The pandemic has led many people to reassess their careers. A recent study by the software and human resources services giant, Ceridian, found that 64% of Americans were actively looking for a new job or would at least consider leaving their current employer if approached by another company. This was especially true among workers under 30, three-quarters of whom said they were ready to change careers.
The attraction is palpable. Compensation programs are attractive and employers offer increased flexibility. Most companies also aggressively court women and historically underrepresented minorities. If you are the target of this increased reach, how do you decide if a tempting offer is really a wise move? Especially for young workers struggling with student debt, the lure of a higher salary is easy to grasp. But you have to look deeper to find out if a new job is really the best opportunity to advance your career and personal growth.
Aspirations versus goals
It is difficult to do this effectively without first setting clear goals. The more specific your goals, the better. It’s one thing to aspire to a C-Suite role. It is quite another to say, “My goal is to be a Fortune 100 CFO in 15 years. Either target will help you eliminate some opportunities and others to grab. But the latter is much better at differentiating high-value choices from brilliant distractions. You can more clearly and proactively identify the jobs and employers that will push you towards your ultimate goal. And you’re better equipped to assess all of the things that will position you for a CFO position, not just to assess whether the next job is paying more than the current one.
Evaluate your position using the net present value (NPV)
When colleagues, especially those at the start of their careers, ask me for my opinion on new opportunities, I start by telling them to focus more on the long-term gains and “hidden benefits” than on the comparison of the offer. main with their current situation. A new role “Actual net value” is far more important than its immediate impact on next year’s pay. A good career is built on roles that turn into an increasingly steep trajectory. Your next job may pay less than other alternatives, but be a better choice if it opens up future roles that shift your career curve. In other words, his immediate financial worth may be lower than another choice, but his current career net worth may be much higher.
Questions that keep the focus on NPV
Of course, pay matters. And generally, you would like each career step to be accompanied by a higher salary. But to make sure you’re not just doing short-term math, there are several good questions to ask about any job opportunity.
If this job had not found me, would I have sought it?
Everyone loves to be courted. When a reputable company or executive recruiter contacts you about an opportunity, it’s hard not to be interested. Conversation flatters your self-esteem and excites your sense of possibility. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right job or the right time for a move. Turn the tables over.
Based on your goals, you should have your own list of roles that would be good next steps and the top companies that would best position you for growth and visibility. If the company that contacted you is not on your list, proceed with caution. It’s good to ask yourself if your list missed a compelling option. But don’t get sidetracked just because someone flattered you with a recruiting call.
Do I sign up for an exciting sprint instead of running a marathon?
It’s okay to take on exciting, possibly well-paying, short-term assignments if there is a reliable path to the next step. But a short sprint, exciting as it is, that leaves you on the sidelines afterwards can be a dangerous detour. Carefully assess the dynamics. For example, depending on the company and its culture, an international mission can be both exhilarating and accelerating. But in other cases, high home office turnover and frequently changing priorities could leave you out of sight and out of mind at the end of your assignment, resulting in your career stalling; or worse, derail.
Ask who, then what? (in this order)
Most job descriptions focus on what you will do but rarely mention who you will do it with. Is your potential new boss the type to develop staff and champion opportunities? Or the one who most often neglects the team and takes credit for their work? Especially at the start of your career, the difference between these two archetypes can be much more important than the literal role you accept. You will need mentors and sponsors to maximize your career potential. Each job choice is a chance to select some of the people who will play an important role in your future.
What is my probability of success?
Before signing up for a job, visualize the tangible and quantifiable contributions you will make to continue building your track record of success. Be honest with you. Are you ready to take the next step or are there still some gaps you need to fill to make success a probability, not just a possibility? Because any career is a marathon, it’s better to pick up your pace and win than to sprint too fast and run out of gas.
Remember, your career is a bow
There is a lot to consider when considering a new opportunity. One size does not fit all, but as a general guide it helps to consider different priorities at different stages. At the start of your career, find positions that offer in-depth and rich training opportunities.
As you learn and grow, focus on more visible, higher impact roles in the middle of your journey. If harnessed well, it allows you to apply experience and wisdom to leadership roles at the top of your business.
And remember, you don’t have to win the race on your own. An old proverb gives good advice: “IIf you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
Alan Bowser is Co-Head of the Americas Region and Director of Diversity at Bridgewater Associates.