We all have that “thing” that everyone around you knows you for. For whatever reason, I’ve been the person my entire life that everyone I know goes to for advice. It’s always flattering to be trusted in that way, but it also means that I continue to do my best to keep myself fed with information. Probably the most common piece of advice I get asked is, “I have this great job offer. Do you think I should take it?” That’s never an easy question to answer, but here’s what I tell my friends…
The knee-jerk reaction most of us has is that we might be unhappy about a situation or conditions are our current job, and we think something like, “Man, it would be so great to find a new place to work. This place sucks! If I could just work at [insert company here], I wouldn’t have to deal with this kind of crap!” Well, things aren’t that simple. Like the title says, things won’t be all unicorns and rainbows at the new job either. In fact, you might end up dealing with a lot of the same issues.
The first thing you need to do when you have this kind of proposition is to very carefully and as objectively as possible list out the reasons why you might want to leave the current company. This is not only important for self-reflection, but also to get a baseline to compare against the potential new gig. If you can’t clearly articulate to yourself why you want to leave, then perhaps it’s not the best decision for you to make – regardless to the other offer you might have in front of you.
When you make the list, one of the things that will become clear to are the problems that you are dealing with. Let’s be frank, every job has problems, even if we love it. Make sure you segment the problems from everything else.
Now that you have your first list, it’s time to make a similar list for the new job. What about it is drawing you to it? Is it opportunity, money, location, growth, challenges, inspiring leadership, great product? This list is a great one, but I don’t want you to spend too much time on it. Instead, I want you to focus on a new one that you’re probably not thinking about… What are the NEW problems that the new job will have for you to deal with?
Again, every job has issues. The trick here will be to ask the right questions to the right people. Don’t be shy. If there’s ever a time to be able to ask frank and insightful questions about a company, it’s during the interview and courting process. If there’s something they can’t answer, they’ll say so.
For those of you that are a bit more shy or uncomfortable asking the hard questions – I’d suggest that you be incredibly careful about moving from one company to another. Not asking questions about culture, leadership, process, and day-to-day activities is like a quarterback throwing a ball blindfolded. You need to know what your target is. Don’t worry, you have other options at your disposal…
One great way to get some “insider” information about the new company is to search for it on GlassDoor.com. You won’t find every company in there, but many are. When you do find the company here, you could get some great insights into the interview and hiring processes, and what current/past employees think about the company and its leadership. To get an idea of what this might look like, check out Twitter who has an overall 4.1 star rating, contrasted to EA who has a 3.6 star rating. Some other nice goodies about this site is that you can also do some salary research and it will even begin to do a pretty good job of recommending jobs, if you want.
Another thing you could do is research the company on LinkedIn. See how many current and past employees the company has on their profile page. You could also consider contacting a few past employees to see what their experience was and why they left. You would be surprised at how much you can find out through a simple LinkedIn message. That being said, be careful when you do that, because you don’t always know who is connected to who – online and offline. If things really are bad at your current job, it probably won’t help you much if your bosses find out you’re trying to leave before you tell them.
While making your decision, don’t forget about your long-term career strategy. If you choose to stay, you can always say yes to the next offer when you come across one. If you choose to go, you really need to stay at the new company for at least a year (but ideally 2-3) so that your resume doesn’t begin to look too transient. Also, if you choose to leave and you’re a good employee, you might have the flattering but stressful experience of a dealing with a counter-offer – but that experience ’generally only will come once per company.
Making a decision at this point should be as simple as comparing the two lists you just made… Essentially, you’re going to have problems no matter where you work. Now you have the tough job of doing one seemingly simple thing… Stare, compare, and analyze the two lists to ask yourself this very important question, “Which set of problems do you want to deal with?”