The stories that we grew up hearing, the advice that we listened to whether willingly or not, and the modeling our families showed us – create the fiber of who we are, for better and worse. We start seeing the world through various lens and viewpoints, with some biases and “shoulds.” And for most of us, it gets confusing when we look at our own career.
I was taught to get a good, stable job; make heaps of money so you never have to worry about it; work hard – it gets recognized; climb the ladder; and pick one path and stay on it. You probably have your own story about what your career should be about, where today’s world of work or your own personal work style/preferences, don’t even enter the equation.
That’s why it is so difficult for us to make career changes. It’s why other people sometimes can’t understand our perspective.
But it’s time to shift the lens in which we make career decisions, ever so slightly. Breaking free a little piece of our own stories, will open up opportunities you’ve never knew were possible.
On a daily basis, I hear clients pondering turning down a job offer because they weren’t going to make “enough” money or because it didn’t have the next-level title. And instead, they go back to their job search miserable trying to find their very own purple unicorn.
What if this is the place where we shift our lenses? What if the way we look at opportunities, overt and hidden, change – taking us on a slightly different than originally planned course, but much more satisfying in the long run?
Here are some things to consider when you evaluating your next career move: try these lenses on for size.
1. Determine the skills you can gain in the opportunity
Starting with what you are going to get out of the experience, is a great place to start when evaluating any type of job opportunity. Ignore the money and title for now, and instead focus on the various ways you will grow as an employee and as an individual (or leader) in the role.
Is there a software program that you will get to interact with? A new cutting edge marketing tactic that you will get to employ? Will you be able to lead a small team for the first time?
Look for possible toolbox growth in all types of skills – interpersonal and job-specific, and evaluate how flexing those muscles will benefit your overall career package in the long-run. Consider the opportunities it could open the door on, five or ten years from now – then decide if it matches where you are today.
2. Understand the level of interaction with others that will be required
That sounds funny, I know. But one of the most critical things in your career, is knowing the right people at all different levels. When looking back at some of my horrible jobs, the only thing I came away from them with was a life-long mentor, one of my best friends, a career advocate, and so on.
I wish I could say I had the foresight to understand this earlier in my career, but I didn’t and probably missed out on opportunities to meet some great people and mentors.
For each new opportunity, determine who you will be working with closely and who will be in your sphere of interaction. You can look at levels or titles, but I would recommend looking at the people themselves. For example, if you interviewed with four different people, it’s safe to assume that they will be people that you will interact with often. Based on your interview interactions: can you learn from them; will you be able to collaborate and partner with them; did they seem like they would take the time to teach you; and so on?
Consider the players in a role and the potential friendships, partnerships and business connections you can create and foster for the rest of your career.
3. Get real about the money
This is the part where I tend to get in my own way, the most. When you get used to continuously making more and more money, your ego around money grows bigger too.
When evaluating an offer, get real about the money – quickly. Maybe the amount isn’t what you were making in your previous role, or perhaps it doesn’t come with a 15% increase over what you are used to, but is the number enough to cover your life expenses?
Not is the money ideal or more, but will it sufficiently cover what you need it to and have the type of life you want?
For some, it means being able to work remotely or having a flexible schedule or not having the kind of stress that comes with an “always on” job. Whatever that lifestyle is for you, do the money tradeoffs make it worthwhile? If the answer is yes, then forget about the number.
Overall, evaluating job opportunities is a difficult process. We think the next choice we make is our forever choice – it’s not. We consider where this choice will lead to for the next opportunity – it’s usually not a linear line. And we think that we can never get back “on track” if we make a choice that creates a detour – you can.
Jobs and roles are more than the money and title – even if the story we grew up with tends to leave that part out. Try putting on a different lens when you are evaluating your next opportunity, and see if you get better results.
This post first appeared on LifeAfterCollege.org.