Choosing whether or not to accept a job offer is an important decision. Your job has a massive impact on your life and accepting the wrong offer can have some serious negative implications.
On the flip side, if you pass up on a great opportunity, you could find that you’re looking back in a few months, or even a few years, and kicking yourself for what could have been. In fact, in Daniel Pink’s recent book The Power of Regret, he characterizes “boldness” regrets as one of the largest categories of regrets. Basically, people regret if they don’t take a chance on something that would have been meaningful for them.
This article is to help you in the process of evaluating if you should take the job offer or wait for something better. It provides some helpful tips for when you should generally take a job offer vs. hold out for another opportunity.
When You Should Generally Accept a Job Offer
In my experience, you should generally take a job offer when it one or multiple of the four points below apply.
When a Job Offer Matches Most of Your Pre-defined Job Criteria
At the start of a job search, I would highly recommend spending about 15 minutes to write down specifically what you’re looking for in a job. I call this setting your job criteria.
Your job criteria should include things like:
- The salary range that you’re looking for
- The type of work that you’ll be doing
- The location of the work
- The level of the position
- The type of company culture
- The type of boss that you’ll be working for
In my experience, I’ve found that it can be exciting and emotional to get a job offer after a long interview process. Sometimes, you’re tempted to accept a job because you’re excited just to have received one.
However, having a checklist of criteria that you’re looking for can serve as an effective guardrail for your emotions after receiving an offer. It gives you a list of criteria that you developed at the start of the process, in an unemotional state, that you said was important in your job search.
Now, it’s rare that a job offer will meet all of your criteria. And you need to be realistic about what you can get based upon your experience.
But if you are realistic about what you can expect, and a job offer checks most of the boxes, in general I would say you should accept it. We unpack this further in the how to evaluate a job offer article.
When a Job Offer Takes You Down a Path That You Want to Go
At the end of the day, most of us want a great salary, with a great title, and good work-life balance. But that’s not available to all of us right away. It often takes time to get there.
So when evaluating a job offer, it’s important to consider if that particular job would serve as a stepping-stone to take you in the direction that you want to go. That may apply to you if you’re got a late start on your working life, feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job, or you’re looking to get out of a field that you’re not passionate about like customer service.
Similar to the previous recommendation, it can help to write out where you’d like to be in five and ten years to know what you’re working towards. And then you can evaluate if a job offer helps to move you in that direction.
When a Job Offer Opens Options For You
There are many of us that don’t know exactly what we want out of our career. And that’s fine.
If that’s the case for you, then a valuable job offer for you could be one that gives you flexibility and optionality down the road.
Let’s say the role isn’t perfect, but it’s at a great company that you may want to be at for a long time.
Or maybe it gets you into a career where there are a lot of interesting paths to pursue within that field.
If you’re not totally sure where you want to go, a quality offer that gives you flexibility is one to strongly consider.
When You Are in a Position of Financial Need
Ideally, when you’re searching for a job, you’re doing it while you have another job. That enables you to be patient and selective until you find the right fit.
However, that’s not always the case. And you may be looking for a job from a place of short-term financial need. If that’s your situation, you may need to take a job offer that checks less of the boxes on your job criteria than you would like.
Hopefully, whatever that position ends up being is one that you enjoy. But if it’s not, it at least enables you to stock the bleeding while continuing to look for the right long-term fit from a place of financial security.
When You Should Generally Wait for Something Better
My general recommendation for when you should wait for something better is when a job offer matches less than half of your pre-defined job criteria and when you’re in a position where you can afford to be selective.
As mentioned in the previous section, you ideally want to be searching for a job when you already have a job and you don’t need quick money. Conducting a job search from that place enables you to be selective and hold out until you find a great fit.
So, if you’re in the fortunate position of having a job that you’re ok with, you can hold out, be selective, and don’t settle on a job offer until you find something that closely matches what you’re looking for.