Career Moves: What to Do With Your ‘Going Nowhere’ Job

It might be time to update your LinkedIn profile. Just updating your profile is a clue to the folks at LinkedIn that you’re thinking of switching jobs, so don’t be surprised if you see more job opportunities pushed your way as a result.

But don’t overreact. Leaving a job to minimize pain should not be the primary reason for accepting another job.

Consider changing jobs only when the intrinsic negatives outweigh the positives

Pros and Cons

This idea is captured in the Job-Seeker’s Decision Grid below. The bottom half of the grid represents the reasons why people consider switching jobs. The upper half represents reasons why they accept offers.

These negative and positive motivators are divided into extrinsic (short-term) motivators shown on the left, and intrinsic (long-term) motivators shown on the right.

 

When considering a job switch, too many candidates overemphasize what they get on the start date of their new job – a title, location, company name and compensation package. While positive, these are short-term.

If the job doesn’t represent a long-term career move, job satisfaction will quickly decline and the negative motivators will quickly reappear.

I refer to this as the “vicious cycle” of dissatisfaction, underperformance and turnover. The decision grid can help job-seekers make more balanced career decisions, even when the pressure to leave is overwhelming and there’s a sizzling offer in hand.

Going Nowhere?

Consider changing jobs only when the intrinsic negatives outweigh the positives.

Quickly review the descriptions of the four categories in the grid. There is no question that if your job is “Going Nowhere” (right), it’s time to change jobs. 

But if what is getting you down is “The Daily Grind” (below), you should first consider some short-term fixes. Changing jobs should be just one of your options.

The big problem for most job-seekers is that, when given an offer, there is usually not enough information available to make a full long-term career assessment. This is largely the fault of the company, hiring manager and recruiter involved in the process.

In their rush to fill jobs as rapidly as possible with the best person who applies, little thought is actually given to the actual job itself and the potential opportunity it represents.

In this case, it’s up to the discerning candidate to better recognize that what, on the surface, might appear to be a fine career move might be next year’s excuse for why you want to change jobs again. 

Your Own Due Diligence

Here are some simple things you can do to conduct your own career due diligence.

Understand real job needs. Ask the recruiter and/or hiring manager to define real job needs. If you get a sense the interviewer is flaying about, ask him or her:  “What’s the most important goal the person in this role needs to accomplish in order to be considered successful?”

Then follow up to further clarify job expectations, finding out the scope of the job, the resources available and the importance of the job.

Find out who’s on the team and who you’ll be working with . . . If you’re inheriting a team, ask about the quality and your opportunity to rebuild it

Convert “having” into “doing.” When someone starts box-checking skills or asks a brain-teaser, ask how the skill will be used on the job. If the person stumbles on this, you have a clue that the job hasn’t been defined too well.

Find out why the job is open. The point of this question is to discover if there is some inherent problem with the job, or if the opening is the result of a positive change.

Ask what happened to the last person in the role. This is often a clue to the manager’s ability to select and develop people.

Ask how performance will be measured. Be concerned if the hiring manager is vague or non-committal. Strong managers are able to tell you their expectations for the person being hired.

Go through the organization chart. Find out who’s on the team and who you’ll be working with. You’ll want to meet some of these people before you accept an offer.

If you’re inheriting a team, ask about the quality and your opportunity to rebuild it.

Ask about the manager’s vision for the department and the open role. This will give you a good sense of the capabilities of the hiring manager, his or her aspirations, and the upside potential of the open job.

Understand the manager’s leadership style. There could be a problem if the manager is too controlling or too hands-off, reactive or a planner, or a coach or a super techie. The point: make sure your style meshes with the person you’ll be working for or you'll be disappointed in a few months.

Find out the real culture. Ask everyone you meet how decisions are made, the company’s appetite for change, the intensity, the politics, and the sophistication of the infrastructure. Don’t buy into the platitudes and fancy vision statement.

Conclusion

When considering whether to accept an offer or not, don’t get seduced by your desire to leave or by the Big Brass Employer Brand and what you get on Day 1. These will all become less important three to six months into the job.

Instead emphasize what you’ll be doing and learning, the people you’ll be working with and how this all meets your career and personal needs. This is how to prevent the “Daily Grind” from becoming too big an issue – and a “Going Nowhere” job from becoming your next excuse for leaving.

About the Author

Lou Adler is CEO of The Adler Group, a 35-year-old search and recruitment company in the US whose clients include Intel, McKinsey, Disney, ESPN and General Dynamics. He also wrote The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (2013) andHire With Your Head: Using Performance-Based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007). This article originally appeared on LinkedIn’s Influencer blog, and has been re-edited for clarity and conciseness.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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