Picture this: You spend months looking for a new job with no luck at all. Then, almost miraculously, you finally get a decent offer, accept it, and start the new job. A month or two later, one of the other employers you interviewed with contacts you. They want to make you an offer.
It turns out to be a good offer for a job you really want. Now you have a problem – a problem plenty of us would love to have – but a problem nonetheless. Do you stay with the employer who took you in out of the cold, or pitch it for the better offer?
At first glance, the temptation is to follow the opportunity and take the better job, but sometimes the wiser course of action is to stay put.
How do you make this important decision?
Reasons to Consider Quitting Your New Job
- This is your dream job, and opportunity is knocking. While spending a year or two with the first employer may seem like the right thing to do, you can never know when a chance like this latest offer will come along again. And if your job search took months, you’re not going to want to go through that process again anytime soon. Taking the best job now may simplify your life down the road.
- The first job was a compromise; you took it because you had nowhere else to go. When you’re unemployed for a while, or face layoffs, you sometimes have no choice but to take the first offer that comes along – even if it’s beneath your abilities and earning power. The job may have been a port in the storm and was never meant to be permanent.
- The first job has turned out to be a disappointment. I can usually figure out if a job isn’t going to work for me within two weeks, and I suspect most people can as well. Companies have a culture, even a personality, that doesn’t often change with time. Either you fit in well or you don’t. I’ve had jobs I was determined to stick with, just to see if they would get better – but they never did. In such a situation, it’s usually best to leave rather than stay and be miserable.
- The new job is a quantum leap in income and responsibility. If the new job offers a more senior position and substantially higher pay (say, 15% to 20% or more), making the change is a no-brainer. As long as you have no reservations about the position, take the chance to advance your career and add money to your wallet.
- The money isn’t huge, but it’s something. We all have obligations – a family that depends on us, or maybe a looming pile of bills. If you’ve been through a period of unemployment, you may be looking at a debt overhang that needs to be whittled down as soon as possible. Every extra dollar counts. Even if the new job increases your salary by just 10% or less, and the position doesn’t involve a promotion, it is likely still worth jumping ship to ease the financial burden.
- The new job will give you a better quality of life. Will the new position allow you to spend significantly more time with your family and friends? Will you be able to devote more attention to your hobbies? If the new job provides a better lifestyle in addition to a quality career move, it could be the right move for you.
Reasons to Consider Staying at the New Job
The reasons for keeping the first job may not be as obvious, but they’re just as real.
- Quick jumps can make you look unstable. In some fields, job-hopping isn’t an issue. In others, it can be a career killer. Much will depend on your employment history. If you’ve had long-term stays at the large majority of your positions, one short-term position probably won’t hurt you. But if you’ve held several jobs in just the past five years – as a lot of people have these days – it could hamper your future prospects. And don’t forget that employers can easily find out who you’ve worked for even if you don’t disclose it with a simple background check!
- The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The new job offers a promotion and more pay – of course you want that! But it may also mean more hours and stress (i.e. stable salary jobs vs high-paying commission jobs). If your primary focus these days is your family and life outside of work, the less stressful position may be the better fit – even though it’s not your dream job.
- The employer took an excessively long time to make the offer. While recognizing that not everything happens at the speed we want it to, and that there may be issues we’re not aware of, an offer that takes months to come through could be a warning sign. Unless the second employer told you that an offer could take months, a serious delay could also be an indication of other problems:
- The employer may have financial troubles.
- Disorganization and indecision may be part of the employer’s operational style, which can have serious implications once you’re on board.
- You may not be their first choice. Someone else may have been hired and perhaps fired during that long wait – revealing potential clues to your tenure.
- You will have blown your chances with the first employer. If you pass on the offer from the second employer to stay with the first, the potential for employment with the second company may be an option in the future. However, if you make the jump to the second company, the first will not be interested in taking you back. If you’re in a field with a limited number of employers, this may be a risk that isn’t worth taking.
If you’ve been actively searching for a job for a long time, you have undoubtedly approached dozens, maybe hundreds, of employers. Each represents a different opportunity and usually different pay levels. It would be great if they could all submit bids for your services on the same day, allowing you to make the pick, but that isn’t how things tend to work.
So what do you do if you accept a job and a better offer comes along shortly afterward? Have you ever been in that position before? What would you advise someone facing a similar situation?