Life is full of decisions, and career development has more than its share of them. As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
With due respect to the sagacious Yogi, that won’t work! So how can you decide whether or not to move ahead in a particular direction, return a call, schedule an interview, take a promotion, mail out a resume, etc.? I suggest that you apply what I have termed my “WHY NOT?” Principle(tm): simply stated, if you cannot answer “No” to a question (e.g., Should I consider taking on this new project?), the next answer is always “Yes.” In other words, until you can make the case for “why not?” – why you should not investigate the opportunity – you should move ahead at least one more step. After all, no answer will come to you if you just sit there!
Let’s investigate some scenarios where you can apply my “Why Not? Principle(tm).”
1. You’re called by a company for an interview. The position under consideration seems to be significantly below your qualifications, but they still want to see you. Do you go in to see them or not?
No good answer. You don’t have adequate information to make an informed, intelligent decision. Perhaps the position is better than it seems from the outside. The company may see your skills and identify a better fit for you in the organization (this really does happen!). This is not the only position that will ever open up in this organization, and you have the opportunity to make a positive contact with the company.
- Check it out. You have nothing to lose.
2. A longtime friend provides you with a lead to a job that does not interest you at all, nor does it allow you to use any of the skills and experience you want to bring to the job market. Do you follow up on the opportunity?
Following up on a situation that you have no interest in is a waste of the company’s time and yours, as well as being less than honest towards your friend. It would be much better to thank your friend for the advice and the intended opportunity, explaining why you would not be interested and helping your friend better understand your career targets and employment goals. Also, you could damage your relationship by not telling your friend the truth.
- Be kind but honest. Thank them but help them to help you better.
3. Your company is pressing you to interview for a position that you know has no relationship to your career goals or personal interests. You know you can do the job, but don’t really want to! Do you go for the interview or not? After all, isn’t every promotion a good move?!
Wasting their time is not a good way to invest yours. Some people might consider this a “no risk” opportunity to get some interview practice, but I see it as a disingenuous act, wasting the time of a company that obviously only wants to see interested applicants. Here’s an additional concern: since you’re not under pressure, you may interview very confidently and end up receiving a promotion offer you didn’t want in the first place! THEN what do you do?
- Politely turn down their kind offer, using this opportunity to help your organization better understand where your interests and best abilities to contribute lie.
4. An acquaintance in the community wants to meet you for lunch to help you in your career development. This is someone you know to have no “clout” or real connections with any “heavy hitters.” Do you schedule or work up a believable excuse?
No good answer here, either. Everyone knows someone. You may think this person is not connected (and you may be right), but some of the best opportunities for serendipitous, extraordinary surprises can come from the most unlikely situations. It’s nice that this person wants to help. Give him or her the time and the benefit of the doubt. Remember: you don’t have to take all of the advice you get, just listen to it. The relationship you enhance may be much more valuable than any information you may get!
- Have lunch with them and listen to what they have to say. There is no way of telling what opportunities could result.
Try employing my “Why Not Principle(tm).” It will press you into more action, reduce your second-guessing, create serendipitous possibilities and perhaps even help you to see more results.