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Make the right decision on your next job offer

March 17, 2014

With the tremendous amount of growth opportunity in the information technology field (see the Bureau of Labor Statistics for additional information), I often get approached by my employees, friends, relatives and networking contacts to discuss their career goals. One of the more popular topics relates to taking the next job. It is often difficult for people to decide if a job offer is worth pursuing. This is completely understandable, as there are often a variety of variables to consider when making this decision. Here is the advice that I provide to my contacts:

Make sure you understand your personal and professional goals

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by the number of people who don’t really know where they intend to take their career. For some people, having a great family life is most important. For others, propelling their career into a leadership role is vital. Regardless of what your goals are, make sure they’re clear.

Make a list of the top three requirements you have for a job

In some instances, your personal goals may outweigh your career goals. Maybe your career goals will completely monopolize your list. No matter what you decide, this list should reflect your top three job requirements in order of most important to least important. Be sure to stick to a list of three. A longer list can be overwhelming and can cloud your judgment. When talking through the decision about an opportunity, I’ve worked with people who can’t determine what is most important to them. Not understanding their true needs makes it very difficult for people to make decisions. I worked with one job seeker who had so many “nice to haves” that it was impossible for him to tell me what he actually needed. This made it almost impossible for me to figure out which positions were a good fit for him. Six months later, he still had not found a new position. The list I am suggesting you make should truly be non-negotiable items, and if you run out of those, it should reflect your strongest pluses.

Weigh the potential position against your top three

I often see people focusing on parts of job offers that are not deal-breakers. For example, maybe you have an offer that meets most of your criteria, but you would really like to work for a company that has a one-day-per-week work-from-home policy. If the work-from-home policy is not in your top three requirements and is actually not a deal-breaker for you, don’t include it in your decision making until you determine that your top three needs have been fulfilled. Nice-to-haves may be used for negotiating, but not for initial decision making.

What to do if you still can’t decide

If a potential position meets your top three desires but you still can’t decide, ask yourself, “Will this job help propel my career in the right direction?”

If you can answer yes to this question, it may be worth it. I’ve seen job seekers trying to decide if they should take an offer or stay in the same position. In the past, I’ve always advised them to stick with the opportunity that may help them progress toward their career goals. So, let’s pretend that your long-term career goal is to become an enterprise architect, and you have an opportunity to take a position that will allow you to learn more about the networking side of the business (an area where you lack current skills). The position in question meets your top-three list; however, taking it will not provide a compensation increase. The opportunity is still worth considering because having a strong understanding of network technologies is a prerequisite for becoming an enterprise architect. This job may be a stepping stone toward that end goal.

Deciding whether to take a new position can be stressful. Knowing not only what you want, but most importantly what you need, makes the decision making process much easier. Remember, if the position is going to help you achieve your dreams, it may be worth pursuing! 

Melissa McFall has spent over nine years in the IT staffing and services industry, including six years as an IT recruiter. She is an expert in recruiter/client relations and service delivery.

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