Career Center Blog

December 11, 2012

How to choose between two job offers

How to choose between two job offers

(Microsoft Free Clip Art)

A former client -- I'll call her "Catherine" -- approached me with an unusual career problem in this ongoing economic recession. She was stressed out and didn't know what to do because she had two job opportunities, but couldn't decide which to take.

Neither was her dream job, but both paid more than she currently made, and one had potential to eventually get her to her career goal of becoming a human resources manager.

Most job opportunities are not an exact fit to the dream job we picture in our heads. In this case, trying to make a choice had become overly stressful and was causing decision paralysis. The technique I suggested was a process of analysis to help Catherine fully explore her options:

1. Brainstorm. Write down all the things that matter 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'll work, bonus eligibility, benefits such as medical coverage, hours of work per week or the amount of business travel.

2. Prioritize. After brainstorming, go through the list and prioritize the items, with No. 1 being the most important.

3. Analyze. Make two columns next to your prioritized list, one for each job opportunity. Think through each item and the extent to which each opportunity will provide for/satisfy each one, writing notes in each column.

4. Review. Read what you've written. Does one opportunity meet more of your priorities than the other? If so, why?

This is not always an easy process, because choosing one job over another can require tradeoffs. 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 more 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 usually becomes clearer as to 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 provides a method for analyzing each opportunity to help 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 get 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 she discovered, sometimes short-term sacrifices are worth the long-term career payoff.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., a career-coaching and business-consulting company. Email her at

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Hi Lisa, your systematic approach makes sense - great stuff! What you pick will ultimately depend on a mix of your values and practical constraints. It's easy to quantify that by weighting each variable and then assigning a score. E.g. proximity is a 7/10 in importance but the job location is far and scores 3/10... 21 would be the proximity score.

Even after crunching all the numbers and considering all the pros and cons, your gut is a great final decision maker.

In this economy, a person may only have one choice. Take it if you must but beware any red flags you choose to ignore. If you can afford to, wait for the right fit to come along and save yourself a lot of pain.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

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Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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