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Money, Money, Money
Who doesn’t like more money? All else equal, I’d say pretty much everyone would agree that having more money would be great. If you are currently making $75,000 and another company comes offering $85,000, you are immediately interested. In fact, there are entire companies basically dedicated to making it easier for you to compare salaries across companies and positions. Glassdoor and Paysa to name a few. It’s no surprise then that most of us focus too much on the money when choosing a job.
I know I did. Early in my career, it was all too tempting and easy to sort and choose jobs based on which company was willing to pay the most.
That is not to say that money is not important. In fact, a survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries, found a correlation between happiness and income up to about $75,000. Interestingly, though, that correlation starts to fade after the $75,000 mark. Too often I have seen an almost singular focus on the salary of a job without strong consideration of other aspects which can be hugely important for one’s career.
Instead of just optimizing for money, there is a better more balanced approach. I would like to share three areas of focus which I have found lead to jobs and careers which are truly fulfilling. These tips come from my own life experiences, research into happiness and work, and advising others.
Optimize for Growth & Learning
While money is a single number that is very easy to optimize for, your opportunities for growth and learning can be much harder to understand. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try, though. In a study by Quantum Workplace, exiting employees listed a lack of growth opportunity as the second-highest reason for leaving. Consider asking the following questions during your next interview:
- How does the company invest in my growth and learning? This question seems almost too obvious, but if the recruiter has a hard time responding, then that could be a red flag.
- With whom will I be most closely working? What is his or her background and experience? Will I be speaking with him or her during the interview process? The goal of this question is to better understand who your mentor will be. Even if the company doesn’t assign official mentors, I have found that there tends to be one person with whom you work closely. That person can have a huge impact on your development.
- What is the company’s culture around failure and experimentation? I love this question and wish more people would ask it. You are trying to understand how the company will respond to the unavoidable failures which will come with your growth.
While it can be harder to judge opportunities for growth at a company, I believe it is a leading indicator of your career. I have found that people who have been able to find great opportunities for development have significantly accelerated their careers. Interestingly enough, that often means more money in the long-run as well.
Find A Superb Manager
At almost every company, the one person who has the most impact on whether you will love or hate your job is your manager. According to Gallup, engaged managers are 59% more likely to having and retaining engaged employees. You could be at the most amazing company in the world and if your manager sucked, you would probably be unhappy. Now, it turns out that great companies tend to have great managers or they wouldn’t be great companies. But you never know until you do some of your own due diligence. You will almost certainly interview with your prospective manager, so instead of awkward silence when asked if you have any questions, ask some of the following:
- What is your management/leadership style? This is a very open question that allows him or her to potentially interpret it in many ways. That is good. How he or she responds will tell you a lot.
- What’s an example of something you have changed recently to become a better leader? Being a manager is like anything else. In the same way, you would expect a software engineer to continue to learn and improve, you should expect the same of your manager.
- What is your vision for the team? And how would I fit into this vision if hired? You want a manager who is thinking beyond the next quarter and knows how you will fit into a greater mission.
- What is your process for providing feedback? You want a manager who will give you input and help you grow. You also want to know how he or she will do so.
Focus on Overall Happiness
I think some of the worst career advice is to “do what you love.” Your job is not your life. You don’t have to love your job to love your life. Maybe your true passion is playing basketball, but you’re 5’9” and have no hope of making it as a professional. What then? Instead — I would focus on maximizing your overall happiness. Maybe you can get a pretty good IT job that you don’t “love”, but you enjoy well enough and provides you the time and money to play and watch basketball. As Mike Steib’s says in his book The Career Manifesto: Discover Your Calling And Create An Extraordinary Life
When you study people with remarkable careers, you will notice that they rarely mimic the choices their peers are making….Because you want an extraordinary life, your choices will look strange to your colleagues….You may sign up for the thankless task, take the job that seems less prestigious, turn down more money, and so on
So don’t be afraid to choose differently when pursuing your happiness. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What makes me happy? What are my goals? Simple questions, but reflecting on them can really change how you evaluate a job offer.
- How would this job fit into my overall happiness/goals? Both in the short-term and the long-term. It is not uncommon to have to sacrifice some short-term happiness to maximize long-term happiness.
- What additional questions do I need to ask during the interview to understand if this job would be a good fit? It is critical to think about questions you would ask beforehand. Don’t be the person who has no questions or only generic questions. You will regret it later.
Hopefully these three ideas: optimize for growth and learning, find a superb manager, and focus on overall happiness help you approach your next job search more holistically. The goal of this article is not to say that money isn’t an important factor, but rather that you shouldn’t let it distract you from all the other important considerations as well.