1. You know you’re not ready for it. And, consequently, the odds are that you will likely fail. A single failure on the way up the ladder can derail even the strongest player.
2. It’s a dead-end job or department. If the new role has no clear career path upside, then pass. Don’t get talked into the idea that your success will open up new horizons. You may end up trapped there.
3. Lack of senior leadership support for this role. All roles need the support of others to succeed, but some seem to exist for reasons that nobody can recall. Without senior advocates, you could find that you’re suddenly in No Man’s Land as you try to get the job or tasks done.
4. Inconsistent with your natural style. Leaders are more likely to succeed when they can maintain a style that is congruent with their values and beliefs. Some leaders like confrontation, others can’t handle it. As a coach, I’m often asked to help a poor performer to “get with the program” and do things she/he don’t agree with.
5. Intuition. I think the best leaders and managers have a great sense of intuition. It’s what makes them “certain” when others aren’t clear. Even if the job looks great on paper, if your gut says “pass,” then walk away.
6. Learn from Sisyphus. You may have a track record of getting things done that others couldn’t – but at some point, knowing your own limits is the best play.
7. The job’s a political hot potato. Some roles bring the baggage of history with them. And when you take that kind of a job, it can be very surprising (and depressing) how your old allies suddenly disappear.
8. Inconsistent with your own values and beliefs. In many organizations there are jobs and activities that may not sit right with you. One of the corporate people I worked with was transferred from a consumer products division to one overseeing the creation of war materials. He didn’t fare well.
9. Your personal life. Each of us is entitled to a life that’s successful in each of the three life elements. If you are being offered a job that will screw with your personal life (the hours needed at the office) or financial situation (e.g., the job means moving to New York from Indianapolis), give it a hard review before accepting.
10. Never take a job for the money. You’ll get used to the new salary quickly but the crappy job is there for a long time.