Long answer for you but it will help :). No one can/should tell you to do A or B, but can only guide you to help make you the right decision.
The problem is that many people jump into a job for wrong reasons without looking at the situation with enough attention and making sure it’s the right thing for them. Misery is unavoidable in this case. Some typical reasons which most people get wrong are as follows:
- Peer pressure: most of my school, university or work friends are joining company X or industry X. So, it must be great for me too
- Lifestyle: if I get this job in this location, I can afford all the material things & live an elevated lifestyle just like they show in the movies and television series
- Social pressures: my family & friends have great expectations of me, and I must fulfil their desires
- Salary: I must make as much money as I can as this is going to make me happy. I deserve it
- Reputation: firm X has a great reputation and if I somehow clock 2-3 years it will open great doors for me in future
- Brand image: firm X has a great brand image and a million people would die to work for them. It will make finding a job in future easier as my CV will be very strong
I hope you can see the problem with above reasons whether you consider them individually or all together? They are not your desires but someone else’s. If they genuinely are, that’s great. But be honest with yourself. You are making decisions driven by external pressures and/or to get somewhere in future. You can’t change the past nor can you predict the future. All you have is the present moment and ability to create a future by doing the things that truly matter to you now.
So, how to make the “right choice”?
It all starts with asking yourself two questions:
- Given I will be investing 90,000 hours (Yes, in your lifetime!) of my life at work, what should I invest all this time in, to make it worthwhile for me and people around me?
- Do I do what I really want to do (e.g. start own business)? Or should I do what’s most needed using my skills & talent (e.g. work in Consulting or Banking or somewhere else)?
Some people do land in the right company, job & career very early- the sweet spot. Most of us must try a few different things before we land in that sweet spot. So, taking risk is part of the game.
But, how to make decisions now to get to that sweet spot?
First, approach this as a marathon and not a sprint. This is a journey, so pace yourself. If your friends are getting promoted every two years, it doesn’t mean a thing for you. You can learn from them & get inspired but stick to your own plan and believe in it. Don’t live their life. Live your own life.
Second, in the present, before you say Yes to a job, answer the following key fit questions:
- Do I have the right aptitude/skills to offer to the firm?
- Through school, college, internships, and work experience you pick up skills such as leadership, project management, coding, communications, writing etc. Some of these skills come naturally to you and you enjoy them. Some don’t and you need training. Not every skill will inspire you or will give you the motivation. So, make sure you understand which skills you are good at or which skills inspire you that you can learn through training. If these are what the firm expects, then it’s a match. Otherwise not.
- Do my values align with the firm’s (culture, leadership, ways of working, reputation etc)?
- Every firm has a certain culture that’s unique to it. Simply, culture is the way things are done in the firm and how employees (including leaders) behave. This culture drives values & how the firm handles outside business transactions. If you don’t find this culture & values attractive, then stay away from that firm. For e.g. you may be a quiet & shy person and feel pressure to “show off” or be extroverted in the new job, you may not be inspired by the industry the firm operates in for e.g. Defence or Tobacco or the way their leaders come across. Start-ups have a culture & values of their own, which may not work for someone who has worked in traditional industries & believes in structure & hierarchy.
- Is the role a good fit with my career aspirations at least in the short to mid-term?
- Whatever your career aspirations are (e.g. working in consulting or investment banking or learning IT Transformation etc) the role at hand must fit with those aspirations. One way to gauge this by what responsibility you will be given. You learn only when you are given the responsibility to create something worthwhile. Without a tangible impact on you and people around you (colleagues, clients, family, friends etc) there is no growth.
- Will this job allow me to give my best & be happier?
- Cultivate the attitude of giving your best in every activity you engage. You can give your best when your worries & anxieties are at bay. If you worry about your boss, too much commuting time, expectations from you, poor work life balance then focussing on giving your best becomes a challenge.
- Are any underlying risks of taking this job manageable?
- E.g. is there a risk of the company folding in 6-12 months, or is there a risk the role won’t exist in 6 months? Make sure you anticipate and plan for any such risks.
Once you have answered the above questions honestly, you are then ready to look at other following factors such as salary, benefits, location etc to work out your final decision:
Apply the same approach above when deciding between two offers.
And finally, don’t settle and keep looking until you find your sweet spot. This could mean changing employers and/or role and/or geography and/or industry over time. Don’t become a serial job hopper though. If you are applying the approach discussed earlier, such moves should be less frequent anyway.
Get this right, and success is inevitable.