Look Before You Leap

Analyze risk before accepting a new career opportunity

by Denise Wrestler

Imagine two recent graduates aspiring to join the world of quality. One of the graduates starts out as a lab technician and works tirelessly to climb the corporate ladder at a prestigious organization.

He grew up under more traditional, conservative views and, just like his father and his father before him, believes that staying within the safety of one organization will eventually pay off. Despite some ups and downs during his time at the organization, he ultimately becomes the vice president of quality.

The other graduate, exhausted by his entry-level position, decides to leave to join another, less-stable organization. He believes that success comes from taking risks, and that moving to a seemingly better opportunity is worth the risk of leaving his current, unfulfilling position.

After several years of job-hopping, gaining experience and a robust background, he too became a vice president of quality.

Both graduates have successful careers. One decides to take a more conservative approach, while the other takes a riskier path. One decides to invest in the slow-and-steady method, while the other opts for a higher-stakes, quicker-returns approach.

Determining not only where you want to go in your career, but also how you want to get there, is important to consider when given an opportunity to change jobs.

Everyone considering a job change should perform their own risk analysis by identifying the characteristics of the opportunity and comparing them against the current situation. Important factors include salary and job title, as well as things relevant to your overall happiness, such as time commitments and physical requirements.

Personalized approach

To begin a risk analysis, identify your three most important factors and make the top two non-negotiable. In addition to flexibility, travel, commute, salary and title, also consider the work environment and other benefits.

Consider the immediate and long-term impact of each factor. Is it more important that the organization has inexpensive health insurance or tuition reimbursement? For the recent undergraduate considering graduate school, tuition reimbursement could overcome the benefit of cheap medical coverage. Five years, a master’s degree and a wife later, however, he may find that his priorities have shifted.

Acknowledge your own work habits when considering an organization’s workplace environment and structure. Some may find that it is more important to work for a large organization with specific, outlined responsibilities. Others may find more satisfaction working for a smaller organization that allows them more opportunity to explore different skills and be a critical team player.

One of the most crucial steps of deciding whether to accept a new opportunity is to research the potential employer. Reported earnings, mergers and acquisitions, even word-of-mouth reviews are tools you can use to background check an organization.

Reach out to contacts and connections on LinkedIn, use other social media tools and dig out as much dirt on an organization as you can before joining a new team.

Simply viewing an organization’s organizational chart can tell an untold story. A top-heavy chart with far more managers than engineers may suggest an inefficient organization and a chaotic work environment.

Many years ago, a colleague of mine accepted a director of quality assurance position at a prestigious organization on a whim. Within her first week, she learned that her dream job came with nightmare costs.

Her specific location had received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifying a mess that she would be responsible for cleaning up. In this instance, performing a search on the FDA’s website would have given her the insight necessary to be prepared for her new job.

Pursuit of happiness

In the November 2015 issue of QP, I wrote an article about clocking in and out. The article highlighted the fact that 67% of U.S. employees would prefer a job that offered more free time over one with higher pay. The pressure that drives workforce competition has been shifting more toward the work environment and less toward monetary compensation.

It is no longer unheard of for someone to trade in a high-paying, high-stress management position for a lower-paying position that’s lower on the corporate food chain.

Work-life balance is trending, and so are employees’ inclinations to routinely assess their current situation against other opportunities.

The first vice president of quality, who moved up slow and steady within his organization, may have found that despite his changing needs, his organization offered him everything he needed to maintain his work-life balance. Perhaps the tortoise found happiness in stability.

The other vice president of quality, who quickly moved up the corporate ladder by hopping from lab technician to supervisor to manager to director to vice president, may have found that while his resume contained questionably short stints, it grew incredibly quickly, and his happiness ultimately came from taking risks.

Whether you’re a tortoise or a hare, identifying your individual needs and assessing those needs against your current situation is necessary when considering any future opportunities.

Denise Wrestler is a senior quality engineer at Nypro Healthcare in Dallas. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomedical engineering from the University of California, Irvine. An ASQ member, Wrestler is an ASQ-certified quality auditor and engineer.

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