You can love your profession, your day in and day out routines, and even the growth that comes of ever-increasing responsibilities, and still not be happy in your job.
Maybe you are an introvert stuck in a cubicle farm with low-ish walls and neighbors who sing Bohemian Rhapsody (in unison, like at a Green Day concert) while balancing receipts.
Maybe your chair has been broken for months, your back hurts, and you have no one to advocate for you.
It could be that you have no one to talk to, hang with, or grace with your great ideas.
The location might be nasty or inconvenient, or way too far from or close to your home. The commute gives you too much time to hate on this company, boss, job, and every minute you spend on it.
At your company, everyone brings their dog to work and you are afraid of dogs. You are a cat person in a sea of dogs.
The dress code is too formal on business dress days and too casual on casual days.
There is more work than you were promised and there aren’t enough people to do it. It’s the right work for you, but not in this quantity. You have no time to enjoy it or do it well, meaning to you standards.
There is less work than you expected, it’s much less complex than you were led to believe, your resume and self-esteem are both getting lighter by the minute, and you have no idea how you will explain this on your resume. You are falling behind your expectations and your peers.
You aren’t paid enough for the hours and hours and hours of labor and intense stress. But you are paid well.
Your boss is mean, crazy, narcissistic, borderline, codependent, addicted, misogynistic, unreliable, deplorable, or unabashedly disengaged and running the company into the ground.
The professional development opportunities you were promised haven’t materialized.
The truth is, you should have been able to suss this stuff out during the recruiting, selection, and hiring process. If you networked to the job, did some research, asked anyone who works at the company what it’s like to work there, or even Googled the people who interviewed you, you might have learned enough to ask more questions. If it makes you feel any better, most people don’t examine either themselves or their prospective business companions that closely. It’s hard to be critical of someone who is courting you, who says they want your best stuff, and who seems to be right on your own wave length at all times. Love is indeed blind when it comes to corporate courting.
But in case you want to know how you got here, I’ve made up a handy-dandy set of questions and true/false statements you can use to determine if this one’s for you, or not for you or anyone else. Because this is almost always a head-banging Monday morning qb fest, it’s in the past tense.
The Basics: True or False
- I checked with my network and circle of advisors for clues about this job and company. People who know me well know how I work and what I like and dislike about what I do every day. They put timeinto advising me and talking through the pros and cons of this opportunity.
- I completed a thorough job application for this position, and went through a competitive qualification process.
- My references were checked. All of my references.
- I was interviewed thoroughly for this position. They asked really good questions.
- I met key people I’d be working with, and had the chance to ask questions about the organization, culture, workload, dress code, equipment, hours of work, commute, pay, benefits, and supervision. So I asked those questions and listened to the answers.
- I also asked the hiring manager, my boss, a lot of good questions about the company, the business, my role, expectations, customers, industry, philosophy, and anything else that seemed important. The boss listened carefully and responded thoroughly, appropriately candidly, and used language I understood.
- I was provided with an offer letter that detailed my responsibilities and included a job description as well as description of benefits and pay,, and I accepted the job in writing as well.
- I had a thorough orientation and on-boarding. I was educated and trained on everything I needed to know.
- Everyone I work with at the company knows my name and uses it.
- I have a copy of an up to date handbook or policy manual.
- I am greeted by people I work with each day, and feel a sense of belonging.
These are all signs that the company did its part of the talent management/talent recruiting and selection process responsibly. They think or they thought that you are the right person for them. They see you as a member of their tribe, regardless of what you think.
But, a great many people get caught up in the race to get an offer, and are seduced by the idea of a dream job. A particular job isn’t right for everyone—the only way you can determine that it’s right for you is by asking and answering questions with an open heart and open mind. You have to be willing to let the wrong job go by. A company that is careless—one that is not diligent in learning about you—will by definition not care about you. The same is true for you: how did you contribute to the outcome you wanted or the outcome you got?
Now the Questions:
- Did I really pay attention to what I was asked about my preferences, interests, likes and dislikes; am I really aware of my preferences, interests, and likes and dislikes? [The reason I ask is that one of the questions I am most often asked by students or other job seekers is “How do I answer the one about my strengths, weaknesses, and preferences?” Answer truthfully, with humor and humility]
- Was I blinded by the light of the possibilities, such that I didn’t see the reality? [If you are a Myers-Briggs NTP or NFP the answer is yes.]
- Did I feel desperate, and did I allow that feeling to override my good judgement? [This is complicated; if you came into the process confident, you may desperately want it to end well and you try to perform better and better. If you came into the process without confidence, you may just want an offer to prove to yourself that you are good enough. Neither is particularly objective.]
- Did I like these people when I met them the first time? I mean were they friendly, warm, inviting, encouraging, and did they seem honest and fair? Did they speak my language? Did the questions they asked me relate to the work, the fit, the job, the culture, the industry, or the organization’s published strategy? [Did they have to read the questions from a screen or a page? Bad sign.]
- At any point did I say to myself, “Oh well, I can do this for two years.”? [That is a very bad sign.]
- Have there been negative articles in the press, online, or on the Coconut Telegraph about this company, its executives or board, or this industry? [Gossip is not a positive sign.]
- Did you do all the talking in all your interviews? Did you do none of the talking in any of your interviews? [If you got no feedback through the normal communication process, you should ask for feedback before making any assumptions about how it went. If the answer to your request is that it went “fine” assume that it didn’t. The only possible answer to a request for feedback from exactly the right candidate is “everyone scrambling to find more money to offer you because you are perfect.”]
- What did you like the best, above all other things, about the opportunity? Did you verify and validate it that it was real? If the answer to the former is one of the following: power, glamor, political clout, visibility, influence, fun, or something like these, they are not real. They are not independent variables; they are dependent on you. [So none of those actually count.]
- Did you figure out (in the process), the exact difference you would make there? e. did you see the picture with you in it, and internalize how you would personally and professionally make it even better?
- What did your closest confidant say about the opportunity? Why?
A new job always has uncertainty and risk in the bargain. We negotiate with ourselves time and again over what matters and what doesn’t. But as you go along in your career, know that it is a mark of the best candidate to ask the right questions and prove you are as invested in a good outcome as your prospective employer.