by Lisa Quast
A former client “Catherine” approached me with an unusual career situation. Her problem? She was stressed out and didn’t know what to do because she had two job offers, but couldn’t decide which to take. Neither was her dream job, but both paid more than she currently made, and one could lead to a human resources manager position – her career goal.
Most job opportunities are not quite the dream job we want. In Catherine’s case, trying to make a choice had become overly stressful and was causing decision paralysis. I suggested Catherine use this process of analysis to help her fully explore her options.
Brainstorm. Write down everything that matters most when it comes to your job or career. This list might include promotion opportunities, salary, commission structure, company culture, type of work, control over the projects on which you will work, bonus eligibility, benefits such as medical coverage, hours of work per week, or the amount of business travel.
Prioritize. After brainstorming, read through the list and prioritize the items from most important to least.
Analyze. Make two columns next to your prioritized list, one for each job opportunity. Think through each item and how well each job will provide for/satisfy each priority, writing notes in both columns.
Review. Go over your notes and ask yourself if one opportunity meets more of your priorities than the other? If so, why?
This isn’t always an easy process. Choosing one job over another often requires trade-offs. In Catherine’s situation, one job had nothing to do with human resources, but was much closer to her home and paid more. The other job was in line with her career goal and could lead to future promotion opportunities, but it had a longer commute, a lower salary, and fewer medical benefits.
While working through this exercise, it eventually becomes clear which job opportunity is the better fit given your career goals, needs, and wants. While this won’t completely alleviate the risk of moving into a new job, it does help you to make the most informed decision possible.
Catherine decided to take the job that would get her closer to her career goal of becoming an HR manager. Even though she would need to drive a little farther to work and initially wouldn’t make as much money, these were sacrifices she was willing to make for the chance to work in HR. As Catherine discovered, sometimes, short-term sacrifices are worth the long-term career payoff.
Another client, “Kristin,” went through this analysis process, but at the end, she still couldn’t choose between her two job opportunities. Kristin’s problem? She had analysis paralysis. She kept on conducting more and more analysis to compare the two jobs, but just couldn’t make a decision.
That’s when I suggested we toss a coin. I pulled one out and asked Kristin to choose one job as “heads” and the other job as “tails.” She looked at me like I was crazy, but I tossed the coin and let it fall to the ground. Kristin rushed over to it and looked disappointed when she examined the coin. “Oh, I guess I was hoping it would land on the other side,” she said, and then handed me the coin.
“Then the other job is the opportunity you actually want,” I told her. I had to laugh because she looked at me again like I was crazy. “It might not be a very conventional way to make this decision, but it can be a helpful way to uncover your true feelings between two opportunities,” I explained.
“If you find yourself hoping for one of the two options or if you’re not happy with the outcome, then you’ve just discovered the job you really want,” I added. “When the coin landed and you saw that it was heads, you were disappointed because you hoped it would land tails up. That means, in your heart, you’re actually more excited about the other job opportunity.”
Kristin shook her head in disbelief. “I just can’t believe it worked. As soon as you flipped the coin in the air I was hoping it would land tails up. I guess, deep down, I really did know which of the two jobs I wanted.”
Sometimes we tend to make things more complicated than they should be. Flipping a coin is simple, and it removes the brain from the equation and lets the heart show which opportunity is of most interest.
Lisa Quast is the author of Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach: A Foolproof Guide to Getting the Job You Want. Every Time.