Very few of us will retire from the same employer that gave us our first job out of school. While some of those job changes might be involuntary, due to a layoff or termination or other circumstances beyond our control, eventually, we'll be the ones to say goodbye.
That means knowing when to stay and when to go – and being aware that it's not always easy to tell the difference at first glance. You don't need to accept an offer for a new job just because someone offered it to you. Sometimes, it might make sense to take a job you don't want but not always.
Will You Earn More?
Money isn't everything, but you can't enjoy much of anything without it—constant worry about finances has a way of taking the joy out of life. While a higher salary isn't the only reason to take a job, most people want to see a steady increase in salary over time. If your present employer doesn't offer much in the way of regular raises (and if they don't, they're not alone—in one survey, cost-of-living adjustments for 2018 were estimated at 3%), your best bet might be to move on to greener pastures.
Of course, before you take the cash and run, you better make sure it adds up to as much as you hope. Compensation isn't just a matter of what's printed on your paycheck. Make sure you aren't trading higher contributions to health insurance or other before-tax benefits for a slightly higher paycheck... which will go to pay for those self-same benefits. Use these free paycheck calculators to figure out what your net income will be.
What Are You Giving Up?
Unless your job is truly wretched, there are probably a few things you like about it, even if it's just the people you work with or an easy commute. Make sure you're looking at all the pros and cons of leaving and staying before you make up your mind—even if, in the end, it's a pretty easy call.
Is There Room for Growth?
If you're like most people, you probably don't want to change jobs every year for the rest of your life, but you need to know that you'll meet new challenges and learn new skills, even when you stay put. Ideally, your new role should come with the possibility of growing into another, more responsible position at the same company. Nothing like moving up the corporate ladder without having to roll over your 401(k).
Is the Corporate Culture Comfortable?
Everyone has their own idea of a good time, and that's as true professionally as it is personally. While you might look at an open-plan office and see one big party of creativity and collaboration, another person might cringe and go running back to their cube. If possible, ask to take a tour of the office during your interview process. Pay close attention to the physical space, noise level, demeanor and behavior of the staff, etc. Do you see yourself working well there, and feeling comfortable? There's no perfect company, but there is a perfect company for you.
Did You Like Your New Co-Workers?
You can't tell everything about your future co-workers by what you see during your interview, but you can get a general vibe of what kind of personality shines at the company. Can you see yourself working well with people, respecting them, learning from them?
Will You Learn Something New?
There's no way to be 100 percent sure that you'll love your new job, but if you can learn a new skill while you're there, you'll have moved the needle on your career, no matter what.
Are You Improving Your Opportunities?
Let's say the worst happens, and you hate your new job—or your new boss foolishly decides you're not a good fit. Will moving to this new position put you in a better or worse place than you're in right now? Ideally, you're leaving your current role to move to a situation in which you'll gain experience, knowledge, skills, and a positive brand association that will help you in your career long after you've left your next job.
What Is Employee Turnover at the New Employer?
You hate stress, but this company is famous for making grown men weep in the middle of the office. You value diversity, but everyone who stays long enough for their stock to vest hangs out at the same alumni club. If you want to know whether you'll be happy and successful at a job, look at the folks who left or were forced out. If you resemble them more than the people who stayed, you could be in trouble.
Is the New Company Financially Sound?
Your new employer could be the perfect place for you, and your new job the ideal role—but if the company isn't around long enough for you to get your first review, it won't matter. Do your due diligence before accepting an offer. If the company is public, you may be able to glean some information on their financial stability from public filings and reports.
You can also dig up some information with a simple Google search and perusal of their social media mentions. Bearing in mind, of course, that electronic gossip is likely to be as complete a picture as the old-fashioned kind that takes place around the water cooler—which is to say, it isn't. That's OK, though: you don't need to know everything. You just need to get a sense of whether there might be trouble ahead.
Will It Help You Along Your Career Path?
Just as your last job wasn't, well, your last job neither is this one likely to be. Make sure that your next step leads in the right direction, and not into a corner. Careers can and do zigzag, but you need to be able to keep moving.