There are times in your career where you need to make some decision. Finding a new job is a great example, but there are smaller aspects such as taking on a project, doing a side projects or joining a group all can have an impact on your career. There are tons of articles that provide advice for what sorts of things you should do to help your career, but this is more about when you’re confronted with a new opportunity and you’re trying to evaluate the impact on your career. For example, if you have two job offers, which one should you take?
The first thing I consider is what can I learn from the experience. It doesn’t do much good taking on a project or a new job if you’re not going to learn anything. More importantly though, by doing something that stretches your abilities, you’re more likely to grow. When you are confronted with challenges, often times you’ll rise to occasion. The converse is when things are easy, it is easy to make mistakes or do poorly because you don’t have to try very hard. I remember when I worked at a diner in a college town. Game day weekends were nuts for brunch before the game. Everyone had to work really hard to get everyone fed. What was interesting was that after the rush was over, it was almost inevitable that someone would get bad service because everyone started to relax and lose focus. The same goes for taking on challenging experiences.
The second thing I consider is the actual work alongside who I’m working with. If you have an opportunity to work with a great team, but your role is not interesting to you, you won’t be happy. If you’re going to work on an interesting problem, but your working with a bunch of jerks, you’re not going to be happy. I took a job once over another job primarily because the folks I interviewed with were really nice people that I felt I’d want to hang out with outside of work. I thought I was making the smart decision by favoring personal relationships over technical challenges. While those folks on that team were really great people, the technical challenges were far from exciting to me and I ended up skipping out after 6 weeks. I felt terrible about it, but at the same time, the job I found was a better technical challenge and had nice team members.
Lastly, I don’t follow the money. Life is too short to spend the vast majority of my time during the day working on a team or project that I hate only to get a better paycheck. That doesn’t mean money doesn’t matter, but when stack ranking my options, the financials rank lower. I took a pay cut on a new job in the past and it was a really great decision for my career and well being.
These are likely obvious suggestions, but I’ve broken all these rules before and every time I regretted it. All that said, at the end of the day your career is just a job. It doesn’t define you as a person. There are going to be ups and downs, so keep it all in context. Best of luck out there.