August 16, 2008

Another job change....

I've been following threads on several lists regarding job changes and how long one should stay in a bad situation. Well, at 19 months in my current position, my last day was yesterday. It is not something I expected to do when I took the job, though in the end it worked out for the better for me.

I accepted the job with great excitement and anticipation. I was returning to Texas and would be able to buy a house and settle in and grow my career. It didn't work out that way. In fact, I walked into a situation that most people couldn't even imagine. I certainly didn't. I've worked for almost 20 years and in several different industries and in some toxic environments. None of them prepared me for the situation I walked into. I wouldn't term it toxic, but it definitely wasn't in my best interest. I bounced back and forth between sticking it out and making the best of it to stay in an area I enjoy or looking for another job and literally starting over again. Fortunately, I don't have anything to hold me back in the moving department, so that was an option.

Then, I saw the job. I knew it would be a great job for me and as a bonus, would allow me to return to Civil Service. So, I applied. And, got the job! There is always the fear of walking into something worse. I worried about that when I took this job and it proved to be true. Actually, my concern was giving up a relatively enjoyable work environment for something that could prove to be worse. So, this time I'm cautiously optimistic and very much looking forward to starting my new job, in Maryland, at the beginning of September.

My advice to those in "bad" jobs. Take a good hard look at the job. What exactly is bad about it? Does it allow for career growth? Do you like your co-workers? Are you challenged? Are you accpeted? Are you supported in trying new ideas or methods? Is your input valued? Do teams work well? What I learned comapring this job with my past jobs, is that any number of these things can be off and it's still not a bad job; there are worse out there, as I found out. However, if it's detrimental to you personally and emotionally, it's probably time to start looking, regardless of how long you have been there. If there is no chance of growth and you're not ready to retire (I've got more than 25 years before I can retire), then it's time to consider looking for another job.

I knew the first day of this last job, yes the first day, that I'd made a mistake. I didn't heed some of the the warning signs I saw when I interviewed and I paid for it. When you interview, remember to evaluate them as they are evaluating you. Look at how they interact with each other. Watch body language. Ask about projects between departments (especially if interviewing at a large university/organization). Ask if the position is new (mine was and it's not necessarily a good thing. Those duties came from somewhere and most likely, someone). My favorite question: "What do you like about working here." Pay careful attention to how this question is answered. Second favorite: "What don't you like about working here?" I've gotten some really honest answers to this question, which I appreciated.

If they offer the job, how do they offer it? Can they tell you the salary and the benefits? Believe it or not, I was offered a job and the library director couldn't tell me the salary; told me to check the announcement, which was a range, then said it would be the first step, which isn't a range or what was implied in the ad. There didn't seem to be much enthusiasm. It was a job I would have enjoyed, however, given the vagueness of the initial offer and after a lot of consideration, I turned it down. Not an easy thing to do, but easier to do when you have a job, even if you desperately need to get out. If you're going to move for a job, make sure your comfortable with the offer and the organization. Listen to your little voice and don't be afraid to turn down a position. I'll reiterate - you're evaluating them as much as they are evaluating you.

No matter how bad your job is, there are worse ones out there. Carefully evaluate the jobs you interview for and keep in mind that the goal isn't simply to leave a bad job, but to find a good one - one that will make you want to get up in the morning and go to work.