I woke up at 4AM PST today to watch the first innings of Eng vs Pak in the cricket World cup. And at 5AM , I saw an email pop up from someone I mentor – who wanted some help in thinking through whether he should stay in his current job, or move to a new opportunity that came up recently. Some variant of this has been a common theme for such conversations I have had for the last few years thanks to the talent war in the world of tech.
I have used a very simple framework to evaluate jobs for myself and we talked through it over phone . Since it might be useful for others too, I thought I will share it here. Its just four questions. If I could answer any 3 of the 4 in favor of the job I had – I passed on new opportunities. Any lower and I went go through the process with the new opportunity and rechecked which way the 4 point scale was tilting.
1. Is the job paying you well overall ?
The “overall” part is important here to make fair comparisons. Its the easiest comparison on the planet given the tangible nature of the dimension. If the current job does not make you depressed every time you look at your bank statement or paycheck , it will take a lot more convincing to leave the current gig. Money is a rather weird motivator for both you and your employer. Early in your career – it is perhaps the biggest differentiator between jobs. But at some point along the way – if you are good at what you do, you will figure out that most employers won’t let money be the big reason to not hire you or retain you.
2. Does the current job continue to inspire you ?
If the job does not satisfy your soul, money alone will not keep you there very long. Are you solving problems that you feel are important ? Are you learning things that you did not know before ? Are you able to apply things you are good at in your job ? If so – you most probably will stay even if pay is a little bit low.
3. Do you really like your boss ?
Your direct boss represents the company to you more than anything else. In a matrix organization where you have multiple bosses – this becomes a bit of an issue since you could get conflicting views from different senior folks. Though not as straight forward as money – this one is also a fairly easy judgement when it is about the current bosses . Most bosses are not that great in reality – a problem that matrix organizations can make better or worse quickly. The trick is judging correctly the new bosses who have all the incentive to be on their best behavior to try and get you to join them.
4. Do you see growth in your future ?
This is perhaps the hardest dimension since after the first few rungs of the corporate ladder, you are mostly going to operate in gray areas. And to make it even more complex – growth might come in terms of lateral moves instead of promotions and those are harder to evaluate. In many cases – the leadership forgets to clarify the elementary things like “do people actually know what it takes to grow from their current role?” or “are the standards we currently have for promotions still valid for the market we operate in?”. Given it is hard to base this decision purely on facts – It is more a question of perception of whether you are going to get stuck where you are vs the ability to start fresh elsewhere and grow from there. All the more important why you need open lines of communication with your boss and other mentors to make a determination on this one.
It does not make sense to ask these 4 questions just once and make a decision based on that. Good bosses have off days. Some years, the bonus and raise might be pathetic. You may see an unqualified person get promoted some times. You may have to earn the right to be in the best projects. So it is important to ask these questions of yourself over a period of time and think about the trends more than discrete point in time answers, especially after someone has made you an offer.
It is also important to have a view on your future – what inspired you in the past might not be what gets you off your bed today and tomorrow. You may have an awesome boss, but he maybe retiring next year. Maybe your team is doing great but the larger business it is part of might not have relevance in future and you don’t see a path to fix it.
Once you have evaluated the past, the present and future through these four questions – I think you have higher odds of making a good decision.
(Cross-posted @ Vijay's thoughts on all things big and small)