At one of my jobs they couldn’t quite make payroll within the first month I was there.
Not a good sign, of course, and a little too late as a warning. But there were plenty of other indicators along the way that could have tipped me off to this organization’s lack of viability.
And if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I was aware of those alarm bells, but I just wanted that job, and thought I could make it work.
I’ve since learned that’s a little like marrying someone and hoping they’ll change. Even in this economy, I think if you get a bad feeling about a job, you shouldn’t take it. You’ll be better off in the long run – or maybe even the short run if it’s like that job where they couldn’t pay me after the first month.
Here are some of the warning signs I’ve noticed over the years:
- Too many directors, not enough staff – I once worked for an organization that had no staff (I was the only one) and approximately 138, O.K. 17, members on the Board of Directors, most of whom participated in the interview process. To say the organization lacked focus is like saying the Titanic had a rough passage. But even in less extreme examples, watch out for jobs where you’ll be expected to meet multiple, possibly conflicting needs.
- During the interview, the interviewer doesn’t let you speak. – Enough said.
- You get the distinct impression that someone on the hiring committee doesn’t think your potential job should exist. – Non-profits are more prone to this sort of folderol than more commercial enterprises, but the underlying issue can be found in both worlds – your new job will be built on the fault lines between rival factions in the organization. That’s just not a comfortable place to be and there’s no way of knowing whether your side will prevail. You might not even want to be on that side, once you know the score. Unless you thrive on conflict, give these situations a pass.
- No one has lasted more than 18 months on the job. – Remember what I said about thinking you can change someone, or that things will be different this time? You can’t and they won’t.
- Someone in the hallway stops you and asks if you can tell she’s been crying. – Even the most dysfunctional workplaces won’t always be such a drama-rama scene, but the vibes will still be palpable. Put your nose to the ground and your ear to the wind, or vice versa, and do what you need to do to get a sense of how people feel about working somewhere before you sign on to do the same.
These are just a few of the warning signs I’ve noticed. What are some of your career warning light indicators?
by Danielle Dresden