Being proactive in your career means taking risks now and then. But sometimes, the gamble doesn’t pay off. How can you tell a bad career decision from a good one — before you make the leap?
The first thing to understand is that no one gets it right all the time. Circumstances change. People act in bad faith. Leaders reevaluate their priorities. Projects fail.
But while you can’t avoid every wrong move in your career, you can cut down on the amount of wasted time and effort. It starts by looking for red flags that indicate the situation won’t work out as you hope.
Signs you’re making a bad career decision:
1. You’re dreading it
Starting something new can be intimidating or even a little scary. Nerves are normal. Dread is not. You should feel happy and excited about a career move. If you feel a sense of terrible foreboding at the thought of getting started, it could be a warning sign that you’ll regret this decision later.
Take some time to really consider what it is that you’re dreading about taking this step. This self-reflection should help you to better determine whether you’re dealing with normal nerves or a red flag. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about beginning a new challenge. Self-doubt can creep in at these times. These emotions are super common and they shouldn’t stop you from forging ahead. However, if the thought of doing what you have planned fills you with a sense of dread, doom and misery, beyond any feelings you may have about your own level of competence, then it could be a warning sign that you’ve making the wrong move.
2. A new job sounds too good to be true
You know the old expression — if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Well, that advice is worth keeping in mind when it comes to looking for a new job. If a position pays way more money than it seems like it should, for example, it could be a sign that something is off. (Use PayScale’s Salary Survey to learn more about the salary range of any job you’re interested in pursuing.)
Also, if you don’t need to interview for a position, or if you have to pay money to get started, chances are the job is less than legit.
“I had a client who got a job offer from a France-based company making, for what the job was, an incredibly high amount of money,” said Debra Wheatman, C.P.R.W and a certified career coach at Careers Done Write, in an interview with Business Insider. “The company claimed to be expanding their business to the US, so my client did not have an in-person interview. They spoke over the phone and requested her personal information and social security number in order to move forward with the hiring process. This was an instance of attempted fraud. You’ll always want to avoid accepting an offer without an in-person interview.”
As a general rule, it’s a bad career decision to go after a job opportunity that seems like it’s too good to be true.
3. The person in charge is a jerk
Not all difficult bosses are bad bosses. There are benefits to having a demanding boss who pushes you to be your best and to expand your skills and abilities. Being tough doesn’t automatically mean that your boss is a jerk. You can learn a lot from working with someone with high standards.
However, working for a truly toxic boss is different — and often dangerous, too. Researchers have found that there can be some serious consequences to working for someone who abuses their power, lacks empathy, or exhibits narcissistic or psychopathic traits. Employees who find themselves in an environment with a truly toxic leader experience lower rates of job satisfaction, higher rates of clinical depression and other negative effects on their personal lives. The problems caused by a toxic boss don’t just stay at work.
You probably won’t love every manager over the course of your career. But, if you have some serious concerns that your career move means working for a poisonous leader, you might want to think twice.
Looking for a new job? Find out how much you could be earning. Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get a free salary report in minutes.
4. You’re doing it to please others, not because it’s what you want to do
It’s natural to want your loved ones to feel proud of you. Many people want to please their parents, their spouse and even their children by making career moves that make them proud. However, living your life for other people, or allowing them to dictate big decisions in your career, usually doesn’t work out for the best in the long run.
Your career is your own. It doesn’t belong to your family, or your friends, or your high school guidance counselor. If you make choices with the goal of pleasing someone else, you may find yourself on the path to burnout — or stuck in a job that just isn’t right for you.
We’re meant to follow our own path and our own dreams in life. Of course you should take advice and suggestions from trusted people who care about you. But, you are the only person who knows for sure what’s best for you and your career. So, listen to yourself first and foremost.
5. You feel desperate
It can be difficult to make a good decision when you feel panicked. You could be feeling desperate to make a career move for a bunch of different reasons. Maybe you’ve been looking to change jobs for a long time. Or, perhaps you’re unemployed and your family is in a difficult financial situation as a result. Whatever the case may be, it might help to keep in mind that feeling desperate can impact your ability to make solid career decisions.
Talk to others about what you’re going through. A close friend — or a professional mentor or career coach — can help you process your choices in a sound and objective way. They can function as another set of eyes, helping you to see opportunities more clearly than you might otherwise.
Also, it could helpful just knowing that your emotional state might be affecting your choices. Allow yourself the time you need to slow down and take care of yourself through all of this. That always helps you to be at your best and to make good decisions.
6. You’re running from something rather than toward something
Not every career move is inspired by opportunity. Sometimes, you just need to get out of your current situation. Maybe you have a terrible boss or you’re stuck in a job that’s a bad fit. But whatever the reason, you need to move on. When you do make a change, just make sure you’re moving toward something positive, as well as escaping something negative.
For example, let’s say that you’ve taken a job, only to find that the duties are very different than advertised during the hiring process — and not a good fit for your skill set or long-term career plan. It makes perfect sense to start looking for something else that’s more in line with your requirements — or even to see about returning to your old job, if it’s still open. But whatever you choose to do, make sure you’re not just running from this new role. Ideally, your new (or new-old) job should feel like a step in the right direction, not a step back.
Here’s another example: at some point in your career, you may be offered a promotion that you weren’t expecting. If it’s not a role you’ve envisioned for yourself, you might be tempted to reject it out of hand. Before you do so, make sure you’re not just running away from a challenge. Sometimes, the best choice is to take the new job and grow into it.
7. You haven’t done your homework
It can be really exciting to make a big career move. However, you always want to look before you leap. Moving too quickly could mean you miss out on crucial information. Being diligent and checking all the right boxes could save you a lot of trouble later.
Always be sure to take your time and really do your homework when making a big change. For example, if you’re considering moving for a new, higher-paying job, remember to factor in the cost of living to be sure it’s really as advantageous as it sounds.
Slowing down helps to ensure that you’ll make good decisions along your career path. A deliberate and steady pace encourages you to think with a clear and level head and to do your homework before making any big moves.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you ever made a bad career decision — and if so, what were the warning signs that you were on the wrong path? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.