Every once in a while, I stop and evaluate myself among my peers. I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to others but I can’t help it – I like judging myself sometimes through external benchmarks and one way that I do it is by thinking about who my peers are and how far I’ve progressed compared to them. I would be lying if I said that it didn’t make me happy to know that I’m ahead of them in some ways and sad that I’m behind in other ways.
I then start to think about all of the decisions that I had to make at branching paths to get to this point. A great way of improving how you make decisions is by evaluating past decisions and while you can never get a full sense of how a different decision would pan out, you can at the very least, think about the decision that you made and the factors that you did not realize when making a decision. As an example, when I made the switch into consulting, I did not realize that by putting myself into that world, it would open me up to a lot of networking opportunities. I think it would be safe to say that my previous job at the government did not have as many networking opportunities – part of the reason is because of the type of work that we do (we don’t have clients in the sense of consulting and we aren’t working with new clients, or at least I wasn’t, every couple of months).
All of this is really context into how I started to think about how to evaluate job opportunities. I have the fortune of being the resume / cover letter reviewer for a lot of friends and I thought about how differently I would evaluate job opportunities now than when I first started. Here is what I would think about differently:
Location, location, location
When I first moved to my current city for work, I lived literally 5 minutes away from where I worked. On some days, I would literally wake up with 15 minutes to get to work and would eat breakfast, change and then get to work. Other days, I would look at when I left work and then when I got home from work and realize that I had not spent 30 minutes or an hour commuting to get home. Living close to work has its conveniences but there are studies and articles that show that workers who have shorter commutes are happier than those with longer ones (30 minutes+). Those with very long commutes (1 hour+), as you can imagine, are not very happy.
Where do you want to be in 5 – 10 years?
Back when I first took the job, and not that it was a bad job, it was in the middle of the recession and people all around me were saying how lucky I was to get a job offer from a stable and large organization. When I took the job, I did not evaluate (or even know) where I wanted to be in 5 – 10 years. And maybe that’s the same for you reading this article. My advice then is to figure out what skills you would like to build and find jobs that help you build and advance those skills. Or if you do not know what skills you want to have in the future, pick a job that seems even tangentially interesting to you. The point is not to get stuck not doing any work at all because it isn’t ‘perfect’ and just start doing things to see what you like and what you don’t like. When you have a sense of what direction you want to move in, start to look at opportunities that help you move the needle in the direction you want to move in. For example, if you want to publish a book, start to look at different writing jobs that you can take on (or writing opportunities in the line of work that you are already in).
Will I have the time and energy to do things outside of work?
If you found the job of your dreams, you don’t need to consider this but a lot of people I know are not completely satisfied through their work and so try to find activities and hobbies outside of work to fulfill their life. However, if your job requires you to be on 24-7 and is incredibly demanding both physically and mentally and you do not find that it satisfies your life to the fullest, stop and think about whether that is a job you actually want to do. Even if it pays obscene amounts of money, if you aren’t able to do other things outside of work, it may not be worth it.
What can you learn?
Something that I didn’t think about before was what I could learn from the job vs. how much money I could make. Typically, the salary factored heavily into whether I thought an opportunity was ‘good’ or not. Of course, the best world is where you can make the best money and have a lot of learning opportunities but if you have multiple opportunities, think about what you can learn and who you will be learning from. Are you going to learn significantly more in one job where maybe you do not earn as much? Will you be working with the best (and surrounding yourself with the best will certainly influence you to do your best)? Will the company or organization that you are working for force or influence you to improve and develop more than another company?
As you can see, money is just one of many important factors when it comes to evaluating job opportunities – I am not afraid to say that money was probably one of my biggest considerations when I first started looking for work, but some of the things that I have learned taking on more work and responsibilities is that there could be more important considerations to look at.