I believe there are many of you – in common with me - who have accepted a new job or task and then regretted it afterwards. In my case, I recall a particularly well paying engineering job giving me huge opportunities in a growing area of engineering (industrial automation). However, the company was dysfunctional, treated their clients with disrespect, never delivered on promises and my boss was dictatorial and made poor decisions. It put huge pressure on me and after a year of persisting with this, I quit in disgust (mainly because I had made a poor decision in joining them in the first place). Needless to say, this particular company has long since disappeared.
I should have asked myself four questions before I signed on with them. It is important to understand how extrinsic (e.g. money, fame) and intrinsic motivators (e.g. satisfaction – internal drivers) are tweaking your decisions.
These four questions are:
1.What is the real driver for your decision to take on a new job
If it is simply about money but you are going to be working in a ghastly location and doing horrendous work; then clearly assess for how long you can tolerate it. Or set a finite time limit to how long you will take the job. Money only correlates with deep job satisfaction a very small part of the time. Perhaps, you don’t have a choice as you need the money and your creditors are snapping at your heels?
If you are deeply interested in a particular project or job; you are likely to be highly committed and happy in the role. But if the driver is money or another extrinsic motivator; it may not be such a good decision. Be careful thus to disentangle extrinsic with intrinsic motivators.
2.Does the task or job align with your values
Some time ago, I volunteered for a local engineering association in helping them with a conference. It was close to one of my values in volunteering and supporting the local community but it ended up sucking up a huge amount of time as the other volunteers disappeared when the workload ramped up. Plus we had minimal support from the engineering association in putting on what was a hugely successful event. However, it destroyed the little time I had with my young kids and family and was a source of great regret as one of my values is spending quality time with the family.
So weigh up these tasks carefully to ensure you end up doing the right thing by your values.
3.Is there really a choice you can make?
Obviously you need a salary to pay the bills and bring up your family. But do you really need to put in ferocious hours to a particular job over weekends or to travel a huge amount or do you have real choice here? You may find you can reduce your travel and still achieve the same objectives or delegate someone else to go in your place. We often think we don’t have choices when in reality we do.
One aspect of a fulfilled life is having control of this life. Now I know, we could get seriously ill or have something else nasty happen to us – all out of our control. But we have to try and exert control over what we do as far as possible. Otherwise you have a job out of control and a source of great pain.
4.Will you be successful in the role with real outcomes
Perhaps one should put this as the first consideration to make. But are you sure that technically and resource wise you are able to handle the new job and produce a successful outcome? I have undertaken assignments before where I have been very disappointed with my results and have seriously regretting doing the work.
One task I took on and which I found fascinating (designing and setting up a data acquisition system for a large installation) was brilliant but I had no time to undertake the job as I had a full time operational job to run at the same time. Impossible conflict of time.
So my modest suggestion is to consider these issues above before taking the plunge into a new job or project.
Confucius is so right when he observed: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
Thanks to Regan Walsh for an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review entitled: Before You Agree to Take on New Work, Ask 3 Questions
Yours in engineering learning