Cathie Black Lesson: When Not to Accept Job Offer

Cathie Black didn't get a waiver from New York commissioner of education David Steiner. What Steiner proposed is only granting a waiver if there is a second-in-command appointed who does know something about education. Egg on the face for Black as well as Michael Bloomberg, the mayor who made the job offer to Black to head the New York
City school system.

From this mess, you can learn plenty about when not to accept a job offer. Elissa Gootman in The New York Times describes some of the signs Black might have heeded before she said yes. There are many others. Even in what seems to be ideal circumstances surrounding a job offer, you might dig for and assess the negatives. What should you be paying attention to?

Power of person making offer. Currently Bloomberg is taking hits because of high-handed moves such as having a second term. Black, no newbie to power and the need for lots of it to be protected when taking a tough job, should have factored this in. If those hiring can't help you succeed, then you're out there alone. Can you survive that way?

Preparation for job. Black's expertise was in publishing, not education. Her children had attended private schools. Sure she led large organizations, but it takes more than that to head a troubled school system. Are your skills, ranging for political to operational, more than adequate to do the job?

Connecting with constituencies. Black may be able to connect with corporate boards of directors. But what are the odds this wealthy socialite can connect with parents in the Bronx, union members, teachers, and students? You may have done fine overseeing a staff of 50 at a fast food restaurant but can you manage all the points of influence as a director of operations for a non-profit?

A "good" job offer, in 2010, means one you can do well at, from day one. You must be able to hit the ground running. If you can't do that, then the money, perks and status are all irrelevant.

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