Will you like your new job? How long will it take for you to know if you do? And what’s the downside for you if you don’t?
Ultimate Software did a survey that was reported in USA Today on April 12, 2015. The survey of 1,005 adults found that forty percent of them said they knew whether they wanted to stay at a job long term within a month of starting. Twenty seven percent said it took half a year to figure this out. Twenty three percent said it took less than a week and six percent said they knew within a year while seven percent said it took more than a year.
When you start a new job you want to stay for a good long time. However, there can be difficulties that are hard to anticipate such as: the culture of the workplace is not what you expected, the people you need to work with are difficult personalities, you thought you were hired with an understanding about what you would be doing but that job description does not fit what you are being asked to do. If you start a job and you wish you could leave after a week or a month, that means you will have to ramp up your search again. At that point you are not on the ground floor of your search effort, you are in the sub-basement with a serious problem to overcome.
What is the problem? You will have to talk about why that job did not work out for you. How are you going to explain this failure?
The need to make a job mismatch understandable to the next potential employer is difficult for many reasons, but particularly because it reflects badly on you if you talk in a negative way about your past workplaces. Unless you are talking with another person who fled that same mismanaged or dysfunctional workplace, the best practice is to avoid saying bad things about past workplaces. Even if your recent boss, supervisor, manager, or partner was a drama queen, a screamer, or a micromanager, or your co-workers were impossibly competitive, or the culture was all “hair on fire all the time,” it doesn’t do you any good to demean your past workplaces as a general rule. It makes the potential employer nervous about you.
Potential employers do not really know who you are unless you have worked with them in the past. When they hear that you are leaving a place after only a few weeks they will be suspicious that there is something wrong with you! You get the stigma even if the workplace deserves it, not you. It gets worse. If you want to leave your job after only a brief period of time, you now have two bad choices.
First, renew your search. The bad news is that you now have a cloud over your head that will make future potential employers think twice about you.
Second, stay put in this job and keep your misery a secret. The bad news is that since you do not like this job, you are not likely to excel at it and that usually leads to less than glowing references for you in the future when you look for the next place to work – or you get fired.
What if you could improve the likelihood for happiness and success at your new job? What if you could do a better job of predicting them? Impossible? No. But it calls for a little research about yourself and about the workplaces you are considering.
What is the research you should do about YOU?
Take these five steps to create a predictive tool:
Step One: Identify what you need from a job.
Your needs can be identified by going back in time. Think about every job, internship, or other work you have done, paid or unpaid, and isolate the key elements that made the work experiences either enjoyable for you or not.
Start with a list of what you liked. Did you enjoy this work and work setting because of the boss who was available to mentor you? Was it the team, collegial feeling that came from the cohesive staff you worked with? Was it the opportunity to leave work at work and have a fuller life outside of work? Was it being left alone to manage your time and be independent? Was it the ability to get ahead and be intellectually challenged and learn?
Step Two: Identify what you need to avoid.
What were the problems with the jobs you had in the past? What irritated you or frustrated you or made you want to quit? Was it boredom? Lack of challenge? Cold calling? A culture of criticism? Was the content of the work uninteresting? Try to identify your negatives.
Step Three: Play “Fix this Job”
Once you have your list of things you hated, ask yourself this question – what could have fixed this job to make it work for you? When you do this exercise, the list of positive elements usually pops right out.
Add these to your list of things you need from a job.
Step Four: Create a scale from 1 to 10 for every element you need.
This is like an applause-o-meter. Write down every element and then next to it draw a line with numbers along the line from 1 to 10. Grade every element on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 the highest. Do this by circling the number on the scale that matches how strongly you feel you want to have this element in your work life. This will tell you how intensely you care about each individual element you just uncovered.
Step Five: Create a scale from 1 to 10 for every element you want to avoid.
This is a list of things you dislike with “10” the rating for those things you really hate so much you really should not take a job that has this negative for you. Here the scale is going to reveal what you should try hard to avoid, such as the micromanager boss, or a job where you sit in front of a computer all day when you really enjoy interacting with people.
Now you have an Essential Elements Template.
Step Six: Use this Template to Vet Every Potential Job.
For every element you need and have identified as a 9 or 10, you should not take a job that does not give you that element, or at least a reasonable amount of that element. If you need work/life balance, for example, and you give that need a “10,” then you need to be sure the job you are going to take has a track record of allowing people to have work/life balance or at least a reasonable amount of that kind of flexibility. If you need intellectual challenge and gave that a “9,” then you need to be sure the workplace you are thinking about joining will be more likely than not to give you something close to the “9” you are looking for.
Even if this workplace does not give you everything you want to the degree you want, if you are building your career in the right direction and this imperfect job helps you to get there, you might put up with something less than what you desire/need in order to move your career in the right direction and over time gain access to the job that is more satisfying.
The Essential Elements Template is a predictive tool that is uniquely yours and that can help you know whether a job is going to be a good match for you. I talk about this more in my book, Job Quest: How to Become the Insider Who Gets Hired.
Next, What is the Research You Should Do To Find Out About a Workplace?
You know what you need from a job, but how can you figure out if the job will give you what you need? Become an investigative journalist by finding people who used to work at this workplace and ask them about their experiences. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for this kind of undercover work. Do not ask people who are currently at a workplace, of course. Do not use e-mail to have this very frank conversation. Like a good investigative journalist, start the discussion with open ended questions and then follow with more probing questions to dig deeper. People who have formerly been at a workplace are often willing to share their knowledge, experiences and thoughts with you if you do this discretely and confidentially over the phone or in person. People who are married to or are close to a person who used to work at this workplace are other good sources of information.
Be sure to ask questions based on your template. For example, if you need a workplace with a collegial, team culture, then ask questions about that culture and draw the person out about his or her experiences at this workplace. Check to see if the culture has changed. There could be a new manager or some other change that has impacted the culture of this workplace.
Too often job seekers take jobs based strictly on a skill set match up. Skills matter, of course, but it is often the very unique and personal match up of your needs with the specific workplace culture: your future boss, your future co-workers and the attitudes of this specific workplace, that will make or break your happiness at this new job.