April 12, 2021

4 must-answer questions for vetting any job opportunity

As spring sets in and we all look ahead to brighter days, some of you might be looking forward to some growth of your own. Perhaps you are considering a new job.

There are lots of reasons to give this kind of decision some serious thought. For most of us, one job won’t last a lifetime, and careers cycle through ebbs and flows just like most other things in life. But the path from thought to action about a job change can be challenging. I often suggest clients do a career analysis before they get to work finding their next big opportunity. Here’s how I suggest they approach it.

Understand your constraints

These first questions will allow you to define the parameters for determining your next move – namely, when and where you might consider going. Nail these down, then you’re ready to explore your options.

How quickly must you act?

You need to deal with this most pressing question first because it will guide your next steps. If you’ve lost your job and need work immediately, you likely have your answer. Meanwhile, if you have been approached about what seems to be the job of your dreams, you also probably don’t have the luxury of time.

In either case, you need to move quickly. A short timeline can be limiting, but it can also bring clarity and focus to decisions that can otherwise be overwhelming. If you have the luxury of a longer timeline, that will allow you to think differently about your options, but it will also require focus and clarity to zero in on the right opportunity.

Are you willing to relocate?

If the answer is no, this will probably be your most straightforward question. Remote work aside, your parameters will be clear.

If the answer is yes or even maybe, you need to do a little more with this question. Try a geographic analysis to determine where you could go that would meet your needs — and where you’re definitely not willing to go. Do you want to be near the ocean, close to family or somewhere that you never have to shovel snow again? These things will give context to your new life beyond your job, and they matter.

Sometimes I encourage clients to label a map with two markers. Choose one color and draw an X through anywhere you know you don’t want to be. Choose another and circle those where you could see yourself being happy. As you overlay other information (communities with job opportunities for your spouse or partner, for example), your options will take shape.

What are your stakeholder needs?

Next, think about the people who depend on you and those who enrich your life. What’s important to them as you ponder your next move? If you are going to relocate but have a child who will require support for special needs or a spouse who works in academia, for example, that will limit but also clarify your next move.

Will you prioritize being near extended family? Do you prioritize high-quality schools for your children? Proximity to your grandchildren? All these questions will inform the choices you are willing to consider for yourself as well as your stakeholders. You might even invite your stakeholders to mark up your map with their own preferences and see where their choices overlap with yours.

Blue-sky questions

Now that you know your constraints (I need a job within three months, and I want to return to my home state in a university town), it’s time to illuminate the possibilities, starting with the ideal scenario.

What do you want out of your next job?

As clients think about their next career move, we talk about the things we get out of work. There are many ways to think about this, but I boil it down to The Four E’s of Your Career Evolution. Fundamentally (and paycheck aside), work gives us the following:

  • Education – such as learning a new skill, concept, culture or other valuable material.
  • Experience – in a company, in a certain job or role, or at a particular level of leadership.
  • Exposure – an opportunity to be seen in a new way by key stakeholders in your career, particularly those who can help you advance.
  • Enthusiasm – a deep passion for your work, and a sense that it gives meaning to your life.

Using this list and these ideas, consider what you are leaving behind in your current role, and what it is you want most out of your next role. You may want more than one of these things. You may want them all! But think about them in order of importance. They will be a filter for examining the opportunities to come.

Vetting your opportunities

Using this framework for analyzing your career choices allows you to sort through opportunities that meet your parameters. We will talk more in the coming weeks and months on this blog about searching, applying, interviewing – all the things that will get you from Point A to Point B. But this career analysis framework is your starting point, and when you finish it, you will have a set of considerations to weigh. What might using this framework actually look like?

What if Job 1 comes along and it looks like a dream job, but it is in a state you drew an X through? Or a city that doesn’t meet your daughter’s needs? Or requires you to relocate, which you’ve vowed not to do? It’s not a dream job. You can use this set of questions to filter it out of consideration.

Meanwhile, suppose Job 2 comes along and doesn’t wow you at first. It may seem to be a no-go. But as you look, you might also see that it’s in a place where everyone in your family wants to live, it has the resources you need and it will give you the experience and exposure you really need. What then? It might be a dream job after all. In which case, maybe it’s a good idea to to apply, interview and learn more.

With any opportunity, it comes down to listing out the pros and cons for each, putting the job through your career analysis framework and taking the next steps to land the role that is truly right for you.

Your experience

What process have you used to find the right opportunities and reject the wrong ones? I’d love to hear from you!

Last updated April 13, 2021

Related posts:

The stay/go decision: Navigating a career inflection point

Scanning your professional landscape — a crucial career planning process


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