Choosing a job can be confusing or stressful, but it doesn't need to be.
I never fully appreciated how easily insecurity can make us lose sight of what works until I started to coach a number of clients who were unhappy at work, or had just left a job that was not a good fit. The same thing would happen over and over again: at the beginning of our work together, my client was down, seemed to have little resources or skills, and could see mostly limitations when faced with choosing a job. As we met over time, they reconnected with their deeper Wisdom, remembered all they had to offer, and started to see new opportunities and possibilities.
When you look for work, especially if you have been unemployed for a while, or you are having a hard time at your current job and trying desperately to get out of it, it can be easy to fall into survival mode and to rush into choosing a job - any job.
But while that might be tempting, spending a little more time finding the right fit will pay dividends in the future - especially when it comes to recovering your confidence, drive, and peace of mind.
So I want to take a little time today to share what I have observed is important to take in consideration when researching a position, interviewing with a company, and accepting a job offer.
Here are 11 things to consider when choosing a job, in no particular order.
1. Do you get to use your favorite skills?
Psst...want to know a secret? For a lot of people, what they love to do is what they are best at. And what they are best at is what they love. It is easy to see why that would be: the more you like something, the more time you spend doing it, and the better you get at it.
The right career for you will allow you to use your favorite skills, and reward you for them. Whether that’s a hard skill such as programming in a specific language, or a soft skill such as fostering trust among colleagues, it can pay to go in that direction.
As the saying goes… “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
2. Is there a culture of appreciation?
Almost everyone I talk to who is unhappy at work mentions feeling unappreciated. It’s easy to dismiss this as not that important, but feelings of gratitude and appreciation can make a profound difference in any environment. When you feel appreciated, you relax, feel safer sharing your ideas, and are more likely to go the extra mile to solve a problem. When coworkers feel good about each other, they have an easier time weathering the occasional disagreement, sharing their vulnerability or getting through an unusually busy time.
Try it in your everyday life: genuinely appreciate someone - your partner, child, or a stranger who interacted with you - and see how your words make a difference. When choosing a job, why not seek a boss, team, or company where you can feel appreciated for all you contribute?
3. How much do you want to work?
Ha, this is not a trick question 😀 Whether you want great work life balance or are ready to work super hard to make it big, it’s important to find a company that is a good match for your current drive. There is no right or wrong to this (within reason): you might want to work 50+ hours per week, maybe because you want to learn a ton, you are in a rush to get a lot of experience and move up the ranks fast, you love working a lot, etc. Or maybe this year you feel the need to slow down, spend more time with your family and community, or you are ready to grow in other ways, outside of work. Know yourself and do not be afraid to look for what works for you.
4. How much do you enjoy learning new things?
It’s been really interesting to me as a coach to see how much people differ when it comes to the amount of learning they crave. Some people thrive working in a field or environment where there is always more to learn: they easily get bored and lose interest if things become routine. Others do not like having to learn new things, at least not at work: they look for a position that is stable, they can master once and for all, and that doesn’t change significantly over time.
You need to be very honest with yourself about this.
However, you also need to realize where your preference might prevent you from achieving your goals. For example, if you want to change careers, grow your career exponentially, or really increase your income, chances are you will have to learn new skills. Some professions thrive on constant change and innovation. If this is not something you are willing to do, it might be time to re-evaluate your goals.
On the other hand, sometimes leaders do not want to spend time learning the nuts and bolts of the work and rush to delegate what they find boring: they are in love with their vision, but fail to grasp the importance of the less glamorous tasks. If this is you, it might be worth considering the benefits of spending a little bit more time on what is not exciting - so you can better delegate and support your direct reports later.
Last but not least, consider that even if you get to coast with the same knowledge at your current company, you will likely fall behind your peers if you don’t keep updating your skills - in some professions more than others. Do not wait until you have to get a new job: stay on top of your learning and you will feel more confident in pursuing your next gig.
5. What does a good relationship with your boss, colleagues, or direct reports look like?
Relationships make or break your wellbeing at work. It is very rare for me to talk to someone unhappy at work because they do not like their tasks, but love their coworkers and boss. And the opposite is unfortunately true: almost everyone who quits, leaves a job because of the dynamics with the people they were working with, or because of their relationship with their boss. In my opinion we still greatly underestimate the impact our relationships have on our experience of life, even though there are countless articles written on the importance of company culture.
As a job seeker you need to trust your gut on this one: deepen your self awareness, invest in developing yourself, and then prioritize choosing a workplace where people are genuinely happy to be there, treat each other with kindness and respect, where the amount of interaction is good for your personality (the team hangs out together a lot, or there are very few meetings, etc), where there is a strong commitment to DEI, where individuals feel appreciated in their individuality and differences, while being part of a bigger whole.
6. Is there room to grow?
Do you want to move up the ranks? Are you looking for a position that can lead to promotions, preferably at a large company, or would you rather work as an individual contributor, or as part of a small and nimble team?
There are different ways to grow your career, from being internally promoted, to changing companies after a few years - each time going for higher position and salary, to eventually transitioning from employee to entrepreneur. There is no right or wrong when choosing a job, just know what game you are playing and make your move accordingly.
7. Can you be yourself at work?
Within the bounds of professional interactions, it is so important to feel you can be yourself in your day to day activities. Feeling you can be yourself is a sign of psychological safety at work. It means you feel included, you trust that you can share ideas, or make a mistake, you feel valued for your different life and work experience, not just for what you have in common with others. You do not have to wear a mask and be guarded all day. This is what a place that truly values diversity, equity, and inclusion feels like.
A way to get a sense of this while looking for a job is to be yourself during the application and interview process: if you resist the urge to “pretend” to be who you are not out of fear of missing out on the position, and instead take the “risk” of being yourself, the right team will say Yes to the real you and it will be a much better match!
8. Does the organization act as if their work is the most important thing in the world?
With the exception of jobs that put you in a life or death situation, a job is “just a job.” We all have families, friends, communities, hobbies, something else we love to do outside of work. A good team will respect that and not expect you to sacrifice everything for the sake of your career.
- Are you expected to answer emails at all times, including during the weekend?
- Does your boss encourage people to miss important personal events to "get it done"?
- Is the level of stress at work out of proportion for what you are actually doing as a company or employee?
Always do your research before choosing a job. The above can all potentially be red flags, and sometimes you can find out about them during informational interviews or while researching a specific company online.
9. Does the company believe in self development?
Whether you are looking for a leadership position, or for a position as an individual contributor or team member, it is fundamental to invest in your own self development. The more we understand ourselves, the easier it is to choose and co-create the right environment.
While in the past I would have overlooked it, now that I coach people and hear what happens at work, I encourage you to look for a company or boss that invests in their own personal growth and in that of their employees. My life and my relationships got a lot better as I developed my self awareness in many ways, including by working with coaches. Choosing a job that includes an environment where people receive professional support for their own personal growth can make a big difference to your (professional) life and happiness at work.
10. Is your work aligned with your values?
This is a question for you whether you want to change the world or are simply looking for a job that is pleasant and makes you good money. Every organization has a set of explicit and implicit values that inform its functioning. If these are not aligned with your own, you can find yourself in a distressing situation. For example, a career changer who spoke at one of my events decided to quit and change careers after her consulting company sent her to help a weapon manufacturer make weapons faster. This task was so against her values she felt she could no longer go on as before and committed to change careers and do good in her next position.
If you want to make a lot of money and are driven to succeed, an organization that discourages great ambition and drive will not work for you. Some teams have a negative or dysfunctional view of wealth, and you’d want to stay clear of such an environment.
I have seen the results of people trying to make something work for them when deep down they knew it was not a good value fit - they lost confidence and self esteem. Better to do a little more research and vet a company’s values from the start so you can fully embrace your new company’s mission once on board.
11. How much will you get paid?
I saved this for last, because most of us focus on salary first and foremost. Compensation is very, very important. And when I say compensation, I mean everything, including benefits: the ability to work remotely could even be considered part of your compensation! Commuting costs time and money after all. And the ability to work from a different city or country could be priceless for you.
The key to choosing a job wisely is to prioritize finances, but not so much that you compromise on other considerations that are also important to you. So do your research and negotiate the best compensation package you can, all while keeping your eye on the big goal: waking up on Monday excited for a new week of doing what you love.