Turning down a job is a tough decision, but it’s one you should be prepared to make. You don’t want to escape from one job into another one that makes you just as frustrated or miserable.
Engineering jobs aren’t created equal; before you accept an offer, watch out for these nine pitfalls:
The Pay’s Not Good Enough
Let’s get this one right up front: If you’re not making enough money to live on, you’re going to be perpetually unhappy.
Money shouldn’t be your sole motivator for choosing a job, but you must ensure that the pay and benefits meet your minimum standards. If you do choose to take a lower-paid job – perhaps it’ll advance your career in other ways, or it fits better with your lifestyle – then recognize what sacrifices you’ll have to make, and decide in advance whether it’ll be worth it.
The Work-Life Balance is Unbearable
Engineers are infamous workaholics, but no one should devote their entire life to work.
For some people, work is all they do – and that’s fine if you’re one of those people. For others, however, it’s important to spend time with family or friends, and to have evenings and weekends for personal time.
If long, inconvenient hours, unexpected overtime, frequent trips, or working away aren’t something you want, then don’t take a job that involves them. Remember to consider your commute time as well, and find out whether the company has an expectation that you’ll be available by phone or email out of hours.
The Employer Has a Troubling Reputation
If your employment record shows that you’ve worked for somebody who’s been involved with shady dealings, or who has a reputation for shoddy work, future employers will assume that you’re shady too, particularly if you were in a management capacity.
Even if you had nothing to do with the (alleged) wrongdoing, you risk being tainted by association. Don’t just think of this one job, think about your career. Will having this company on your resume hurt you in the long run?
The Day-to-Day Work will Crush Your Soul
Work isn’t always fun. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with a job that depresses you. If you’re going to hate the job, don’t do it – you may be able to power through in the short term, but burn out is a real possibility.
It may not be the work itself that puts you off: it could be anything. I once walked out of a job interview after seeing the offices. Grey walls, rows of identical grey soulless cubicles with no personal items allowed, in a bland grey building on an industrial estate, with everybody working in silence – it was like something out of a Soviet dystopian sci-fi movie. I just couldn’t stand being there for more than ten minutes.
Even though the job was interesting and well-paid, the thought of going to that place five days a week was unbearable.
The Employer Has Unrealistic Expectations
One of the biggest causes of workplace stress is feeling like you’re being asked to achieve the impossible.
A challenge is great, but if the company’s business model is all about cutting costs, doing everything faster and cheaper, and putting pressure on you to put in ever more work, then you should ask yourself whether that’s an environment you’re willing to subject yourself to.
There is No Upward Mobility
Sometimes, you just need a job — we’ve all been there. Unless you’re desperate, however, you need to consider how each position prepares you to further your career. If there is no upward mobility, and hazy prospects of using this job to position yourself for the next, you may need to keep looking.
You Don’t Fit the Company Culture
What sort of relationship are you expecting with your co-workers, both at work and outside?
If they all like to go to Chuck E. Cheese when anyone has a birthday, enjoy team-building lazer tag sessions, and get together for beers and BBQ to watch the game at the weekend, then will you fit in with that? And conversely, if that’s what you want from a company, how would you feel if they don’t do those sort of things? You’ll be spending a lot of time with your co-workers, so you need to make sure you’re going to enjoy being around them.
The Boss is a Jerk
Some jerks are driven, brilliant people with no time for social niceties. Most of them are just jerks.
If you can’t stand the person who sets your expectations and metrics for success, you will be miserable. Enough said.
You’re Just Not Right for the Job
Sometimes, you just have to admit that the job isn’t for you, even if everything else is right. From a professional point of view, especially if you’re working on safety-critical projects, you just have to turn it down.
I once applied for an amazing job at NASA. It turned out not to be quite what I expected, but I still managed to bluff my way through the initial interview. When they called me for a second interview, I had to tell them that I didn’t think my skills were up to what they needed.
Although at times you may have no choice other than to take whatever you can get, you should always ask yourself, “Is this the job I really want?” Do your research in advance. Remember that a job interview should be a two-way experience: use that time to find out about your prospective employer, meet with some of the staff, and hear first-hand what the company is really like.
If that job doesn’t feel right, let someone else have it. You’ll only be looking for a new job in a few months, anyway.
Featured Image Credit: Alan Cleaver