By Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist
Q: I've got a problem that I feel very lucky to have, especially in today's job market. I've been offered two good jobs, both of which have their pros and cons. I've gone over all the issues involved, and just can't decide which job I should take. But I need to make my decision fast – with so much competition for among job seekers, if I hesitate one of the employers is likely to move on to another candidate. What do I do?
A: Wow! Considering the current economy, most job seekers would love to take a problem like that off your hands. But nonetheless, it is a problem, and one you need to solve asap. If you're having trouble determining which job is right for you, here are some approaches that can hopefully make your decision a little bit easier:
Trust your gut. Your gut won't lie to you. If you have an unexplainable positive or negative feeling about one job or the other, don't ignore it. It's easy to rationalize yourself into taking a job you don't want but are supposed to like, but after a few weeks at the new position you're likely to find out your original instincts were correct.
When in doubt, get more information. Sometimes it can be hard to trust your gut, because your gut keeps changing. In these situations, it helps to come up with some questions that address your confusion, and then ask some of them in a second interview. Getting another opportunity to talk with your potential manager can help clarify how you really feel about a job.
The most important thing you can do, however, is find a way to break your internal debate. So if you're still finding it hard to make a solid decision, try the following process to lay out all your options:
In the first column, list Job A's five obvious advantages. In the second column, rate the importance of each advantage on a scale of 1 - 10. Then total all your ratings to get an overall "positives" score.
Moving to column three, now list up five negative aspects of the job. Rate each on a scale of 1-10 in the fourth column, then total it.
You should now have a breakdown of Job A that looks something like this:
Once again, list five positives and negatives for Job B, rating and totaling each one.
Your final product should look like this example:
Start with the positive factors in columns one and two. Does Job A or B have more important individual pluses? Which one has the better combination of positives? Is either job clearly more positive overall?
Conclusion: Job A has two 10s, while Job B has only one. And Job A's positive total is greater than Job B's. Looking only at the pluses, Job A is the better offer.
Now compare the negative factors and their totals. Which offer has either fewer (or less important) negatives? Does one look substantially worse than the other?
Conclusion: Once again Job A is the winner, with fewer negative issues than Job B, and a lower negative total overall.
Using this exercise as your decision-making tool, Job A outshines Job B in both positive and negative comparisons. You have solid, tangible reasons for accepting Job A. Go for it!
Tip: If there isn't a clear winner, just keep going. For each position subtract the negatives total from the positives total. Eventually the job with the larger remainder will emerge your best choice.
In our example comparison, Job A is the final winner with a positive margin of 6. Job B, on the other hand, only manages to break even, with no advantage in either the positive or negative columns. After laying out all these elements for your own situation, you can pick up that phone and say yes to Job A with confidence.
Of course it can be hard to rely on numbers alone. If you don't feel comfortable letting a calculation determine your employment future, try using a whole-brained decision-making process, combining this left-brained exercise with your right-brained "gut thinking." And if you're still stumped, it's safe to assume that the jobs are equally good, so it doesn't really matter which one you accept since you’d be happy with either one.
If this turns out to be the case, you can forget the techniques listed here. Instead, it's time to turn to a tried-and-true decision-making process, one that’s been used by wise individuals for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. It goes like this:
Either heads or tails should work out just fine.
Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.