From Worse to Worst

Yesterday, I wrote about some options for improving your employment situation without necessarily changing jobs. Today, I want to address how you can be more assured of finding a better job and not just a different one if you do decide to change jobs.

An acquaintance of mine recently changed jobs in order to gain a higher salary. An engineer, she was working a long-term contract that was up for renewal this month. She wasn’t sure the contract was going to be extended plus she felt she could get a higher salary with another company. Other than the uncertainty and the pay, she was quite happy with her job. It was located in her hometown where she had lived for years and where she had raised her children.

The problem arose from a financial mistake she and her husband had made a few years ago when buying their current house. They had essentially bought “too much” house, purchasing a home that pushed their combined monthly income to the breaking point. The financial pressure led her to consider other employment just to get out of the crunch.

She did find a job for the salary she was seeking – in a city 150 miles away. They packed up and moved, putting the house on the market for a hefty asking price. Her husband kept his position with his job and they moved halfway between, giving them both a commute of over an hour one-way but in different directions. The children had to change schools and leave their friends and grandparents. They rented a house for as cheaply as possible because they were now making both the hefty mortgage payment and the rent payment. Additionally, they were both pouring gas into their full-size SUVs for their commutes which at today’s gas prices really hurt. Essentially, the job change had not improved their situation, but actually exacerbated it.

I recently spoke with my acquaintance and asked how things were going. She said that she wishes she had never jumped ship. After leaving, her old employer offered her a permanent position that had just been approved in the new fiscal year budget. It didn’t offer the salary of her new position but it was a job that she enjoyed and was stable. Her children hate their new schools. Her commute and her husband’s drive now eat up all extra money she is bringing in with the new salary. She is in no better position now that before the job change.

When considering a job change, consider first what the problem is you are attempting to resolve by making a change. (See yesterday’s blog and the great comment that was posted with a personal story from a reader.) Look at all possible resolutions. The better resolution for this lady would have been to move to a less expensive house and downsize their lifestyle.

If you can’t resolve the problem without incurring a job change, make sure the new situation will be better than the old one. The interview process is the time for you to gather information on the prospective employer and the work environment that you would be working in. So many people feel the interview process is a one-way communication process – the employer does the grilling and the applicant takes the heat. But that is not the best way to make a good decision about a new job.

When considering a new job, ask the following questions during the interview:

1. Where does this job fit into the overall structure of the operation?
2. What are the promotion opportunities in this position?
3. Why did the previous holder of the position leave the job?
4. Who would I be working with and can I meet them?
5. Can I see the workspace I would be allotted?
6. What do you see as the biggest challenge to be faced in this position?
7. How often do performance evaluations occur and does the company award merit raises?
8. Which employee has been with the company the longest and can I meet with him/her?
9. How does the company recognize hard work?
10. What was the last company community outreach?

Another good way to judge the work environment of the company is to talk with the person who is the lowest person on the totem pole such as the janitor or perhaps the data entry person. How other employees treat these people – whether they are treated with respect or treated as peons – speaks volumes about the company atmosphere.

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