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.


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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Comments (12)
  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Hi scientified,
    Sounds like you have an exciting option, and options are always good! The stress and uncertainty of making a decision like this often cloud the excitement of new opportunities though.

    We have a great set of tools on 'deciding whether to go ahead': These provide a great place to start your analysis and decision. I like to out decisions like this onto paper. It improves the level of objectivity and my confidence that I've considered all the information I have before making the decision. Of course there is no crystal ball and eventually you will have to decide with some measure of uncertainty but going through a process is very helpful.

    I'd make sure to include a risk analysis so you think about the risks associated with staying and taking the different job. As well you might want to use a Grid Analysis to help you get clear about the factors that are most important in making the decision. Here is more information on that process:

    Take a look at these tools, try some and let us know where you are at in your decision making process. We'll give as much input as we can.

  • scentified wrote Over a month ago
    I heard of an opening in a new company from a colleague who now works there. Applied for the job and during my interview asked for a grade two levels above my current position. I did this because I have been at this position for a while and had gained experience beyond some of my peers.

    The HR representative proposed a grade higher than my recent position I accepted eventually but since it is not I am reconsidering my decision

    * Why would I want to move when there's a good chance that I may be promoted next year?
    * What if I do not get the promotion? I may miss out on a great opportunity if I decline their offer

    Would appreciate it if I can get some sound advice.
  • dp7622 wrote Over a month ago
    Thanks Dianna. I do have a moment of brilliance every now and then! and modesty too!

  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    Very interesting Fiona. When Don (dp7622) posted about how the admin staff often know the real heart of the company, I totally agreed. Now with your second story it really brings that point home. It's great information to keep in mind!

  • Fidget wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Lulu (and everyone else)

    I've got a couple of examples of attempts to allow a potential recruit and an organization to get to know each other as fully as possible before a final hiring decision was made.

    One was in a company I already worked for. We had quite frequent "away days" where most of the team got together out of the office for briefings about how the various areas were doing, and on future plans (it was quite a fast-growing company) and sometimes to work together on input for future strategic plans.

    Potential recruiits were invited to these and I guess it allowed them to see the culture in action - how people interacted with the management team. And the recruits probably got more chance to chat to people (without the conversation being overheard) than you would when you're taken round an office by someone who is involved with your recruitment, so you can't ask a leading question.

    But, of course, this was only an option because the duration of the recruitment was quite drawn out because of the nature of the industry, and we also had quite frequent away days!

    My other experience was when I was applying for a job with a small company. They said they wanted me to come and spend 2 days down at their office to get a real feel for what they were like. Good idea, I thought (even though it cost me 2 more days off work).

    When I got there, the bosses were out at clients, but had left me a pile of stuff to read, and I sat in a room with their secretary/administrator. Most of the staff were consultants so worked from home. So there wans't much in the office to "feel"! I had some phone calls with a couple of the consutants, but this wasn't the same as spending time with them or listening to them at work. In the end, though, the time with the secretary was the most revealing, and by about half way through the first day, she started to reveal how, although the job I was applying for involved sorting out the infrastructre of the office and moving it on so the company could grow, the 2 directors were control freaks and didn't really want anything changed. I also realised that 18 out of 19 employees were women, and that there was quite a strong girl-power culture, which I found rather unbalanced.

    I decided it was certainly not the company for me. But I don't think this is what they had in mind when they set the situation up!

    Best wishes

  • Dianna wrote Over a month ago
    I think that "gut feel" is very important. It's not 100% right, however it will usually keep you from accepting opportunities or making decisions that are fundamentally "wrong".

    And no matter how much you do upfront, there is always an uncertainty factor when accepting a new position. For me, I've always tried to satisfy as many of my concerns beforehand as I could. I think that by making it clear you are very interested in having a good cultural fit, you open the door to discovering the true nature of the company. If the people you are interviewing with are reluctant to let you get this sense of how they work, then that in itself speaks volumes.

    I wouldn't want to work for an organization that felt it had something to hide... because it probably does!

    While you can't eliminate the risk, the bottom line for me is making sure I've done what I can to get the answers I was looking for. When I know the opportunity is the right one for me, and there are no red flags looming, I'm of the opinion that I will make it work because it's what I really want.

  • lulu wrote Over a month ago
    In my experience, you apply for a position not knowing the full extent of the tasks and environment that you could end up working ing, you get an interview, you go for the interview and try and ask all the right questions - but often time runs out. You are sometimes required for a second interview, but not all the time. You are offered the position - and as you say, how much do you know at this point? How can you find that out in a short space of time? And how do you know that the receptionist isn't disgruntled because she doesn't like her job, or has some of her own issues.

    I don't know - all I know is that I have never had the opportunity of getting to understand the office culture, how the people work, what the resources are like, the real philosophy of the organisation until a few weeks after working there. Then it is too late to change your mind and go back to where you were...

    I am lucky though - I haven't had any awful experiences where I have felt that my decision was a really bad one, or regretted it in any way - maybe it is 'gut instinct'??

  • dp7622 wrote Over a month ago
    It's been my experience that the receptionist and other admin staff are the ones who will most likely tell it like it is. Typically these positions are the lowest in both pay and status. The way a company treats these employees is quite telling. While it's not something I've ever done, when thinking about your question lulu, it occurred to me to try to really enlist their help.

    You'll have many opportunities to chat (calls to set up interviews, waiting in the reception area to meet someone...) and you can even create your own opportunities by calling to ask a question. If you can get chummy with this person, why not buy him or her a coffee and sit and drink it with them. Maybe even meet for lunch or something. Say you want to reapy them for all the assistance they've provided or something like that. I'm thinking this might be a good way to dig for information and form a bond at the same time.

    Like I say, I've not done it but it's a thought.
  • DavidS wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Folks

    I have found that by asking for a day placement where you can get to know the company has been quite acceptable to many company's. They are impressed that you are showing an interest in their company and it gives you a chance to see behind the scenes. Some company's like to see how you operate and do as part of the shortlisted candidates offer work placements before offering the job to the most suited person.

    The company can only say yes or no to the request but it will give you an idea on how proud they are of their company and will give you an indication of attitudes to staff depending on their reply to you.

  • Helena wrote Over a month ago
    Hi Lulu

    Sorry about the link not working - it's fixed now.

    Best wishes

Show all comments

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