Though most people acknowledge the importance of having a job, many do not recognize the importance of it being the right job. If a job is not chosen carefully, it could lead to an unpleasant, unproductive tenure and prove detrimental to your career. A bad choice could mean being sidetracked or inviting a black mark to become part of your permanent employment record.
Given the importance of job choice, it is essential to evaluate yourself in terms of the market. You must understand how you fit in, so you can best benefit yourself and your career.
Four guidelines should be observed in arriving at a successful choice:
- Never take jobs that don’t fit in with your career aims.
- Plan to stay with an employer four to five years.
- Choose high-profile positions over jobs which promise less visibility.
- Choose organizations that have a culture and philosophy with which you are comfortable.
By examining employment possibilities with these criteria in mind, you should be able to clarify job aims and implement a reasonable plan to attain your goals.
It is wise to consider the total picture first – What are your ultimate career objectives? Where do you want to go? Only by establishing a destination can you plot a course to reach it. Jobs should act as stepping stones to your ultimate goal. One question to ask of a job is, "How will it get me closer to my goal?" That does not necessarily mean the imposition of a schedule (ie, "I want position X in seven-and-a-half years.") The idea is to help your cause without being hard on yourself.
Wrong Turns Can Be Costly
A detour can be dangerous because it not only delays attainment of your goal, but it could make it difficult even to return to the desired career path.
When interest shifts from one area to another, whether it be due to an initial mistake or not, you upset the expectations of the market. The person employed as a management trainee at a fast-food restaurant will find that the position is not a springboard to international finance. Selecting an inappropriate path may prove disadvantageous both in delaying your progress and in giving employers the wrong impression about you.
You should plan on acceptable tenures for each job. Four to five years is commonly considered reasonable – not too long, not too short. Either extreme could weaken your job record. If you stay too long in one position, it might be assumed that you were not able to handle extended responsibilities or had no motivation to tackle them. You may acquire a "one company" label. Though such a designation was valued 20 years ago, it is less highly regarded today. Most prospective employers prefer the person who has served respectable tenures and who has a background of experience in several industries.
If you do not stay long enough, you may be branded as a job hopper, which is negative. Those doing the hiring are inclined to reason that you were either unable to handle the position’s duties or could not get along with co-workers.
Short tenure also evokes the image of an irresponsible employee, one who simply cannot hold down a job and is prone to being released. By taking a risk on a job that does not work out, you may unwittingly be tainting your prospects in the future. Give serious consideration to any misgivings you may have when evaluating a job.
Seek the Spotlight
Exposure within the organization is another critical factor. You should be visible and preferably located at corporate headquarters rather than a branch office. If you are assigned to an isolated department or geographical area, you will probably be out of touch with developments at the main office. Sitting in the Denver office, the first you learn about exciting initiatives at headquarters in New York may be through the newspaper. It is far better to be close to the action where you are able to make a difference and be rewarded for it when promotions are dispensed.
One major consideration is whether the company has a ‘personality’ similar to yours. It is important that the organization think like you.
For example, it may not be best to target a ‘hot’ organization or industry simply because it appears to promise rapid growth. People who can adapt to that pace will welcome the challenge and are best suited to match that company’s profile. But those who are not ‘fast track,’ who would be more comfortable and productive elsewhere, may be stepping onto a red carpet that conceals a trapdoor.
If you are mismatched, you could be placed in an alien environment, attending to responsibilities which you cannot even manage, let alone excel at. You could have been promoted more quickly by performing in an appropriate manner elsewhere.
Being challenged is fine, but being overwhelmed is not. Generally, you will be doing yourself and your employer the most good by being in a company where you belong.
Because job-related decisions are crucial, you should not act on impulse, but rather proceed according to a larger plan. Ask yourself whether the job will help you attain a greater goal. By choosing wisely, it is possible to avoid many of the pitfalls which may hinder advancement. When you place yourself on the right track in a company where you fit in, the hazards of discharge or dissatisfaction with a job are lessened. A commendable sustained performance in a worthy position serves as the best step to your final objective.