by Susan Whitcomb, CCMC, CCM, NCRW, CPRW

Have you ever had a client call and ask your advice about whether to take a particular job offer? As career coaches, we all know that our job is not to make decisions for clients. We can, however, help them through the decision-making process with a series of laser-like questions. It’s a matter of the client prioritizing what is most important, then evaluating whether those criteria are met.

Following are 11 categories that can translate to career satisfaction. Ask which of these categories are most important to your client, and then inquire whether the majority of responses to these category questions would be “yes.” Inquire whether there are categories that are “uncompromisable”-in other words, without a “yes” answer to the questions in that category the client would turn down the offer. If a client answers with, “I don’t know” to an important question, it may require that the client find the answer before making a decision. Here are the categories:

Functional Fit
Is the position in synch with your favorite strengths? Will it allow you to use your honed skills, acquired knowledge, and wired-from-birth talents-the ones that produce that feel-good “tingle factor” that translates to “I can’t believe they pay me to do something I love so much!” Do you get to use these talents/skills the majority of the time? For instance, if analytical tasks invigorate you, will you spend the majority of your time doing this? Or does the position also require that 50% of your time be spent doing tasks that aren’t your favorite strengths or talents, such as making verbal presentations regarding the results of your analysis. Remember, work is less taxing physically and emotionally when you’re doing something that comes easily.

Is the industry in which you work important? Some people aren’t picky about the “where” of work, as long as the “what” (functional fit) is present. If industry is important, do you have an affinity for this industry? Is it aligned with a cause or higher purpose for you? Will you enjoy working with the products or services that the industry represents?

Is compensation within industry standards? Will you make what you need to meet your financial obligations and goals? If the offer is lower than you had hoped, will you be able to go to work every day without feeling angry, cheated, or undervalued? Your financial situation may influence your decision-in other words, if you are unemployed presently how long can you afford to wait?

The industry may be a good fit, but the company may not be. To better judge this, ask these questions: Are employees treated fairly? Are team spirit and fair play evident? Does the company do what it says it will do in its policies and other communications? Are staff members viewed as the company’s greatest asset? How about company stability in terms of finances and future. Has there been a history of downsizing, mergers, or acquisitions? Do trade-journal articles or conversations with competitors or insiders reveal that the company may be in financial trouble?

Advancement, Growth and Goals
Will this position be a logical fit for your long-term plans? If this is more of a “bridge” job than a “dream” job, will it allow you to still have the time and energy you need to work on action steps toward your dream job? If this is a position toward the end of your career, will it allow you to create the legacy you want? If you’re in your early- or mid-career, is this the right stepping stone? Does the company have a policy for promoting from within? Are professional development and training programs offered? Will the company reimburse you for training completed outside the company?

Level of Responsibility
Does the opportunity offer the responsibility you’d like? Will the position give you what’s important to you, for instance, an intellectual challenge, leadership opportunities, an impressive title, clout, freedom, independence, the ability to influence change, etc.?

Do you like the people you’ll work for and with? If you prefer to be with like-minded people, will this be the case? Or, if you prefer to be surrounded by diversity and divergent opinions, will this be the case? Is the social atmosphere of the department or company in synch with what you want, such as honest communications, a sense of connectedness, trust, teamwork, interaction, autonomy, service, etc.?

Direct Supervisor
Does your immediate supervisor have a good reputation? Are employee turnover rates low? Does your supervisor-to-be appear to be committed to professional growth and development, as opposed to stuck-in-a-rut and stagnant? What, if any, “red flags” or concerns might you have about personality conflicts or your boss’ management style?

Corporate culture goes far beyond dress code. Is the ambiance and social structure in your comfort zone? Is the company’s mission statement aligned with your values? If the company expects everyone to work 60-hour workweeks, is this okay with you?

Location & Facilities
Is the company’s distance from your home acceptable? If the opportunity requires an excessive commute, is telecommuting or relocation a possibility? If no, are there measures you can put in place that will help salvage the commute time, such as taking a course that involves audiotapes? Beyond commute considerations, is the location safe? Will your work space be conducive to productivity and/or creativity? Does the company provide the equipment and support you need to do your job effectively?

Will the position enhance or complement your personal/family commitments? Will the schedule or stress-level prevent you from giving what you want to your spouse/partner, children, or other important people in your life?

There may be other factors that are important in deciding on the right position. Sometimes the question of “am I compromising or settling for less” comes into play. A preponderance of “yes” answers to the above questions will help your client sort that out. You can also use this system when comparing more than one employment offer. And, remember that in the 21st Century, saying “yes” to a job offer is not a lifetime commitment. The more important question is, is it right for now?