A New Job: The Critical Warning Signs

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and author of Lose the Resume, Land the Job

Don’t get me wrong: money is important.

Compensation does need to be fair, and given the low U.S. unemployment rate, it is a buyers’ market right now. But money doesn’t drive career satisfaction.

It’s a lesson best learned starting out, especially among recent U.S. college graduates. According to a new study by Korn Ferry, these new professionals can expect to make an average of $50,390 a year, about flat compared to last year on an inflation-adjusted basis. That’s all the more reason not to be overly focused on money.

Otherwise, you’re in for a rude awakening in your new job, whether at the entry level or in a more senior positions. Here are five critical things you should consider besides your salary:

A boss you love.

If you take money over having a good boss, prepare to be miserable. People don’t leave jobs—they leave bosses. So pay attention! There were probably hints: the gruff personality in the interview, the tense office atmosphere, the low-down from people who networked with you (you asked your contacts about the boss, right?). Your boss has the single most important influence on your career, the gatekeeper to stretch assignments, skill building, and promotions that accelerate your career. If you end up with a boss you hate, you won’t be able to get out of there fast enough.

I’m spending 10 hours a day with these people?

After a few days of being the “new person,” when everyone around you is on their best behavior, you begin to suspect the truth: you’re surrounded by sluggish unmotivated people, who spend more time talking about reality TV than doing their jobs, or who never look up from their cubicles to make eye contact. And these are the people you’re spending more time with every day than your loved ones! A little due diligence could have prevented this. During the interview process, talk to as many people as you can and get a sense of what your colleagues-to-be are like. You’ll have a better gauge of whether you’re joining a dream team of winners or heading into a nightmare with zombies.

Umm, this wasn’t in the job description.

Your first day on the job, you can never be 100% sure what you’re walking into. All too often, it’s an altered reality of a job that looks nothing like the description. This is most likely to occur at the entry level, with a job that entails a lot of grunt work. I remember my first job, arriving in a suit and tie, only to be told to move boxes for an entire week. Even at a higher level, there may be a lack of “truth in advertising.” Don’t rely on generic job specs or vague descriptions. Ask questions and do your homework about what your new job entails.

Lunch . . . with a side of strings attached.

How nice, you think—lunch provided every day. But there’s a catch: You get lunch because hours are long and you’re never leaving the office during the day. (You get carbs, for stamina.) This is one of those culture things people miss all the time. They focus on what looks cool without asking others what it’s really like to work there. Once again, you should have picked this up in the interview. If you don’t fit, you’re going to be a round peg in a square hole that rubs in all the wrong places.

They can’t pay you enough for a job you hate.

When you’re zoned out and disengaged, your commute can’t be long enough. You’ll pray for jury duty. Nobody wants to live like that. Instead, think back to when you were a kid and couldn’t wait for it to be morning. Maybe it was your birthday, or you were going on vacation. You were up long before anybody else. To be an out-performer (and earn more over time) you need that feeling in your work life—to be so excited about what you do that you’re awake at 4:30 in the morning without the alarm.

Don’t be short-sighted and let the money distract you. Happy equals motivated, and motivation leads to outperformance. That’s the real payoff that will put money in your pocket over time.

Authors

  • Gary Burnison

    Chief Executive Officer

    Bio >