Most of us have experienced a period of unemployment in our work lives. We may have found ourselves on the wrong side of a right-sizing campaign, or have been caught in an industry downturn. Whatever the cause, each day that passes without work can seem like an eternity. Ultimately, we are extremely motivated to get back on solid footing and begin the next chapter of our career as soon as possible.
Understandably, we'd like to be maximally flexible and give every opportunity a fighting chance to work. However, in certain situations, we may want to pause before moving forward. In fact, there may be clear signs that an organization is not an entirely healthy one, or that an opportunity is just not the right fit. You may hear your inner voice expressing concern – but your first response may be to ignore that voice and take the chance. Remember, some organizations have more problems then you want to contend with, and some roles are not really worth an investment of your time or energy.
Here are a few situations that warrant a moment of pause:
- Awkward information sharing. If a potential employer begins to complain in excruciating detail about the faults of a current or past employee - rethink your path. While it is appropriate to discuss the required tasks or goals of the role or organization, highly negative details concerning how another has been dealing with the role may reflect a deeper organizational problem.
- Lack of job definition. If the interviewing organization cannot produce any form of a job description, outlining tasks and broader goals for the role you are discussing, you could be headed for serious trouble. This lack of definition could eventually become your problem, so be sure to press for more information before continuing. Unless you are taking a role that by nature requires you to wear multiple hats, proceed carefully.
- Lack of a career path. An organization should be able to describe how you might progress with tenure. If the interviewers seem completely caught off guard when you pose this question, it is likely because they haven't considered the topic. Probe for further details to be sure you are not interviewing for a dead-end role.
- Lack of chemistry. If after spending time with the supervising manager, you are left feeling cold – give this serious thought. The basics of a solid working relationship do include a certain level of compatibility. Furthermore, if you suspect that your work style is in direct opposition to what has been described as commonplace, reflect on the opportunity.
- Just a filler. Don't accept a role just to have an entry on your résumé, especially if you feel the role is not the right fit for the longer haul. Although this may seem a tempting solution, taking a job that cannot fulfill your career goals can become a highly frustrating experience. Overall, it can prove to be an obstacle in resuming a meaningful career, so if at all possible, wait for a better option.
- Radio silence. If you have properly thanked the interviewer for his or her time and you have heard nothing in weeks, this could be a sign of trouble to come. If common courtesy is absent at this point in the relationship, this will likely not improve with time. If an organization is already behaving badly at this early stage, this could be a glimpse into your future work life. Move on.
What signs have you experienced that made you feel unsure during a job search? What did you decide to do?
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist who specializes in workplace success strategies and organizational change. She helps individuals, teams and organizations develop intelligently—to meet work life challenges with a sense of confidence and empowerment.