Casually browsing for jobs while watching TV? Stalking your best friend’s new employer? Taking informational interviews during your coffee breaks at work?
Whether you’re after that dream job, are feeling restless after two years on the job, or are keeping your interview skills sharp, job hunting has become a reflex—even when you’re happy where you are.
While most of the time this “exploration” is just that, every so often it yields itself to an offer that catches you off guard.
At this point, you might find yourself in the great but difficult predicament of deciding between a quality job offer and your current job—which you actually like.
First, recognize that you’re in a position of strength. You have two great options in front of you, and it’s your choice.
Once you’ve recognized that, here are five criteria you should be looking at to evaluate your options and make the right decision:
1. Salary and Benefits
Money is certainly not the be-all-end-all of your career, but you need to be honest with yourself about the type of lifestyle you want to sustain long-term.
Be extremely thorough in assessing all the elements of your job offer. Look beyond your base salary to compare perks like 401K matches, free meals, vacation days, and pre-tax accounts. These little things might seem insignificant, but can add up to tremendous amounts over time. (If you need some help breaking it all down, check out this handy calculator.)
The one trap I see many people fall into is leaving for a marginal improvement in salary. If you have unpaid transition time, require a physical move or longer commute, or have to work twice as hard to prove yourself, these are all costs that add up.
2. Learning and Development
Many people don’t leave their jobs because they hate them or because they want more money but rather, as seen in a recent Korn Ferry study, because of boredom.
When your day-to-day feels like “deja vu” and you’ve stopped learning anything new, it may be time for a change. For many, this means looking for a new job; however, it doesn’t have to.
An honest conversation with your manager can help you identify room for growth. For instance, one of the things I appreciated most when I worked at LinkedIn was that many employees are encouraged to think about lateral moves (such as an internal transfer) as critically as promotions. Often these lateral movements resulted in breakthrough career moments a few years later.
What’s important is for you to have a career plan, even if it changes. Where do you want to be in 10 years, and what are the skills and experiences that’ll help you get there? Once you know that, you can determine which option offers the path of least resistance to achieve those goals.
3. Room for Advancement
It’s easy to prioritize for today, but if the job doesn’t give you an opportunity to move up, you’ll be facing the same situation all too soon.
You probably know a lot about your current employer, but if you don’t, talk to people in the positions you’d like to be in two, five, and 10 years in the future.
For a new company, talk to at least three current and former employees to get a well-rounded perspective. Figure out if your manager and their manager are people who would advocate for you and champion your accomplishments.
And, take advantage of LinkedIn to observe career paths. If you see people in the same position for three years who then leave the company, that’s a red flag.
4. Purpose and Culture Fit
In order to be at your personal and professional best, you need a job you’re connected to and to be a part of a culture where you feel comfortable bringing your whole self to work.
I’ve found that cultures and values are best observed in the smallest things. The company’s dress code, email etiquette, guest policies, or noise level may seem trivial, but can often be strong indicators of whether the company culture is right for you.
The best way to evaluate this is to write or draw out your ideal work environment. From there, break it down by identifying your deal-breakers, nice-to-haves, and non-factors. Then, use this to compare and contrast your current employment situation with your offer.
5. Your Life Outside of Work
While work-life balance is a work in progress for all of us, it’s important to take a holistic view at your goals.
What else is important to you? Whether it’s health and fitness, relationships, writing, hobbies, you name it, it’s important to think about how your job fits in.
Does your current role give you enough time and space for the other areas that matter to you? If not, can you fix it, or is another job the best solution?
Once again, the devil is in the details. Don’t forget to think about commute-time, proximity to your hobbies, and the time-cost of having to prove yourself to a new group of people.
The real trick is being utterly honest with yourself. It’s easy to be persuaded by what you should do or what people expect you to do. Instead, take stock of which of the above factors matter most to you, and use that to optimize your decision. If you take your time and are intentional, you’ll make the right choice.
Have a different set of criteria? Struggling to make a similar decision? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter @samir077.
Here’s How to Compare a Great Job Offer With Your Current Job (That You Like) was originally published on The Muse.