Making the Right Career Move

Choosing the Role That's Best For You

Make the right career move

© iStockphoto/Gibson

Imagine that you have an opportunity to move into one of a number of open positions in your organization.

Perhaps you are offered two different positions and you have to decide which one you want. So how do you choose the right one for you?

Or perhaps you're already in a good job, but something that seems to be an even better opportunity comes up in another company. Are you going to make the move?

Having options is great: What a wonderful confidence booster! However, there's also a lot of pressure trying to decide which option is best.

To make the right choice, you have to decide what factors are most important to you in a new job, and then you have to choose the option that best addresses these factors. However this operates on two levels – on a rational level and on an emotional, "gut" level. You'll only truly be happy with your decision if these are aligned. This article gives you a framework for analyzing your options on both levels.

First, we look at things rationally, looking at the job on offer, and also at the things that matter to you. Then, once you've understood your options on a rational level, we look at things on an emotional level and think about what your emotions are telling you.

Note:

This framework assumes you are weighing alternatives that are all consistent with your overall career goal. This should be the starting point for any decision you are going to make on what career options to pursue. If the options you're considering are not aligned with pre-considered plans and goals, it's time for even more fundamental thinking! For more information on this, read our articles on developing a career strategy   and goal setting  .

Rational Analysis

The first step is to look at your choices rationally. Firstly, you'll look at the quality of the jobs themselves, and secondly you'll think about the criteria you need for job satisfaction.

Factor One: Job Analysis

A good decision is an informed decision. You'll need to gather as much information as you sensibly can about the jobs you are considering. OK, this can be a pain, but think about how much future happiness depends on this decision!

Review the Job Description and Other Related Documents

  • What are the key objectives?
  • What competencies are required?
  • What behaviors and outcomes are rewarded?
  • How is remuneration determined?

If a job option is with a new organization, gather this information from the recruitment information you've been sent about the role, and from discussions with the recruiter.

Analyze Culture Impacts

  • Does the department/organization have a distinct culture?
  • How well do you think you'll fit in?
  • How are conflicts resolved?
  • How do people work together?
  • How do people dress?
  • What things constitute "doing a great job"?

Analyze Incumbent Success

  • Who has been/is successful in the role?
  • What characteristics do they possess?
  • What skills beyond the job description do they use?

Analyze Available Resources

  • Does the role/department appear to have adequate resources?
  • What human resources are available?
  • How much training and development will be available to you?

Determine Career Progression Path

  • Where have people in this role typically moved?
  • What is the average tenure in the position?

For a more detailed discussion of job analysis  , click here  .

Armed with the facts about the job, next think about what you are looking for in a great job. Since the whole point is to find the best option for you, you need to do a properly thought-through self-analysis as well.

Factor Two: Analysis of Satisfaction Criteria

Everyone has a different idea of what makes a great job. That's why not everyone wants to be a doctor and why, thankfully, some people find that cleaning out sewers can be satisfying work.

Use these five sets of criteria when deciding on the factors that are important to you for your job.

1. The Work Itself

What you will be doing on a daily basis should be the primary focus of your satisfaction criteria. Unless the work is satisfying, it may not really matter whether you make vast sums of money, or have a boss you regard as a friend: Nothing will seem quite right. The things to consider here include:

  • Job responsibilities
  • Learning/growth opportunities
  • Potential for promotion
  • Future career potential
  • Authority to make decisions
  • Leadership/supervision
  • Variety
  • Autonomy
  • Challenge
  • Self-expression/creativity
  • Physical environment

Think about which of these matters most to you, and explore them when you're discussing the new role.

2. Financial Considerations

What you are paid is important when making any career decision. Your salary and bonus potential determine whether you can buy a new home, purchase a car, go on vacations, or start a family. It's important that you have a good idea of what you need to achieve a reasonable standard of living. Factors to consider here include:

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Incentives
  • Stability/economic security

Does the job give you these?

3. Culture and Relationships

You will spend a large portion of your day at work. It is important that you get along with your co-workers and feel like you fit in. Sure, there will minor disagreements along the way. However, you should be comfortable working in the environment, given cultural elements such as dress codes and the way that conflicts are resolved. Ask yourself what you need in terms of:

  • Work relationships (managers, peers, and subordinates)
  • People/Culture/Style
  • Recognition
  • Prestige/Title

4. Work/Life Balance

There can be great merit in maintaining a balance between your home and professional responsibilities, and making enough time for leisure and downtime. You need to look at your life and determine what you need from a job so that you can achieve this balance and maintain it for the long term. Think about things like:

  • Work schedule
  • Flexibility for family time and other commitments
  • Time to commute
  • Travel requirements

Clearly, though, this depends on your goals. If a major goal of yours is to be a great parent, then work/life balance is important. If your goal, however, is to be CEO and build a great organization, then this necessarily involves carrying a heavy workload.

5. The Company

The final set of criteria involves looking at the company itself. People tend to want to work for organizations that make them feel good about what they are doing on a daily basis. Look at the following criteria and decide what it is that you need from the company you work for.

  • Size of company
  • Values
  • Leadership
  • Product and quality
  • Environmental concern
  • Industry
  • Geographic location
  • Corporate image/integrity
  • Contribution/service to society

These criteria are not just for career options outside your current company. Some internal moves may take you to business units that operate quite differently from the rest of the organization, or produce a different product or service. It's important to understand your criteria in these areas regardless of whether your move is inside or outside the company.

Now, download our free worksheet, and print off a copy of it for each of the options you're evaluating.

Instructions: For each job option you're considering, work through the criteria in the rows of the table one-by-one (we explain these criteria below.) For each criterion, first decide how important it is to you on a scale of 0 (not at all important) to 5 (very important). Next, evaluate how much of the criterion is on offer within the job, using the same scale. Finally, multiply these values together to give the score for that row of the table.

This worksheet is based on the Decision Matrix Analysis   tool for decision making. This is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of situations. A full explanation of how to use this technique on a more general basis is detailed in the Mind Tools article found here  .

This type of analysis is very useful in helping you quickly see how well your career options match the criteria you've identified as necessary for your satisfaction.

Pulling This Together

Once you've worked through the worksheet for each of your options, add up the scores and total them for each worksheet. This gives you an initial score for how each job fits your needs, looked at on a rational basis.

Tip 1:

If some of the scores seem a bit wrong, don't be afraid to revisit them. Spend as much time as you need to make a rational, properly considered decision.

Tip 2:

This is not necessarily a comprehensive list of factors. If other factors are important to you, build these into your analysis.

Emotional Validation

So far, you've looked at the job's criteria and what you need to be satisfied, in an objective manner. However, it's also important to consider how your decision feels. You need to get in touch with your inner self and think about how well the career options fit with your overall sense of self and personal fulfillment. Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel like it is the right choice?
  • Do I feel positive about the choice?
  • Does this choice further my career and life goals?

If something doesn't feel right, then you need to understand why. Are some factors of over-riding importance? Or are other factors important that are not mentioned? Take the time to make sure that you're comfortable with you analysis, and that you're confident that you've made the right decision, both on a rational and emotional level.

When you have an option that fits both objectively and subjectively, chances are you've got a winning career move.

Key Points

Making a career move is a very important decision. It requires serious thought and consideration. You can think long and hard and still not come up with a solution unless you have a framework to use to help you make a decision.

Using the three distinct approaches outlined here – job analysis, analysis of satisfaction criteria, and emotional validation – you can be confident in your decision. Analyzing each element in this way forces you to consider the multidimensional criteria that go into determining a great job fit. With a decision that is valid emotionally as well as on paper, you can be confident that you've made the best possible choice.

Download Worksheet

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