“Should I take the job offer, or stay where I am?”
Some variation of this question comes across my desk a lot these days.
Yes, if you’re an experienced professional in many countries around the world, you’re in the hottest job market we’ve seen in a while.
Opportunities are everywhere. That’s great.
And crazy stressful.
Because a new opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right opportunity for YOU.
So, before you lose more sleep trying to make your next big career decision, let’s look at how you can answer the question of “should I take the job offer, or stay?”
(Psst: Want a detailed, step-by-step plan you can customize just for you? In a weekend, you can complete my on-demand video course “Should You Stay or Go? Make Your Best Career Decision.” Get started here.)
“Should I take the job offer, or stay?” 3 Questions to Guide Your Decision
What you might not realize is that “should I take the job offer or stay” is not one question.
Let’s break it down.
Question 1: Should I?
“SHOULD I take the job offer, or stay where I am?”
To borrow from my colleagues in the self-help space, don’t “should” all over yourself.
It’s a dangerous word, filled with comparison shopping your life against others (or the perception of what others’ lives are like.)
Some slippery shoulds I’ve heard lately:
- IT professionals like me should change jobs every two years.
- Leaders like me should continue moving into higher management roles.
- People who make what I do should be willing to take a job with significant travel.
- Everyone in my industry should always take a job for more money.
Don’t fall for what you “should” do.
Instead, invest a little time getting clear on what “should” is for YOU.
Answering “should I” starts with getting clear on your personal values and long-term vision.
It has nothing to do with anyone else.
I know, I know. You’re worried about family, friends, colleagues and neighbors.
That’s lovely, and their needs will come into play later.
But for now, don’t let anyone else tell you what you “should” do.
Get clear instead. Grab a pen and paper and write your answers to these questions. No one’s looking and there’s no right or wrong, so be completely honest with yourself.
- What do you value most?
- How consistently do your choices support those values? For example, if you value your relationships, how much time are you spending with the most important people in your life (10% of the time? 100% of the time?)?
- Does the new opportunity take you closer to those values?
- If you could travel forward in time five years and look back on your life between then and now, what would you want your life to have looked like? What experiences do you want to have had? How do you want to be living?
- Does the new opportunity take you closer to that vision?
Getting clear on your values and vision may immediately show you why the new opportunity works–or doesn’t–for the life you want.
Question 2: “Stay Where I Am?”
Now that we’ve cleaned up the shoulds, let’s look at the “stay where I am” part.
“Should I take the job offer, or STAY WHERE I AM?”
Open your eyes. Where exactly ARE you?
Get honest with what’s already happening for you at work.
Something’s probably not working perfectly. After all, that’s why you pursued or agreed to hear about a new opportunity in the first place.
But let’s look at the other side.
What’s working well?
Again, grab that paper and pen. Make a list.
Now that you’re clear on what’s working, let’s ignore the fact that you have a new opportunity, and get specific about what’s not working in your life at work.
What is it? Get as specific as possible, and write it all down.
For example, instead of saying “it’s the people,” say “Angela and James on my team make me uncomfortable because I always feel I’m not good enough for them.”
Once you’re specifically clear on what’s not working, answer this:
What have you said or done to change that?
When great people leave, I often hear their leaders wondering why that person didn’t raise their concerns earlier.
(Here’s why we don’t–we get stuck in our heads and think we need to figure it out ourselves. But that’s not how our collaborative, always moving environments work anymore. Get over it and get talking.)
Getting clear on the change needed –and taking the steps to ask for it– helps you see whether staying might be the right step for you.
Question 3: “Take the Job Offer”
The third part to break apart is:
“Should I TAKE THE JOB OFFER, or stay where I am?”
First, do you know exactly what the offer is?
This seems simple, but you wouldn’t believe how many conversations I have with people who think they have a job offer–but haven’t had any details delivered to them on paper.
Let’s get clear.
Until you have something in writing (and yes, email counts), you don’t have a job offer.
At a minimum, even for a very small company, a job offer includes:
- A description of the role and its expectations
- The pay
- Any bonus, benefits, or other rewards
Let’s assume those basics are in place and they fit or exceed your needs. That’s great.
Evaluating the offer also includes evaluating what the future experience may be.
And you and I suck at telling the future.
But we can get stronger at asking good questions to learn what’s happened in the past—things that may give us clues about the future.
Choose questions based on the values and vision you identified earlier.
You’re a forensic scientist here, looking for examples of behavior. For example:
- If family flexibility is important to you, you might ask:
- When do most people arrive and leave?
- What typically happens when someone has to leave work for a family issue?
- What’s the family status of the majority of this team? Single? Young parents? Etc.
- If growth is important to you, you might ask:
- What does growth typically look like here?
- How do people find new opportunities to grow?
- How did your results get rewarded last year?
It is absolutely okay to ask more questions after you have an offer—even after the “interview” portion of the job search dance is closed.
Now, you’re interviewing them.
In fact, don’t forget that at this point, the other company wants you.
You have the power.
You’re not a needy case–you’re already employed somewhere else, and even if you hate it, the other company doesn’t know that.
All they know is that they’ve already decided you have value to them–and they want you.
So ask away. Make sure you have a clear picture of what the new offer really is–and isn’t.
So you’ve answered the 3 parts of “should I take the job offer or stay?” Now what?
Now, move forward and decide.
The Latin root of the word decide means “to cut.”
Which means that a decision is literally a way to cut off other options so we can have a clear path ahead.
Don’t get caught up in waffleland, yummy as that might sound.
Here’s a secret most smart professionals don’t realize:
If you’ve done the work to get clear on what you want, and you’ve honestly evaluated the new offer as well as asked for change at your current workplace, then either decision will be right.
You’ll make the best decision for you, based on who you are and what you know right now.
Yes, you won’t make a mistake.
So dive in, do the work, and make your decision.
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