed on this job will impact your next job search.
- How your manager’s performance expectations and evaluations be communicated.
- The professional development path for this job and how others moved along it.
- Who succeeds, who fails…and why.
- How the company and this manager are known to treat employees.What’s in it for you over the long haul?
The first and most important consideration is how will accepting this job affect your ability to get the next job. The odds are that your first job won’t be your last job, so it’s important to determine if you are going to learn anything new that adds to your marketability next time you look for a job. Constant technological advances means that the skills you need to stay marketable—no matter what you do for a living—need to be in a state of ongoing development. If the opportunity you are considering does not afford you the opportunity to develop new, in-demand skills every year, it could be a dead-end job that will become increasingly difficult to leave as your skills become less and less marketable to other employers. Is bigger always better?
Consider the impact of company size. There are advantages and disadvantages to both big and small companies.
With bigger companies, the benefits can be better, and you may get the opportunity to specialize, sometimes developing deep expertise in one specific area. Of course, deep expertise in one specific area will only help your career if those skills are in demand and likely to stay that way. There’s greater likelihood of ongoing professional education, which accelerates your skill development, and the very size of the company provides opportunity for growth.
Ask targeted questions
Once a job offer is on the table you will need to ask the questions that can help you make evaluations on the above issues. When these have been addressed, there are also questions about responsibilities and performance that you’ll want answered before making a decision.
- What are the projects/responsibilities that will take up the majority of your time every day?
- How does management prefer these responsibilities/projects to be executed?
- How will success/failure be judged?
- What feedback/direction/coaching can you expect to insure that your efforts are on track?
- How is your performance judged on a daily and weekly basis? How can you get feedback? How will it be delivered?
- What would this manager like you to have achieved at end of thirty days? Sixty days? Ninety days?
- Who succeeds, who fails and why?
You’ll also want to ask about professional growth and potential career paths for someone joining the company at this level, and how others have moved along such paths.
Be a discreet skeptic
You will also want to find out how the company and your new manager are known to treat employees. You do this by finding connections on LinkedIn who work or have worked at this company. Talk to them about the company, job, department, and the manager. A few questions and some intelligent research today can save you from having to live with the consequences of a bad choice.
You can find more questions to ask during final negotiations in Knock Em Dead – Secrets & Strategies For First-Time Job Seekers plus advice on how to start on the right foot, make the job secure and win promotions.
Martin Yate, CPC, is one of the world’s foremost experts in the business of job search and career management. The author of Knock ‘Em Dead 2013: The Ultimate Job Search Guide and fourteen other career books, Yate is published in countless languages around the world and has helped millions change the trajectory of their lives. Learn more at www.knockemdead.com.