Its amazing to me how much job satisfaction drives life satisfaction. I look at a bad job like an abusive relationship – the person being abused often doesn’t realize how miserable he/she is until long after they’ve gotten out of the relationship. My friend Joel has a good credo when it comes to jobs: “If I’m not happy, I wait two months. If I’m still unhappy, I leave” (as an aside, Joel left the rat race and is now the founder and CEO of a great company, Krillion.com).
For this reason, it’s important to do everything you can to avoid bad jobs. And now that I have a few gray hairs and have been around the Internet industry for almost a decade, I increasingly get approached by young Internet folks asking for career advice. My first piece of advice, of course, is “plastics,” but after that I give them this little mnemonic that was helpful to me over the years – S.C.O.R.E. When evaluating a job offer, I suggest you consider these five aspects collectively (note: they don’t need to be in this order, every person should weigh each piece differently – see my note at the end of this post).
S is for “Stability.” Is the company well-funded? What’s its burn-rate? How many months until they need to raise more money? Are they cash-flow positive? If not, when will they be (whatever they say, add at least six months onto this number, due to over-optimism or exaggeration). Has the management been in place for a while?
C is for “Compensation.” How does the salary compare to other offers? What benefits are included (for example, health insurance will usually cost you $4-$6K a year if your employer doesn’t cover it). Is there a guaranteed bonus? Are there stock options, what percentage of the company do you get, and how long until they vest? When do you get a performance review? Are there “bands” that determine caps on raises?
O is for “Opportunity.” If you excel at your position, what’s the next step for you in the company? Is the organization already top-heavy, meaning a promotion is unlikely? Can you try out different positions in different departments if you demonstrate competency and there is a need for you? Will you learn valuable skills that you don’t currently have?
R is for “Responsibility.” What are your day-to-day duties? Will you manage others? Do you have authority to approve projects/expenditures or do you need someone else to rubber stamp your ideas? Will you be able to quantify your impact on the bottom line?
E is for “Environment.” Do employees seem happy? What’s the company culture like? What’s the dress code? Is there a need for face time or can you telecommute occasionally? What’s the turnover rate? Do you like the people? Does the office seem comfortable?
One of the things I’ve realized over the years is that the order of these factors usually changes as you get more experience. For example, as a young employee right out of college, you may put a great emphasis on stability and compensation, because you know how hard it is to get a job in the Internet sector, and because you have lots of student loans to pay off!
As you get more senior, however, you can take risks on less-stable gigs and the compensation (though always important) becomes something you are willing to take a hit on for the right fit. In my last few years on the market before going solo, I realized that the “ORE” of “SCORE” had the most impact on my job satisfaction; in particular, I found that environment was the #1 determining factor for me. This may in part explain why Google is able to hire brilliant engineers and allegedly pay them below-market. It’s hard to resist the endless food, keg parties, massages, and generally quirky atmosphere of the Googleplex.
So whether you decide its “CORES” or “CORSE” or even “ORSEC” (which would be a very bad mnemonic), I hope you find this methodology helpful!