Surprise! How to Handle an Unexpected Job Offer

Published on ForbesWoman: Jan. 12, 2012

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Many people think that holding onto a good job in this economy is an accomplishment. So getting a job offer when you weren’t even looking? That’s a small miracle!

Well, it’s actually not—the further you progress in your career, the more people you meet and the more marketable you become to other companies. So, whether you get a call from a headhunter on LinkedIn or an offer from your old boss to work at her new company, it’s completely possible that a new job opportunity could fall in your lap unexpectedly.

A surprise offer means you need to do some serious thinking—and fast. And no matter how excited you are about the prospect or how little time you have to make a decision, the new offer shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you find yourself in this boat, here’s a run-down of what to consider before going any further.

How Long Have You Been at Your Current Job?

Even though the expectation of staying in a job for seven years is now completely passé (seriously—who came up with that rule?), tenure absolutely still matters. Depending on how long you’ve been in your current position, and how frequently you’ve moved around in your field, it might be wise to forego a new opportunity if you need to build more experience in your current role.

How Happy Are You?

Take some time to reflect on how you felt about your current job before the new offer came along. Are you generally happy? Are you challenged and learning new things? Or are you getting ready for a change in a few months anyway?

Also think about how the new job relates to your overall career plans. Is it really a good fit, or are you just tempted by the thought of something new? Think about how you’ll feel about the new opportunity a year from now—once the excitement wears off.

What Perks Will You Gain or Give Up?

Think about the perks of each gig—not just health insurance and vacation days, but the things that make your life a whole lot easier. For example, are you permitted to telecommute at your current job? Would the new office have features like day care or a cafeteria? These are the types of things we tend to forget about when we’re weighing possibilities—but they’re important factors in your overall happiness, and should be considered along with the salary and job description.

Will the New Job be Stable?

The job market is recovering, but it’s far from stable. Receiving a new job offer is an encouraging sign of a company’s performance, but look into resources like their annual report and recent press releases to get a better idea of how secure your new job would be. Also, remember that it takes time to build yourself up in a new position. If you’ve been in your current job for a while, it’s easy to look past the challenges you faced during your first months of making a name for yourself.

Is This Really the Right Time and Place?

While being pursued is nice, it’s not a reason to accept a job offer if it’s not the right one for you. Think things through as carefully as possible, and make sure you’re making a move because you want to—not because someone else wants you.

I’m also a big believer in trusting your instincts—if an opportunity feels right from all angles, it probably is. And while the new company may not give you a whole lot of time to make a decision, you will have opportunities to ask questions throughout the process. If you decide that the grass on the other side of the corporate ladder isn’t really greener, it’s completely fine to turn the offer down. After all, there might be another one just around the corner.

Which means—be prepared! Of course, you never know when a surprise offer might come your way, but there are some things you can do on a regular basis to set yourself up for success if you do want the job. Always keep your resume up-to-date, know who your references are, and have at least an idea of what types of positions you’d be open to next.

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5 Steps to Making the Right Decisions for You

Published on ForbesWoman: Feb. 22, 2012

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In a world where you can get your entire network’s opinion on everything, right down to the photos you just uploaded to Facebook, it’s hard not to seek the opinions of others when you’re poised to make a big decision. Whether you’re contemplating what career path to pursue or just debating what to wear Friday night, it’s always nice to have the approval of your friends, family, and co-workers.

But sometimes, the need for outside endorsement can become too important—even paralyzing—and can get in the way of your ability to make the best choices for you. While learning how to trust your intuition and decision-making skills isn’t always easy, it’s an important part of personal growth. So follow these tips, and learn how to feel confident in the choices you make—without requiring the stamp of approval from all of Facebook:

1. Trust Your Instincts

Often, your very first impressions reveal your true preferences. This doesn’t mean you should rush to the first conclusion that crosses your mind, but do remember that seeking too many opinions on something—whether it’s a new haircut or a new job—can confuse what you originally wanted. To avoid over-complicating a situation, it’s helpful to step back, take a deep breath, and re-focus on what you felt when you initially started the decision-making process.

2. Establish a Circle of Trust

Instead of asking everyone from your brother to the barista for advice, make it a point to refer to a small, consistent group of trusted “advisors.” Choose friends, relatives, or co-workers who know you well and who can give unbiased recommendations without pressuring you or getting overly involved. Limiting the number of people you consult will help you get the advice you’re seeking—without getting overwhelmed.

3. Take Your Time

Often, the pressure to make a decision can make you anxious to move forward before you’ve taken the time you need to really weigh your options. But in many cases, you aren’t actually expected to decide on the spot, and it’s perfectly appropriate to pause and reflect. If you’re presented with a decision that throws you for a loop—say, a surprise job offer—ask the other party for some time to consider the situation, and for a deadline for when you need to respond.

4. Ask Questions

Asking lots of additional questions is another way to buy yourself some time and gather more information while you’re making a decision. Learning more about your options can not only help you make up your mind, but it’ll also allow you to feel more at ease with your choice. Avoid questions that can be dismissed with a simple yes or no (“is this apartment complex safe?”), and instead, present ones that prompt further discussion (“what are the best and worst parts about living in this neighborhood?”).

5. Practice Makes Perfect

The more often you’re faced with making tough decisions, the more confidence you’ll have in your ability to choose the right option. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it will, slowly, become a more comfortable and efficient process. And, just like any other skill, with some practice, it can be fine-tuned into a successful formula.

For most of us, it’s not easy to feel completely confident in all of our decisions. But while it’s perfectly acceptable to seek the advice of others as you navigate complicated situations, the more you learn to trust yourself, the better your decisions will be for you.