Commentary: Making Tough Career Tradeoff Decisions | KERA News

Commentary: Making Tough Career Tradeoff Decisions

Dallas, TX –

As someone who has worked for 30 years in the private sector as a senior HR executive, I've spent a lot of time providing career planning to professionals who were faced with tough career decisions. What I took away from those experiences is it's very important for job seekers to be able to think through difficult career tradeoffs; especially when those tradeoffs are taking place as they are right now in the backdrop of a weak economy. This means that now, more than any time in the past, you have to be a more flexible in your job search.

Here's a case in point. Three years ago, after 20 years of employment with the same company, a good friend of mine, who resides in Houston, lost his job as a welder. I suggested to my friend that he check out jobs in New Orleans, which was trying to build back in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"But I don't want to leave Houston", he said.

I told him that he was restricted to Houston, he may need to be more flexible regarding his salary and benefits, or perhaps look for jobs other than welding."

"But I like welding," he countered, "It's what I do. And I'm not about to give up any income."

So for the past three years he's been stuck in his job search and doing piecework, when he can find it.

The moral of the story is that during difficult times you have to understand the tradeoffs that best serve your most important goals and values.

Want to be of service to others? If so, are you willing to give up a higher salary to do it?

Want a job that provides interesting international travel? They're out there, but in many cases the travel will be at the whim of your employer, taking you away your family when you least expect it. Are you willing to do that?

I'm not making personal judgments on any of these decisions; the choices are yours. But if you know, in advance, the tradeoffs that you're willing to make, you gain a competitive advantage in today's job market. Why?

First, knowing what's essential to you in a job helps you find employment faster by targeting in to the job that's best aligned to your needs.

Also, questions about the tradeoffs that you are willing to make frequently come up in job interviews. People who stumble over these questions risk coming across as unmotivated or confused.

The worst time to begin to consider tradeoffs is after you've been offered a job, and you're under pressure to give your decision.

Given these factors why not use time you have now to think through your priorities?

No one likes to be faced with the prospect of difficult job and career choices, but I strongly believe that by taking the time to anticipate and plan for these tradeoff decisions you can increase your chances of success in getting and keeping a good job.

Bob Barner is Associate Director of Executive Education for SMU's Graduate Program in Dispute Resolution.

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