Saturday, May 8, 2021

Job and Career Advice

A connection on LinkedIn asked me for help deciding between job offers. I can't provide personalize advice, but here are my thoughts in general.

You must accept personal ownership for choosing what you want to do with at least the next few years of your life. Nobody can do this for you.

Your time is a scarce, non-renewable resource so spend care in deciding. On the other hand it is difficult to make a choice because as they say: it is difficult to make predictions, especially if they're about the future. It's even harder to foresee consequences, especially on your first couple jobs when you are learning how everything works.  But if you end up making a choice that works out poorly, then figure out the lesson to learn and switch to something else.

Take a look at how the job fulfills or supports your needs on Maslow's Hierarchy (  Some of us live to work; some work to live.  There is no one right answer, but at least this gives you a simple checklist of what you want to be provided by the job -- and what you don't.  If you're signing up for a 12 hour x 7 day type job, it had better go a long way to filling up that pyramid in an acceptable, non-destructive way while you're at work, because you'll always be at work.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs []

All organizations have dysfunction. Figure out if this organization's dysfunctions are going to be irritating to you or get in the way of satisfying your needs (see previous item).  Most people can stand an irritating environment less well than they think they can.

When you're young there is a lot to be said for working in a structured, mature organization. You learn a lot. Later on you might want less structure.  Skipping right to an unstructured job at an immature company will teach you a lot of bad habits that it can take a lifetime to unlearn and leave many holes in your practical education. (Some jump right to a startup company with no "graybeards". Some skip college. Some get rich by winning the lottery. Some don't. I can only tell you how to stack the odds in your favor.) Consider availability of mentors.

Ask if the level of responsibility & authority is a fit both in terms of scope and structure.  My experience has ranged from military office (highly structure) to consultant (freedom but few safety nets).  Where you want to be likely changes as your career progresses.

Read the general job hunting advice for things such as the realities of accepting a low paying first job and trying to get raises later.  The classic is "what color is your parachute" but no doubt there are others, keeping in mind that highly skilled workers are a bit different than the general work force.  It helps to have a realistic understanding of what you are worth, and to get some objective advice from someone you trust on whether you're getting taken advantage of in a job offer.

After you've considered the above, IMHO only then should you worry about the more common philosophical areas you see mentioned on this topic.  (And really, most of them end up on the upper levels of Maslow's Hierarchy.)  My personal preferences are:
  • Surround yourself with the smartest, most capable people you can (but stopping short of jerks, noting that any company with a "no jerks" policy is making a relative statement to their existing staff, not an absolute measurement).
  • Work for good leaders that support and empower those who work with them.
  • Take advantage of any opportunity you can get to improve your communication skills and soft skills.
  • If you're taking a job purely for the money, go into that situation with an exit plan and target exit date.  And make sure that is really how you want to spend a part of your life.
  • If you're stressed out, it's time to find a new job.  (Or re-invent your job.)
  • If you're stressed out about your career, it's time to reinvent yourself and find a new career.
  • If you strive to be the absolute best at what you do, opportunities will find you.
  • If most days you wake up and are eager to get to work, reflect on how fortunate you are to have that.
Don't forget the part that you own your choice. Your preferences will probably differ.

Please do not contact me with questions about your particular individual situation. The hours in my day are already too few to accomplish what I'd like for my personal goals.  I took some time to write this to help as many people as I can (one of my goals), but I lack the time to provide individual responses.  So if I don't respond to a personal query, please understand (and better yet, send the personal query to a trusted friend instead).

I hope this is helpful, and wish you the best of luck in your job choices and your career!

Job and Career Advice

A connection on LinkedIn asked me for help deciding between job offers. I can't provide personalize advice, but here are my thoughts in ...