New Job? Deciding if the Opportunity is Right For You
Accepting a new job can be unnerving, especially when that new job is with a new employer. Think back to when you accepted your last job. Maybe it was a couple of months ago, maybe several years. Remember that feeling? The uneasiness of not knowing the ins/outs of the role, not knowing the team, or not knowing exactly what to expect. What made you decide to take the leap and accept the job offer?
In my HR career, I have spoken with many employees, friends, and family members and, over the years, I’ve been conducting an informal survey of sorts, trying to figure out what it is that motivates people to accept a new job. After all, starting a new job is one of the bigger stressors we encounter in our lives so the decision to leave one position for another isn’t easy for many of us. So I ask those that I meet with, “What is it about the new opportunity that is attractive?”. And, over the years, I’ve heard a variety of responses: “This job has less of a commute.” “This opportunity pays more.” “The company is a lot more fun.” “At least it’s better than my last job.” “I get to travel.” “I was bored.”
What I’ve learned is that our motivations for accepting a new job are complicated and that many of us try various types of opportunities before we start to define our career values.
I thought this post was about Bryan Cranston
My girlfriend and I recently moved from Seattle to Oakland and we are finally settling into our new apartment and, while she attends classes at UC Berkeley, I am unpacking boxes and indulging in a guilty pleasure: I am binge watching Breaking Bad. I just can’t get enough of Walter White, the chemistry teacher turned criminal master mind, played by Bryan Cranston.
Somewhere in the midst of season three, I remembered an article I read in GQ where Bryan Cranston discussed his acting career, his role on Breaking Bad, and how he decides which job opportunities he should pursue. Before we dig into the Cranston approach to job opportunities, I want to remind you that even the most accomplished of individuals often start their career with humble beginnings.
Everyone starts somewhere
Do you remember the first time you recognized Bryan Cranston on TV? My first memory of him is of watching a CHiPs re-run where he played Billy Joe, a joyriding car thief with a penchant for running into the law. Peppered in-between his one off appearances on TV shows (Airworlf, Baywatch, Matlock, Murder She Wrote, etc.), Cranston appeared in several commercials, including ones for products such as Preparation H hemorrhoid cream, Carnation Coffeemate, and even dressed as a skunk in a Shield Soap commercial (click the links to watch – they’re hilarious!). Eventually, Cranston earned a role playing Tim Whatley, a dentist, on Seinfeld and before Breaking Bad, Cranston’s most recognizable role was that of Hal in Malcolm in the Middle.
It’s easy to forget that everyone starts their career somewhere. Did those cheesy commercials win Cranston an Emmy? No. Did he receive a Tony just for showing up to work on Broadway? Definitely not. Cranston worked hard and honed his craft and, along the way, he made career decisions that led him to opportunities that allowed him to demonstrate his talents. His success is a by product of his hard work and the thought he put into his career choices.
Like Cranston, our career success is not a one-off event; it’s a process. It’s the decisions we make along the way that define our destination. So then, when job opportunities arise how do we decide whether or not it’s a good fit for us? Do we just focus on the money being offered? If you’re Bryan Cranston, the answer is “no”. Cranston once mentioned in an interview:
“I don’t even think about the money when I consider roles, I turn it over to my agency. Money will come. I respect it but I don’t thirst for it. I wish Americans thought more like Europeans when it comes to money and work. They take time off, they do what they love. We think work is the most valued commodity. Really the most valued commodity is time.”
Taking this into consideration, it might be better for us if we examined our true motives when accepting a job, “Am I doing this for the money?”
Accepting a New Job: The Cranston Assessment Project Scale (CAPS)
When job opportunities pop up, how much thought do we put into what we’ve been offered? Sure, we all have an idea of what we want out of our careers (e.g., more money, more vacation, ability to travel, to be close to family, etc.) but how many of us have taken the time to put pen to paper and define our values?
In my career, I see the repercussions of the decision to accept a job solely on the basis of the compensation offered or the feeling that “At least this job is better than my last one.” What seems like a promising opportunity turns into another unfulfilling position and an employee who is once again eyeing the door, looking strongly at the next job that crosses their path.
I’m not saying we should all sit down together and develop our five year plans. What I am saying is, if we don’t think critically about job opportunities as they arise, will we be happy with our decisions a year or two from now?
As an actor who has won 3 Emmys and 1 Tony, Bryan Cranston is frequently approached with job opportunities and, in an article in GQ, Cranston discussed how he decides whether or not he will accept a role offered to him.
“Called ‘Caps’ (‘It stands for the Cranston Assessment Project Scale’), on the left he writes the offers in blue ballpoint. Along the top, five categories, listed in decreasing order of importance – Story, Script, Role, Director, Cast – each of which he gives a score to. There are bonus points (salary) and minus points (time away from family). And then he decides. Anything under 16, no way. Anything more than 25, you bet. Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, was a 28. Breaking Bad maxed it out. ‘Every level was at the top. Easy decision.'”
How to know when an opportunity is right for you
Ultimately, the process through which you decide to accept or decline a job is your own. Some of us may be perfectly happy hopping from one position to the next, while others (like Bryan Cranston) may want to be more strategic about our career choices. For those who want some guidance on thinking critically about job opportunities, there’s a site with a ton of information on this topic (Yes, this is a shameless plug for my previous employer.).
Adler has found that, while it might be tempting to accept a job based only on the compensation offered, in the long run, you are likely to earn significantly more when you accept a position that has 30% more stretch and growth than your current role. He sums it up by saying,
“Moral for everyone: don’t make long-term decisions using short-term data, don’t let tactics determine your strategy, don’t borrow short for long-term investments, and compensation will increase faster in the long-term when stretch and growth are maximized in the short-term.”
Basically, what Bryan Cranston and Lou Adler have found is that, if we put some thought into the opportunities that come our way and weigh the decision to accept against our career values, we are more likely to find career (and monetary) satisfaction in the long run. Personally, as I a thinking about jobs that are coming my way, I am finding that both the Cranston and Adler approaches are reducing a lot of the uncertainty I used to feel in the past. Now, it’s just a matter of reassuring myself that the money will come.