I often get asked why a person didn’t get an offer, even after what felt like a great interview. But recently, I’ve been seeing a different type of question: “I got a job offer, but it’s not the job offer I want! What should I do?” Interesting dilemma.
Although for many readers who come to this site looking for answers, any offer at all would feel great. But deciding whether or not to take an offer can be excruciating. Here are some of the ways your job offer can leave you wondering what to do.
Is it a good offer or a bad offer for ME?
While I know most of you are still caught in the waiting game and hungry for any job offer at all, for those of you in the following situations a whole new misery begins:
- Timing problems – You get an offer for a job you’re less interested in before your preferred job offer comes through. Assuming it ever does come through. So how do you handle a poorly-timed offer without leaving yourself without any job at all?
- An offer without commitment – You get an offer, but it’s not what you hoped for. Instead of coming through with the whole package, they want to try before they buy. And so maybe they suggest a consulting stint first, to see if there’s a fit. (Except when you hear this, you have the fit!)
- A different job completely – You interview for one job, but they decide you aren’t qualified for that one. Still, you made a good impression on them. And so they offer you a lower level job (at lower level salary of course.) Is it bait and switch or is it opportunity knocking?
- Salary, salary, salary – They love you and tell you how much they want you to be part of their team. But they come to you with an offer so low your eyeballs freeze up in disbelief.
- Bait and switch for real – You get the offer for the job you want. But they decide to change the scope of your responsibilities, adding some things you were not counting on doing.
- Simultaneous offers – Within a few days of each other, you get two offers. But neither of them is your dream job. How do you compare them? Which one will be best for you in the long run?
- Your boss counters – You get a good job offer. And when you tell your current boss, they start looking for a way to keep you. How do you decide whether to stay or go? Is there a point when it’s too late no matter how good the counter offer is?
Dealing with an offer in hand vs a big maybe
Of course there’s no way I can tell you what to do of it’s not the job offer you want. Or how to decide which, if any, offer to accept. Jobs are basically 2-dimensional until you are in them — and can tell if they are good or bad for real. For instance, here’s an example of what happened to one of my clients, Megan.
After a long and truly frustrating interview process, Megan found herself in the enviable position of having a solid offer in hand. But she had her eye on a different one. A dream job. And the clock was ticking for an answer to the first one.
Job number two couldn’t give her an answer in time. So she wound up having to say yes to the first one, since she couldn’t afford to be without a job much longer. Well, the twist to the story is that the job she accepted turned out to be so much better than she had imagined. And there’s no guarantee the job she dreamed of would have been anything more than that … a dream.
So often we get caught up in an idea of something. Not that I’m telling you to always settle. But there can be so many unknown factors at play when it comes to making life decisions — like accepting a job. When it comes right down to it, all you can do is make your best guess and then roll with it.
Ways of looking at a “not the job offer” offer
This is a time to put ego aside and think strategically. If it’s really a crummy job that’s one thing. But please … before deciding, think about any new skills you might learn. Connections you may make. Interesting areas of the business you might get to deal with (even tangentially).
Sometimes a job can be an interim step to a new direction you’ll enjoy more. So if the offer isn’t quite what you expected, take a deep breath and consider your entire career — and not just a moment in time.
Then again … maybe you’re absolutely sure that the offer stinks. And holds no possibilities for you to creatively carve new paths for yourself. If so, don’t be afraid to let it go if at all possible. After all, this is your career — and future.
So What Makes a Job Good?
In my post What Makes a Job Good? we examine more ways to look at a job and determine if it’s right for you. This can be just as useful when thinking about jobs to apply for or even new career paths. Take a look at the comments too. I have the smartest readers!
One more thing you might try…
In case you’re interested, a reader offered his own tips. John, after a long, drawn out interview process, was asked to come in as a consultant first and see how it worked out.
Although he was tired of being strung along (or so it felt) and wanted an offer NOW, he made a smart move and let them try before they buy. And he wound up getting an offer!
I’ve used this technique in my own career
Having done it many times myself, starting as a consultant or free-lancer can open up all kinds of possibilities. If this seems like something you’d like to try, my suggestion is don’t wait for them to bring it up.
And if they seem interested but hesitant, think about making your own offer. Propose a “try before you buy” arrangement as a way of getting your foot in the door.
Again, not saying this will always work out for you. But sometimes this can get your foot in the door — and eventually under your own desk.
Good luck with your decisions. And finding a job that’s right for you!
[Post updated 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To The Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker.
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