Reproduced from an article by Jack and Suzy Welch published in Gulf News on November 9th, 2009. From The New York Times News Services.
“It’s said that you can only live life forward and understand it backward. The exact same thing is true about careers.
While it’s virtually impossible to know where any given job will take you, most jobs send out signals about how right they are for you – or not. No matter what the job, you should look for those signals: You might be right out of school, a middle manager trying to move up or a senior executive looking for a top job – whatever your situation, it’s important to take a close look at job fit.
Everything else about a job can be perfect, but if you do not enjoy working with you colleagues on a day-to-day basis, work can be torture. Look for a job where you share the organisation’s overall sensitivities. By that, I mean a range of values and personality traits and behaviours, from how candid they are about performance to how much they laugh at meetings. If you join a company where your sensibilities don’t match those of your co-workers, you’ll find yourself putting on a persona just to get along. What a career killer – to fake who you are every day.
Without a doubt, it can be appealing to take a job where you suspect you’ll excel. Surefire success has its rewards, but any job you take should feel somewhat challenging going in. It should make you think, “I can do most of the work, but they are certainly skills and knowledge this job requires that I don’t have yet. I’m going to learn something here.”
Having growth opportunities will energise you and make work even more engaging. While the possibility of making mistakes increases at jobs like these, you should also make sure you join a company where learning is valued, mistakes aren’t always fatal and people around can act as coaches and mentors.
If the opportunity signal is about finding a job that allows you to grow and stretch while you are there, the options signal is about finding a job that helps you if you leave. Your job should provide a credential you can take with you, whether it’s experience at a prestigious company or a managerial position at a start-up. There is a second part of the options signal. Some companies open, or close, doors because of their reputation. Others do that because their industry has a problematic future.
Over the course of our careers, we all take jobs to meet the needs or dreams of other people. That’s not necessarily wrong, unless you don’t realise you’re doing it. Because working to fulfil someone else’s needs or dreams almost always catches up with you. They are countless stories of people who take jobs because their spouses want them to travel less. Then, invariably, the compromising partner loses out on a promotion because of curtailed mobility. There is no foolproof way out of the ownership bind. Especially as you get older, life and relationships can be complicated.
Every job has bad days or rough periods and there will be times when you work mainly to make ends meet. But in the very best job scenario, you love at least something about the work. If a job doesn’t excite you on some level, don’t settle. Choose something you love to do, make sure you’re with people you like and give it your all. If you do that, you’re sure to have a great job and you’ll never really work another day in your life.”