I have two job offers: one from a respected company offering me a job doing work I’m completely passionate about, but with terribly unpleasant co-workers who have no team spirit. The other is from a so-so company offering a job I somewhat like, but with people I thoroughly enjoy. The compensation is about the same, so what do I do?
—Name withheld, Luxembourg
You ask yourself five simple questions and see where the answers take you.
At least, that’s what we suggest whenever someone writes and, like you, basically says, “With all the choices out there, how in the world do I possibly figure out what job is right for me?”
Now, we’re not claiming this process will make your decision any easier—you face a common, but undeniably difficult, quandary that can strike people at almost any stage of their career. But in the end, whatever you decide using this exercise, you should have a clearer sense of why.
The questions that follow, incidentally, are in no particular order. They all count to somewhat equal degrees.
To our minds, success and happiness at work start with your team, so we’ll begin with the question that concerns a factor you’ve already mentioned: people. It asks, “Will the new job be filled with co-workers who share my sensibilities or will I have to zone out or fake it to get along?”
The key word here is “sensibilities”—those values, behaviours and personality traits that make you feel, well, like you’re among kindred spirits. If you share sensibilities with your co-workers, you tend to work at the same pace, confront each other and tough issues with the same level of intensity (or lack thereof) and laugh the same amount at meetings (often at the same jokes).
We’re not saying people with shared sensibilities are all alike, but they pretty much all like each other.
The second question is about the opportunity to learn: “Will the new job stretch my mind, build my skills and otherwise take me out of my comfort zone or am I entering at the top of my game?”
Sure, it’s appealing to join a company where you’re the smartest person in the room... for a while. In time, though, most people start to feel the downside of being the resident expert—namely boredom and career stall. There is risk, of course, in taking a job where you can blow it.
But beware of any job that promises to be a lay-up. It will, ultimately, make you want to lie down. That’s never a good career move!
The third question prompts you to consider the future by asking, “Should I ever leave, will this new job open or close doors for me?” Some companies are so respected for their training programmes or hiring standards that they bestow a kind of golden halo upon their employees. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is a good example, as are Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson.
Other jobs will keep your options open because they happen to be in thriving industries with promising economics (as compared, say, to the airlines or publishing). Obviously, we’re not suggesting you lunge for any given job at Google or Genentech, just that you think twice about taking a job where the day after tomorrow seems tenuous.
Which brings us to the fourth question, “Will the new job turn my crank, touch my soul and give me meaning?” You should never take a job based just on where it might take you—unless it’s a place you really want to go. We’re talking about job content, essentially, what you do all day.
If that actual work—be it selling a house, designing a medical device, creating an advertising campaign or whatever—doesn’t seem exciting and important to you, it doesn’t make any difference if the company or industry is on fire. You won’t be, ever. That’s no life.
The final question concerns an emotional dynamic we call ownership. “Whom am I making happy by taking this job and am I OK with that bargain?”
Look, very few of us have the freedom to make decisions without considering the needs of other “constituents”. We all know people who have passed up great jobs because of the impact on their families and people who have taken less-than-great jobs for the same reason. Such choices are part of life. But in making yours, we’d just advise you be clear on why you are taking any given job—and that you make peace with the trade-offs involved.
As for your immediate decision: It seems the first job gives you great opportunity, options and work content. It flunks on people and appears neutral on ownership. There’s really no wrong choice here—just your own to understand.
Jack and Suzy are eager to hear about your career dilemmas and challenges at work, and look forward to answering some of your questions in future columns. Jack and Suzy Welch are the authors of the international best-seller, Winning. Campaign readers can email them questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, occupation and city. Select questions will be answered.