Life changing moments: sunrise on South Beach and this.
I was recently faced with a significant career decision: I had two great offers presented to me and was absolutely torn between them.
I truly agonized over this decision. I cried. I googled such phrases as "deciding between two offers" and "calming down anxiety" in the week or so I took to make up my mind. I made lists. I made weighted lists. I nearly landed one way until slowly, fearfully, and selfishly (more on this), I did a 180 and accepted one over the other.
Now that I've given notice at my current job and am about to set a start date for my new one, I wanted to share some of the things I've learned over the past few weeks:
Talk to the people you love. I talked several people's ears off about the decision, indulging in "what ifs," laying out arguments for both and then disputing them. I asked questions and listened and spewed more than a few rhetorical things that my family and friends could only be patient with. More than the substance of any single conversation, it was knowing that I was loved and supported that helped me to finally allow myself to see that I had always wanted one over the other. It was in talking to those I cared about that I was reminded of the much more important things in life and that my work isn't nearly all of who I am.
Allow yourself to feel. Separating the personal from the professional is a big part of our culture. Personal meaning all things emotional. The truth is, we spend more of our waking hours at the office than an home, and no one is able to truly separate the two. I was very much aware that I was reacting to a win-win situation as if it were terrible news. I felt slightly embarrassed about how agonized I felt but mostly I let myself wallow in it. I've by now realized that sometimes this is the only way I can make a decision. Perhaps this will change over time. The silver lining was that wallowing allowed me to recognize and face all of the swirling emotions I felt, to stew in them until I finally came to terms with each. It was not fun but I feel spiritually lighter having gone through this process.
Involve your significant other, for two reasons.
First, he was there when I needed him as a sounding board. He was also great about nipping my dramatic hypotheticals in the bud. Kev was the only person to have both ears talked clear off of his head. Through it all he was supportive and strategically silent; what meant most to me was that he was willing to listen when I had random thoughts about the jobs on the weekends, cooking dinner, walking Mads, at work on g-chat, etc. etc. etc.
Second, it was most important to me that the decision I made not only be the best for me professionally, but the best for our family of two (and a half), the best for whatever shape our family takes in the near future. What would it mean if I have to travel a few times a year? What would late nights look like versus my current reliable schedule? I didn't want to sign him up for anything sight unseen.
Listen. Get the salary information. Ask about healthcare. There is no such thing as too much information in this situation. Also, listen to all the advice that people are willing to give. For me this time, it was about listening to Kev when he gently nudged me to stop feeling guilty about leaving my current job. Lily and Morg were also great at being my faraway cheerleaders.
"Being selfish" isn't being selfish. I was told more than once that sometimes one has to be selfish when it comes to their career. I think this is the best way to convey an idea (perhaps by acknowledging the guilt that comes with it) that isn't about being selfish at all. The idea behind "being selfish" might better be described as being your own advocate. This means taking a step back and telling yourself that you can't please everyone, assessing as objectively as possible what each job means for your next two, even three steps, and when the time comes, asking for the salary you deserve.
Follow the obvious advice: make a list of pros and cons. This is one of the things that came up on that google search. The twist is that you assign a weight to each pro and each con (1-10 in increasing importance) and then calculate the jobs' net scores. While it was far from an end-all solution, it really helped me prioritize my career values. I learned that flexibility for growth meant a lot more to me than management experience. Forcing myself to write pros and cons out also unwittingly exposed my inner leanings: for the new job, I almost wrote "I want to do it" before wondering "how do I weigh this?" and not listing it at all.