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Hit The Ground Running

Ask Yourself These 8 Questions Before Accepting That Job Offer

It can be hard to translate a gut instinct into dependable career advice.

Ask Yourself These 8 Questions Before Accepting That Job Offer
[Photo: racorn via Shutterstock]

Say you're interviewing for a job or just finished the process and are waiting by the phone. Maybe you've even got an offer and are deciding whether to take it. Those decisions are rarely easy to make, but these eight questions can help you weigh the pros and cons in order to find out whether you're leaning toward "yes" for the right reasons.

1. Do You Want To Do The Job Or Just To Have Done The Job?

It's far better to be excited about actually doing the job you've been offered than about the idea of having done it. Do you picture yourself diving in and writing new marketing copy with aplomb, or does that idea make you a little queasy? What about attending the sales summit next month? It's a good sign if the idea of those things energize you, since it shows that your interests are aligned to the day-to-day reality of the position.

If, on the other hand, you catch yourself saying theoretical things like, "It would be nice to get startup experience under my belt," or, "This role could be helpful to my career in the future," pause for a second.

Depending on the role, some companies will give you some form of assessment as part of the recruitment process. If they don't, consider offering to do a sample project in order to get you up close and personal to the work, beyond just talking about it in the abstract while you interview.

2. What Questions Are You Asking Your Friends And Advisers?

Sometimes, you get a job offer and hem and haw about it. You tap your friends to ask them what they think. Take a minute to evaluate what those conversations are centering on the most. We don't usually crowdsource decisions that we feel very confident about. The aspects of the role that you're worrying about with your friends are likely the very things that will chafe if you take the job.

3. Will You Be Great At The Work Day-To-Day Or Passionate About Learning To Be?

When you interview for a job, there's a lot of ground to cover: your experience, your career ambitions, your working style and personality, where the company is going, the culture, the team you'd be working on, the boss you'd be working under, and so on. Sometimes that doesn't leave quite enough time to talk properly about the daily responsibilities of the job.

So ask for details about long-term projects as well as the more routine stuff. Reflect on whether all those key duties are things you're either already cut out to do well, or are motivated to learn how to do if not.

4. What Will You Learn?

A good rule of thumb is not to take a job that doesn't offer you an opportunity to learn anything. And an even better one is not to take a job that doesn't let you learn anything that you're actually excited to learn. It doesn't hurt to ask the hiring manager directly, "What kinds of things should someone be passionate about to be a strong fit for this role?" See how their answers match up with your interests.

5. How Does It Feel To Talk About Your Current Job In The Past Tense?

Practice saying out loud, "I used to do X at Y," X being your current job and Y your current employer. Next, practice saying out loud, "I now do A for B." How does it feel? About the same? Better? Significantly better? If you experience a strong emotional reaction to the shift, pay close attention. Only you can know whether any hesitation you feel is normal transition jitters or something more fundamental.

6. What Would It Take To Feel Three Times More Comfortable Taking The Job?

Think big: What other elements, if they were in place, would make you feel not just comfortable but excited to say yes? Virtually every job offer we're ever asked to consider will fall short of some of our ideals even if they exceed others. So reflect hard on what those other components might be.

Now go ahead and ask for them! The worst that can happen is you'll hear no, leaving the original terms still on the table.

7. Are You More Driven By Fear Or Desire?

We don't typically make the best decisions when we're afraid. Maybe you're looking for a new job because your current employer is going through some restructuring and you think your position may be at risk. Maybe you're feeling desperate. It's okay to make choices based on fundamental needs, like securing a steady income, but you first have to test whether that's something you're more worried about than you need to be in reality. Check out Lou Adler's Job Seeker's Decision Grid to tell if you're headed more toward a job-hopping situation (and the risks that may come with it) or a true career move.

8. Do The Things That Mattered At The Beginning Of The Job Search Still Matter At The End Of It?

Once you have an offer in hand, it's time to review your most recent career reflection. Perhaps you listed what you disliked about your existing job and what you were looking for in your next role. Have a close look at them again, then take a step back. Now that you have this new option, which of those priorities still matter the most to you?

I once started a career search by making a really long list of key goals and told myself that if I got 80% of them, that would be good enough. In theory, it was a good model. But what I neglected was that a few items in the missing 20% were actually really important to me—more so than parts of the 80% that I had secured. Whatever determination you end up making, it always pays to revisit your earliest assumptions.

As a pal of mine who's a career coach is fond of saying, "Remember—your gut doesn't speak English." With these tips, you can help translate what your gut instinct is telling you, then make an informed decision based on that message.

Erica Seidel is the founder of The Connective Good, an executive recruiting practice focusing on the marketing technology ecosystem.

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