“Which job offer should I take?” is among the questions I get asked the most these days. While I rarely tell people exactly what to do (almost any opportunity can be a good or bad one depending on what you want to do and what you make of it), I offer questions:
- Which opportunity will allow you to grow in ways you want to grow?
- Which opportunity will allow you to avoid the things you don’t enjoy doing?
- Which opportunity has the culture and people you will most enjoy?
- Which opportunity best sets you up to do work you’ll be proud of?
- Which opportunity would make you the most jealous if your best friend took it?
- Which opportunity best supports your highest intention/purpose in life?
Let’s take a closer look at each of these…
Which opportunity will allow you to grow in ways you want to grow?
Any transition in life, whether it’s a relocation, a breakup, a job change, is about change and growth. If you’re looking for new career opportunities, it’s because you want to grow. Consider what you feel is lacking in your currentsituation, and use that to inform your next move. Are there specific skills you’re hoping to learn? More senior people you want to learn from? A change in your work environment? Different problems you want to solve?
Beyond skills, experiences, and culture, what are you curious about? What kinds of endeavors require effort and hard ware that feels like play to you?Use your next career move to feed your curiosity and gives you a chance to play.
Which opportunity will allow you to avoid the things you don’t enjoy doing?
It’s much easier to know what you don’t like doing than it is to know what you like to do. How would you know whether you like broccoli or not if you’ve never tried it? On the other hand, if you’ve tried it before, it’s easier to know whether you like it or not.
The same is true for knowing what you want to do in life. It’s easier to know what you don’t enjoy doing in your daily work life than what you do like.Make a list of the activities that deplete your energy and take care to avoid a role that requires you to do those activities, at least, on a regular basis.
Which opportunity has the culture and people you will most enjoy?
People work for bosses, not companies. Working with a great team and supportive manager can have a significant impact on your career and emotional health which ultimately affect your well-being. Moreover, you’re likely to spend more time with your coworkers than your own spouse, children, and friends. Choose carefully!
As you interview for jobs, take time to get to know the people you would potentially work with. Who are you going to look forward to seeing when you have to wake up in the morning to go to work? Do people seem happy or are they negative and stressed out? Do they laugh and have a good sense of humor or do they make inappropriate jokes? Look at the work environment. Is there delightful energy in the office or does the place feel frantic or dead?
Which opportunity best sets you up to do work you’ll be proud of?
There are few things that are more demotivating than putting in your best effort into an endeavor and feeling like you have little to show for it. Life is short — don’t waste time climbing uphill battles if you feel your best efforts are going nowhere (on the other hand, if you feel that every place has uphill battles you don’t want to or can’t fight, maybe you’re the problem).
When choosing amongst different job opportunities, consider which one will give you freedom to be creative in ways that play to your strengths.
Which opportunity would make you the most jealous if your best friend took it?
Jealousy and regret are great litmus tests because they instantly tell us what the heart wants. Imagine if one of the opportunities were taken away from you, by a friend or rival. How would you feel? If you think you would regret not acting sooner on the opportunity, your heart is telling you something.
Watch out for your ego though — if you want a job because it confers greater status or more money, that’s not going to sustain you in the long run.
Which opportunity best supports your highest intention/purpose in life?
We get the most fulfillment and satisfaction from work when we find the best intersection between what we enjoy doing and what the world needs from us. The more you understand what your life’s purpose is and what is meaningful to you, the more clear you will be about whether an opportunity serves your highest intention in life.
Amongst whatever worthwhile intentions you may have to make the world a better place, remember too that your own happiness is at stake. Your job should fit into your life in a way that allows you to live the life you want.Among the considerations described above, prioritize them against other things that matter to you (e.g. the ability to pay off your mortgage or rent, being able to exercise every day, saving for your kids’ college education, avoiding a long commute, etc).
Some final thoughts
A few closing thoughts —
Don’t decide until there is a decision that needs to be made. I’ve talked to people who fret over the question “Which job?” before they even have a job offer in hand. There is no point in spending energy on this choice until a decision actually needs to be made. Until then, as long as an opportunity seems interesting, continue to have conversations with the company. Put one foot in front of the other: take the journey one conversation at a time.
Trust your gut. Pro/con lists don’t work in this context. It’s a major life decision, and decisions that matter come from the heart. If the heart doesn’t know, it probably means you need to spend more time with the people at these companies. And if you’ve spend enough time with these people and you still don’t know the answer, it means you need to sit with yourself to understand what the heart wants.
A job is not forever, and you are not your job. This may not be the first job you have ever taken, and it probably won’t be your last. Trust your gut, but if it proves to be a bad choice, you can leave and find another job. Whether it works out or not, you will learn something from the experience. And that’s really all that you can expect.