7 Things You Should Know Before Making a Major Career Decision

A friend of mine recently announced that his employer was closing the facility where he currently worked and moving its function to a larger facility about 600 miles away.

They gave him a choice: 1) relocate or 2) work remotely from home without relocating. Last I heard, he’d decided to relocate. His logic was as follows:

  1. As is typical in this sort of announcement, some of the coworkers at his facility were laid of rather than given a choice.
  2. The stated reason behind the relocation was to increase the amount of contact between employees in hopes of creating a more collaborative culture.
  3. Working from home would place him out of the collaborative loop and thus make him more likely to be laid off in the future.

While I understand his logic, I’m not sure he’s made the right decision.

Based upon what I’ve seen and experienced in the corporate world, there are seven essential truths to consider before making any major career decision.

1. There is no such thing as job security.

Millions of people have pursued their careers under the assumption that if they do the job required of them–and do it well–t they’ll remained employed and even get regular, reasonably-sized raises. And millions of people, having made huge sacrifices for their employers, have gotten fired anyway.

2. Always have options in your back pocket.

In my most recent book, Business Without the Bullsh*t, I recommend always having at least three different job opportunities under development, as well as a written plan for what you’d do, and who you’ll call, should you lose your job or decide to leave. If you’ve got options, your employer can’t bully. You make decisions based on opportunity not fear.

3. Know your true value to your company.

All companies, large or small, want to compensate you as little as possible while getting you to create (for them) as much value as possible. By contrast, it’s in your interest to get your compensation as close as possible to the value you’re creating, allowing for a fair profit to your employer. Essential question: how much would it cost to replace you?

4. Bad managers love management fads.

Thirty years ago, it was Total Quality Management; twenty years ago, it was Reengineering; ten years ago, it was Disruptive Innovation; today it’s the Collaborative Office. Popular management panaceas, at best, serve as corporate productivity taxes.  Worst case, they actively drive companies out of business. Be forewarned.

5. Do the numbers before you decide.

Consider the hidden costs before making any career decision. In my friend’s case, working from home eliminates commute time. Adding, say, an hour commute (both ways) to a 50-hour work week is the equivalent to a 20 percent pay cut! Similarly, relocating away from extended family could mean increased child-care costs. Always do the math!

6. Never make a career decision out of fear.

Fear is a useful emotion for making short-term decisions like “Should I try to pet that strange dog?” Fear is worse than useless, how, when making long-term decisions like “Where should I work?” or “What should I do for a living?” Making career decisions out of fear tends to land people in jobs that they hate and miss opportunities for jobs they’d truly enjoy.

7. The true measure of success is happiness.

As I’ve pointed out previously, it’s better to be happy and poor than miserable and rich. Of course, it’s easier to be happy when you don’t need to worry about money but past a certain point, it’s harder to achieve more happiness than more money. With this in mind, most people are happier when they work for home

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