It sounds like every job hunter’s dream: not only are you offered one job, but you’re offered multiple jobs—at the same time! But this dream can be a nightmare if you can’t decide which one is right for you and are paralyzed at the thought of missing out on something great if you choose wrong.
Evaluate what’s most important to you. This sounds easy until you actually try to do it. Too many people tell themselves that short work hours or a job within walking distance is their top priority, when really it’s something entirely different. Is it the position itself? Meaning, have you always dreamt of being an editor, and the position has finally been offered? Or maybe it’s important to you to be home by 5 p.m. every night so you can spend time with your family. Perhaps money is what drives you or the cache that comes with working for a certain company. Be brutally honest with yourself, even if your answer isn’t something you want to broadcast to others.
Thoroughly investigate the whole package. You need to be able to compare apples to apples. This means that you need to have full knowledge of your complete employment package: benefits, vacation time, sick leave, education reimbursements, etc. Just because they both offer health insurance doesn’t mean that it’s equal. One may have a significantly higher deductible or not include your chronically sick child’s specialist in its list of doctors. Also, if you’re torn between a job one mile away from home and one 30 minutes away—but are leaning toward the more distant job because it pays better—take some time to figure out the true cost. How much more would you spend on gas? On wear and tear to your car? Would you have to pay more in childcare because you’ll need babysitters longer? Go apples to apples in everything.
Make sure you understand the job itself. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting into until you begin working for a company, but there are ways to get a fairly complete picture. Make sure you know things like whether travel is involved. If it’s not involved right now, is there a chance that could change in the future? What is the path to promotion? How does the company feel about promotion from within? What is the culture of the company? Is it family-friendly, or do they pressure employees to work 12-hour days? The best way to find out about things like this—which typically aren’t in the employee manual—is to talk to others who work there. Ask your interviewer if you can speak to a few potential co-workers. If the answer is “no,” they may have something to hide.
Listen to your spouse. Sure, you’re the one who has to do the job every day, but your spouse’s opinion should count for a lot. If you’re thinking about accepting the position with a long commute, your spouse may object (and rightfully so) to the prospect of being responsible for childcare from morning ‘til night while you’re on the road. Or he may lobby for you to accept the highest paying offer because it could lead to you both being able to retire early and travel. It’s still your decision, but realize that if your spouse has valid concerns that you’re not listening to, you could be setting them up for resentment down the road and yourself up for a tense family dynamic.
Go after what you want. You’re probably not deciding between two or three absolutely perfect jobs. You’re probably deciding between “perfect except for…” jobs. There’s usually at least one detail that you wish were different, and when you have the security and freedom of multiple job offers in your lap, you may feel braver about negotiating for something better. If you’re drawn to the job “perfect except for” too little vacation time, ask for an extra week or two. If you’re drawn to the job “perfect except for” the salary, which you’d like to be about $5,000 higher, ask if the starting pay is flexible. The worst they can say is no, and that won’t hurt as badly if you have other options.
Maintain a solid relationship with the companies that you turn down. Always be professional, even when turning down a position. Thank them for their time and interest in you, compliment the company and your interviewer, and tell them that you would love to work for them at some point in the future. The work world can be unsteady, and you could come knocking on their door again sooner than you think; you want that door to remain ajar just in case.
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