But I Just Don’t Want To Make Another Mistake!

“But Tony, I know it’s a good job and I really like the people and it looks like they are really going places and I like everything about it…but these guys I’m working for now told me the same thing. They told me they were going to grow. I trusted the guy who hired me and even took a $10,000 cut in salary in order to go to work there. I loved everything about it until the guy who hired me left and told me all kinds of things that were really going on in the company. The president of the company micromanages, nobody likes working there and all and I’ve only been there for 14 months. I screwed up a really good career at the company I was with before… I just plain don’t want to make another mistake. I just don’t know,… I’m just not sure… I just don’t want to make another mistake.”

I personally hear almost exactly this same script at least three or four times a month. It doesn’t take much explaining to understand what has happened here. The candidate makes a perfectly legitimate mistake in taking a job. It winds up being a disaster and he is so worried about making another mistake that they don’t see the possibility or the opportunity that might be in front of them. They are so worried about making a mistake that they see the glass as half empty instead of half full. This is a terrible way to make a decision and it causes nothing but pain and angst.

In this particular case, which made matters worse, this is the second job in a row that the candidate could say exactly the same thing about. He made two relative errors in a row. So now he is really spooked. Objectively, even he knows that we are not going to find a better opportunity than the offer he is getting. But he has been “burned”…or burned himself two times in a row and he is just plain afraid of making a decision.

Here is the truth. Every job that a person takes, he or she runs the risk of it not working out. There are a phenomenal number of twists and turns that happen in every business in every company. The boss that made promises that could be overturned or were outright lies, the territory that totally changed once the candidate showed up for work, the poor economic condition that the company was in that nobody told the candidate about before they took the job… and just about any other wacky thing you can imagine that can take place after the candidate shows up for work or is even there for a while, can happen.

The vast majority of time, there is absolutely nothing a candidate can do about it. Think about it, all of us would be phenomenally successful in just everything we did if we knew then what we know now. But the world doesn’t work that way. No one can make a decision about a present job offer relative to the last one or two mistakes the person might have made.

In 90% of these cases there is absolutely no way any job candidate could have known what was going to happen after they took the job. Everyone has to make decisions based on what they see right in front of them the moment they get a job offer… the good, the bad, and the ugly. Things change rapidly. In the present situation that I described above, there was no way in the world that the candidate would have ever known that the guy that hired him in his present job was going to leave. In fact, the guy that hired him stayed with the company for 14 months after our candidate was hired. Once his boss left and the president started running the company out of the East Coast, the whole thing turned to poop. There was no way he would know that was going to happen.

Every time a person takes a job, they run a risk. I will admit that my candidate got unlucky two times in a row. It’s unfortunate, but that kind of thing happens. It’s the risk that we all take in changing jobs. But to judge any new opportunity with the mantra of, “I don’t want to make a mistake like the last time,” it is unlikely that the candidate will ever make a decent decision.

I try to explain to people all of the time that every job opportunity has a risk. A person has to hope that it works out. A person can’t afford to evaluate every job with the idea that, “I don’t want to make a mistake.” If the opportunity turns out to be a mistake, then the candidate is going to have to deal with it.

Here is the rule of thumb. If the job is within 80% of what the candidate would ideally like, it is probably about as good as one is going to get. After that, it’s a plain old gut feel. Ninety five percent of satisfaction in a job is what we make it. Success and satisfaction in work come mostly from the inside, not the outside. The job doesn’t make us…we make the job.

So, make an assessment of a job offer based on everything you know about the opportunity as it is presented to you. Realize that it could change and it might be different than what you expect. But whatever you do, don’t try to evaluate an opportunity based on what happened the last time or the time before that or even the time before that. Whatever happened in the past is not a precursor about what’s going to happen in the future.


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