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How to know when a seemingly great opportunity isn’t right for you

It might seem logical to say yes to a promotion or a new job. But if it doesn’t align with your long-term goal, it might not be the right opportunity.

How to know when a seemingly great opportunity isn’t right for you
[Photo: Jason Wong/Unsplash]

Your boss announced that the company is promoting you, which comes with an impressive new title and a big jump in salary. You accept without thinking about it, because it would be stupid to turn down a promotion, right?

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Not necessarily. On its face, it might seem strange to even think about turning down the chance to move up in an organization. But  you shouldn’t assume that what looks like the right decision to someone else is the correct decision for you. Here’s what you should consider when you find yourself questioning whether or not to say yes or no to a seemingly “great” opportunity.

Think about how it relates to your end goal

Whether you’re offered a promotion or a new job, you should ask yourself the following questions, says Stacey Gordon, career strategist and founder & CEO of diversity and inclusion consultancy Rework Work:

  • What’s the goal?
  • What’s the end result?
  • What am I expecting to achieve out of it?
  • What are the next steps?

Gordon tells Fast Company that it’s important to figure out what your short-term, mid-term, and long-term opportunities would be in this new role. “Sometimes the long-term opportunity is not immediately apparent,” she points out. “Am I going to get access to more resources? Am I going to get access to more influential people in power? Is this going to increase my salary?” At times, a promotion means an increase in workload and not much else. For example, if your goal is to get into a leadership position, but the promotion provides next to no opportunities to show off your managerial chops, you might think twice about taking it on, and instead focus on picking up projects where you can demonstrate your people skills


Related: How to stand out on your first day of a new job


Do your research before going for the opportunity

There are instances when a promotion or new job offer comes out of the blue, but in most cases, you would have had to put yourself in the running before you received an offer. Gordon stresses that during this process, you should start to identify warning signs. “By the time you get to the job offer, you should have already uncovered red flags and then extricate yourself from the end.” Some questions worth asking include, “Is this a revolving door position? How long has somebody been in this role? What’s the manager like in this role? What’s the trajectory in the organization and how does your role fit within that? These are questions that are very difficult to get answers to once you have a job offer,” Gordon says.

When it comes to identifying red flags regarding a promotion, Gordon says it’s a bad sign when you’re being “shoehorned into that role because they can’t find [anybody] else to fill it.” In that situation, Gordon says, you might find that not only will you have to do that new role, you might end up still doing your current work on top of it.

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Related: Should you ever accept a promotion without a raise? 


Seek advice from those with different experiences

Some people might be more likely to give you bad advice than others, but Gordon recommends that it is still important for you to listen to them. For example, say there is a disgruntled employee who insist that it’s the most toxic environment ever. You don’t want to completely dismiss what they have to say, urges Gordon.

The key, according to Gordon, is to weigh that employee’s perspectives against the perspective of others–whether it’s people in different departments, former employees, and people at different levels of the org chart. After all, “People are people, people have bad days,” Gordon says. “Somebody might tell you awful stuff about an organization, and you have to be able to take that with a grain of salt.”


Related: These are the signs that your boss wants to give you a promotion


If you find yourself saying I “should” do this, ask yourself why?

Sometimes your gut is telling you not to take something, but the voice in your head tells you otherwise, telling you that you “should” take that promotion because it would be stupid not to.

Your gut is not perfect at making decisions, but as licensed therapist Melody Wilding told Liz Funk in a previous Fast Company article, your gut is the “collection of all your subconscious experiences.” Therefore, you should at least be aware of what it’s trying to tell you, and dig deep to identify why it’s trying to tell you that. Is your ego dominating your thought process? Do you feel the need to gain external validation?

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Gordon tells Fast Company, “If you hear that ‘should’ come out of your mouth, you should think about what’s driving you. Identify that external pressure that you’re feeling and think about how to deal with that.” At the end of the day, you have to experience and live with the decision you make. So before you say yes to an opportunity, make sure that you know how it will impact your life going forward–and you’re happy (or at least at peace) with the answer. 

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About the author

Anisa is the assistant editor for Fast Company's Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work

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