Job Search

There are a lot of things to consider when looking for a job. These aren’t the things you bring up in an interview; there, you pretend to be focused on what the employer wants. But when no one’s looking, it’s worth your while to have a good, long, selfish think about what’s in it for you. Here are some things to consider when weighing whether or not a job offer is a good one … or, better yet, when deciding to which companies you should pitch your resume.

Professional Development

It’s important to consider whether or not the job will help you to get other and better jobs in the future.

  • Is the employer in a “hot” sector? Will experience in this sector give you an advantage in your future career?
  • Does the job belong to a “hot” category? Will there be a lot of demand for people who can do this job, or closely related ones?
  • Does the job encourage the refinement of relevant skills? While working at it, will you hone marketable abilities and techniques, and develop in-demand and profitable knowledge?
  • Does the job offer good prospects for advancement? Is the employer large, thereby affording you ample opportunities for upward and lateral movement? Is the employer growing quickly, suggesting the possibility of rapid promotion?

Note that these criteria are pretty much orthogonal: You can have a great-sounding job title in a buzzy sector, but be working on moribund technology. You can work with cutting-edge tech in an obscure niche. You can employ highly marketable skills in a sector most people never think about. The appropriate relative weight to apply to these criteria is your call to make, but I personally set great store by the “skills” question.

Compensation (Direct and Indirect)

Money is the most important thing in the world, but there are many forms of it.

  • Is the job remunerative? Consider all aspects of compensation: base salary, bonus program, stock purchase program, profit sharing, equity, retirement plan (HA!) / 401K match, benefits, etc.
  • Does the job afford good networking opportunities? Will you regularly come into contact with people whom it is useful to know in the course of your work?
  • Will the company promote your visibility? Will you be sent to conferences? Will you speak at conferences? Will you contribute to the company blog/twitter/etc.?
  • How much time off do you get? Are you expected to sign an NDA (yes) that will cripple your ability to work on side projects (maybe)?

In the long run, the contacts you make could be more important than the money, but note the all-important word “could” in that phrase.

Quality of Life

You’ll be spending a lot of time at your job. Will it suck your soul and make you long for death?

  • What are the expected working hours? Are they flexible or rigid? Does the company do death marches? (Never? Sometimes? Constantly?)
  • What’s your commute like? Can you telecommute? Do you want to?
  • Is the office environment agreeable? (Cubicles? Offices? Open-plan? Noise, pets, light, desks, equipment, etc.?)
  • Is there a dress code? Are there mandatory “voluntary” activities/contributions? Is there a political template you’d better adhere to?
  • Do you like your co-workers?
  • Is your boss a jerk? His boss? His boss? (Short version of this question: Is the receptionist a jerk?)
  • Do you enjoy the day-to-day work you’ll be doing?
  • Is it possible to succeed at your individual tasks? Can your overall team meet its goals? Is the company, as a whole, doing well? Will your achievements be recognized and rewarded, and/or widely visible?

As I said before, money is the most important thing in the world, but happiness matters too.

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