How can you evaluate a job offer and when should you accept it? How can you choose if you have several options?
Here we would like to give you some reference points, which help you evaluate career choices as many people get stuck or decide hastily in situations where there are several options, including staying at the current employment.
Every situation is unique, the same job means completely different opportunities to different individuals as everyone is in a different life cycle and circumstances, so if you expect us to tell the unquestionable truth, then you will be disappointed. However, we will give you a tiny tool to help you, a framework to work with.
Before we dive into details, it is important to make it clear, that we deeply believe in the so-called gut feelings, and so, we think you should listen to them! (Actually, these things do have a scientific explanation.) Otherwise, if there’s no “internal warning sign”, then you can use your rationality, and with the help of this method, you can figure out which offer is the best for you in the long term.
Yes, we encourage you to watch all the offers (including your current position, because staying there can be also considered as an offer) through the glasses of your long-term objectives – unless you are in a crisis. What kind of professional development the new job provides you? In which direction does it drive your career? Will it look good in your CV? Will you be more valuable on the labour market? Ideally these aspects determine your decision.
Analysing your career with a matrix
If you are bored with Maslow’s Pyramid, it is worth reading about the motivation theory of Frederick Herzberg: Two-Factor Theory of Motivation. Many other frameworks have been created based on this theory, and so, here is ours, plagiarizing and adapting thoughts of management gurus ????. Hopefully, they do not get angry about it.
External and inner motivators
When you feel that the demotivator factors determinate your workdays, then probably it is time for a change. It can be a new position, a new workplace or even a new profession/career. If both the external factors with short-term effects, and the inner motivators with long-term outcomes are negative, then you will not wait too much longer with this step, because the situation is quite depressing already.
When evaluating new offers, it is important to check, whether the negative circumstances – which make you escape from your current workplace – will change towards a positive direction or even disappear. E.g.: Will you have higher income and/or position? Will your workplace be nearer to your home? You can review the external factors (see on the left side of the matrix) quite easily, they are probably either included into the job ad or you will find them out during the interviews. List all the facts and information into the matrix! That way you can see clearly what the nice promises really mean for you, and you can identify the external factors and the inner motivators.
So, what happens with your long-term inner motivators (see on the right side of the matrix)? E.g.: Will you like your new job? Will you have good relationship with your new boss and teammates? Can you identify with the company’s values? Sometimes these questions are really hard to answer, even after all the interviews. If you are applying through a recruiter agency, they can help you to find the answers to these questions, because they have direct relationship with the company, thus they know how the company works, what is the management like – including your future boss. Besides, they have a very broad and deep knowledge of the market, so you can gain a lot of new information already at the first interview, which can help you to decide more quickly and easily. But the most important factor of the decision is you: YOU SHOULD KNOW YOURSELF! What do you like? What do you hate? And frankly: WHAT IS THAT YOU ARE UNABLE TO TOLERATE? You should collect all the information about this.
The gilded cage and the investment
Of course, the decision – between two offers or between the old and the new place – can be very difficult when none of the offers has all the answers in the upper boxes of the matrix. Let’s see the two extremities:
- If the external factors clearly reflect progress (higher income and position, nearer workplace, reputed company), then it can be very tempting, but if there is no inner motivation connected to it (your work is not challenging for you and does not motivate you, you are not progressing and working is only a daily routine for you, you cannot identify with the company values), then you will not be satisfied, because higher income or position cannot compensate these missing motivators in the long term. (Wise owls say that higher income will motivate you for about 3 months.) Even so, it is easy to get stuck at a place like this, but beware, this can turn into a trap or a gilded cage! In certain situations, this can be good for you for a while, if it is necessary (e.g. because of loans/credits, or family circumstances), just make sure not to burn out professionally, and find the opportunities – even outside work – to develop your skills and to be prepared for the change. “Do not stand there with your pants down…” (Thanks for the input from one of our candidates, who summarised his own technological backlog with this.)
- On the other side, if all the inner motivator factors are ideal (the company will maximally encourage your professional development, the new job supports your career-building and your marketability), but they do not come with a higher income/position/responsibility, then you should consider it as an INVESTMENT. This is necessary in certain situations – e.g. in case of career shift –, but later on it will pay off. In such cases you should consider this and adjust your expectations accordingly. So, if you start a totally new career – after working 20 years in another one – then you should not count on the same salary and position what you have had so far.
Absolutely clear situations are very rare, but these guiding threads can help you decide. If you know which factors are more important to you, which are your priorities you stick to, then you can give different weightings to the different factors. (The Benjamin Franklin decision-making formula.)
And what can come up and confuse the picture? The counteroffer, when your current company gives you a new offer, when you announce to leave it. Based on our experience, we recommend that you use the above set of parameters, and refuse it confidently, if you already have your winning choice. If the counteroffer is very tempting (extremely high salary, new position…), it means that they have exploited you so far, especially if it is a big company. If you are a reliable employee in a key position, then they will try to keep you by all means, because in the short term, it is easier and cheaper for them, than to find a new person.
It is very likely that your salary or position is not your only problem, which makes you leave the company. In that case probably you would have already consulted it with your boss. (If not, why not?) If you do not feel good, because you do not like your job and your daily tasks, the higher income will not solve this problem. This kind of salary raise (and other promises) arouse many questions. Why haven’t you received it so far? Why are you worth it only now? Why do they show you the company’s business plans now? How will this pay raise effect your relationship with your colleagues and your boss? Of course, they can promise you new projects with professional challenges and development, but if you haven’t had a chance for this so far, then it cannot be too convincing. Ideally, these kind of changes should be discussed and agreed at regular professional performance reviews, where you can talk to your team leader about your career path within the company, how you can progress step by step towards more responsibility, higher position and/or better salary. (Do you usually do this at your company? No? Hmmm.)
Even if you choose to accept the counteroffer – thinking about it as the safest solution –, bear in mind that usually this only delays your departure. Neither you nor your boss will forget that you are dissatisfied. Maybe you will feel the urge again to find another job, maybe he will find a new employee to replace you – do not forget, you scared the shit out of them!
Ask for help!
If you apply for the job through recruiters, be open and sincere, share all your offers – even the counteroffer, if you have one. If they are good at their job, then they will focus on your interests, and will help you in your decision, based on their comprehensive market knowledge and experience, and being good judges of characters as well. [This is the place of advertising all the good recruiters, fortunately there are some really great ones besides us.] Anyway, a bad decision about accepting an offer is no good for the recruiter either, trust us. You probably don’t know, but agencies usually undertake a guarantee period, so if you don’t fit there, they must replace you free of charge.
The factors in the above matrix are just recommendations. Be creative and create your own system! If necessary, ask for professional help, the point is to make sure, that you choose the best option for you, which supports your long-term goals, builds your career, and at the same time heals the problems, which have made you looking for a new job. Don’t you jump out of the frying pan into the fire!