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Considering the state of the employment market in recent years, having to pick between two jobs is a good problem to have. But choosing to stay put or jump ship can present quite a conundrum. After all, your decision will have lasting career repercussions.
Carefully consider the following questions as you weigh the pros and cons:
1. Am I taking a good job or just running away from a bad one?
Many workers who felt stuck in less-than-enjoyable jobs during the downturn are now exploring their options. Some are heading for exits the first chance they get without much reflection.
Big mistake. To make an informed decision, you need to know what appeals to you about the new opportunity—not just what you don’t like about your current company.
Take a long, hard look at your motives before you leap. If you primarily view the new job as a lifeboat that will enable you to escape the one you hold now, you might want to keep searching. In short, don’t settle. The goal should be to find a role you’re truly excited about.
2. Do I know what I’m getting myself into?
Receiving a job offer is flattering, and employers obviously accentuate the positives when they’re trying to recruit you. As such, it’s easy to form idyllic notions about the wonderful situation you’ll walk into. But do your visions of a pleasant work environment, rewarding projects and an overly appreciative supervisor dovetail with reality?
While the grass may indeed be greener on the other side, it still pays to do your homework. Hunt for as much insight as you can find on the firm’s corporate culture, financial stability and leadership. Thoroughly researching the Internet and tapping into your own network can help you understand what it’s like to work for the company or your future boss. If questions arise as you’re mulling over the offer, don’t be shy about asking the hiring manager for clarification or more information.
3. Will I be paid what I’m really worth?
Don’t make the mistake of only comparing the salary offer to what you presently earn. Your paycheck isn’t necessarily the best benchmark. You might be underpaid now and not realize it, which means you could still end up underpaid even after accepting a new position.
Research the going rate for your position, given your experience level and geographic region. Plenty of resources can help you with this, including the newly released 2013 Salary Guides from Robert Half. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is another great resource.
4. What does the total compensation package look like?
Yes, salary matters. A lot. But don’t fall into the trap of focusing solely on that one element. A better benefits package, more generous retirement savings plan and bigger bonus opportunities, for example, can boost your bottom line.
Likewise, factors such as extra vacation time, telecommuting options and a shorter commute can enhance your work-life balance. While these perks won’t necessarily fatten your wallet, they could make you a happier person.
5. Which company offers more room to grow and advance?
At the end of the day, only one person is responsible for your career: you. But it’s certainly beneficial to have an employer that supports your professional development. Options like formal mentoring programs, training, tuition reimbursement and opportunities to attend industry conferences can keep you moving forward professionally.
Ideally, you want to work for a company that is committed to helping you grow your skills while growing with their organization. Be strategic and think long-term when comparing your current company against a potential employer. Which one offers a more clearly defined career path? Pay and benefits are important, but professional development and advancement potential should also be priorities.
6. Am I letting fear drive my decision?
Just as it’s unwise to impulsively leave a job for the wrong reasons, don’t allow fear of the unfamiliar to hold you back from accepting a new one. Clinging to the comfort of the status quo is like playing not to lose.
The bottom line is that changing jobs always carries some degree of risk. But if you’ve thoroughly analyzed the situation and your gut is telling you to make a move, trust your intuition. At some point, you need to stop second-guessing yourself and embrace the new opportunity. As the sage humorist Will Rogers once said, “You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.”
Paul McDonald is senior executive director with Robert Half International, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Over the course of his nearly 30-year career with the company, he has spoken extensively on employment and management issues based on his work with thousands of companies and job seekers.