Don’t Go From the Frying Pan Into the Fire: Know What You Really Want in Your Job Search

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During this time of economic upheaval, it is challenging to find a job, much less one you will really be happy in. You may be so focused on simply getting an offer that you do not realize what you are stepping into. If you find that you’re often unhappy at work after starting a new role, it’s probably time to improve your interviewing skills.

Don’t Be Like Robert

Robert was searching for a finance director position after being furloughed from his company. He had been out of work for three months, and he was feeling a sense of desperation. Money kept going out, and not enough was coming in.

But Robert was confident in his latest job application. Heading into his final interview, he had already had three prior successful interviews with the controller, the group finance director, his direct report, and human resources. The conversations had been polite and professional; everyone was on good behavior.

Robert reviewed the position’s specifications one more time before heading into his Zoom meeting with the CFO. He was nervous but ready to ace the interview, knowing he had the skills and experience to impress.

A few days later, to Robert’s relief, he was offered a job that paid more money than his last position and gave him significantly more responsibility. He was ready, willing, and able to do the work. Unfortunately, this is where his troubles began.

In his first weeks on the job, Robert found himself staying late every evening — partly out of a desire to impress his new employer, and partly because there was so much work to do. In fact, everyone in the finance department stayed late. It was standard practice. Robert began to realize the department had a reputation for being understaffed and overworked.

Robert had no time to see his young children. He was expected to work on weekends too, and his boss was constantly micromanaging him. Robert was losing sleep, unable to exercise, and always under pressure. Within a month, he experienced signs of burnout.

Know What You Want in Every Area of Your Life

I see a lot of people who, like Robert, go from the frying pan into the fire when accepting a new job. During interviews, they’re so intent on passing the test that they listen more to themselves than the interviewer. They are more focused on getting a job than on how a particular job will affect their whole life, and as a result, they don’t ask about it.

Robert assumed he would find a way to make the job work for him. It did not take long until he was ready to search for a new position, but he had little time to do so. How would he explain his quick departure and need to find a third job in less than a year?

When looking at job opportunities, many people focus most of their attention on how a role will affect their career and income. But these are only two facets of a person’s entire life, comprising 25 percent of one’s total work/life balance. That’s what happened to Robert: He saw the role would improve his income and his career, so that’s where he focused his attention.

Most of us spend more waking hours at work than with our families — but consider how comparatively little time goes into the hiring process. It took my wife and me a year and close to a thousand face-to-face hours before we were married. A typical hiring process averages between 4-5 hours of interview time.

You have very little time to determine whether these are the people and company you want to work with. That’s why it’s important to heighten your listening skills. The better you know what you want in all areas of your life, the easier it is to discover how much of your life will be honored at a new job.

We talked about two areas of life, money and career. The other six include personal health, friends and family, significant other, personal growth, fun and recreation, and physical environment (at work and home). Ideally, we should consider how any potential role will affect all eight of these aspects of life.

Spend some time reflecting on all the things you want in each area of your life. Write them down and rank them by importance. Remember that what you want can change, so it’s a good idea to carry out this exercise at least twice a year.

Check out the latest issue of Magazine for more career advice and recruiting trends:

How Will Your Job Honor Your Life?

You can gain in-depth insight into how much of your life will be honored by asking open-ended questions in the interview. Address these questions to the person you are speaking with; ask about their experiences, not company policies. If the relationship chemistry with the interviewer is good, you will be able to learn a great deal about them and the company through your conversation.

Robert had focused his interview questions on matters of career and money. Had he focused on the other areas of his life, he may have seen some hesitance in the replies or, better yet, been given an honest answer.

Here are some examples of questions Robert could have asked to address every dimension of his life during the interview:

1. Personal Health:Robert likes to work out in the morning to clear his mind.
• Sample Question: When do you find time to exercise during the week?

2. Friends and Family: Robert enjoys having dinner with his family.
• Sample Question: How often do you have dinner with your family?

3. Significant Other: Robert enjoys spending time with his wife in the evening.
• Sample Question: How do you spend your time in the evening after work?

4. Personal Growth: Robert is taking a weekly pottery class.
• Sample Question: What hobbies or interests are you involved in outside of the office?

5. Fun and Recreation: Robert and his family enjoy traveling on vacation.
• Sample Question: When were you last on vacation, and where did you go?

6. Physical Environment: Robert likes having space for confidential conversations with staff and vendors.
• Sample Question: How do you arrange confidential conversations with staff and vendors?

The better you know what you want, the easier it is to prepare questions that will address all the essential areas of your life. During the interview process, have your list of wants and questions in front of you to help yourself remember all the pertinent points. Do not ask all your questions in the first interview. Take your time, but do not be afraid to ask them — even after an offer is made.

Do not let this time of economic uncertainty force you to take a job you will later regret. Make an informed career decision by weighing how a position will affect all areas of your life. Keep in mind: If you say no to the wrong position, you will have the opportunity to say yes to the right one as you continue your search.

Barney Feinberg, PCC, CPCC, CPA, is the founder and CEO of The Chemistry Factor — Executive Coach and Recruiter  and the author of The Chemistry Factor – Create Powerful Business Relationships for Greater Success . Follow him on Twitter: @chemistryfactor.

By Barney Feinberg