Let’s paint the picture.

You’ve put your time in at the Big Four accounting firm, but it’s not likely you’re going to receive that next promotion to Manager (or Senior Manager or Director or Partner) anytime soon and it’s time for you to make a move.  But not just any move – you want to go to a local midsize firm where the “busy season” isn’t all year long.

Let me first say “good for you”. And then let me tell you it’s a good time to make a move. With the national unemployment rate at 3.7% (and Minnesota’s at 2.8%) you’ll likely start getting offers quickly – possibly multiple offers.  Then you have a new challenge, how do you choose?

I recently worked with a candidate who was about to leave a national firm as a Tax Manager with twelve years of experience.  When we discussed her motivations for making a move, work/life balance was high on the list.  After interviewing for less than a month, she received offers from three different firms.  Despite our earlier discussions, she ended up accepting an offer from another national firm.  The main reasons?  More money and a bigger title.

Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with taking an opportunity that offers an increased salary and a bigger role – except when your main reason for leaving the last position was you didn’t have enough family time. When it has been a while since you last interviewed for a job and offers start coming in, it is easy to get caught up in heat of the moment and make a decision you might regret.

So, how do you choose?

Here’s my advice, and this will work whether you are a CPA, a B2B Sales Executive or an Engineering/Operations professional.  Make a checklist of the job variables that are important to you; salary, benefits, career growth potential, autonomy, office environment, commute time, expected hours/workload, company culture and reputation, etc. Prioritize the top five to ten factors by what’s most important to you. You may have some that are very close (expected hours and salary, for example), but try to get a top to bottom ranking.

Once you have them ranked in order of importance, rate each one on a scale of 1-10 for your current job, with one being least favorable, and ten being great. Use graphics to make it easier to see the big picture. Like this:

So, if the example above represents your current job; you make an average salary, have solid benefits, but you’re stuck in your current position with little potential for promotion and are working crazy hours. However, you’ve got an easy commute, and enjoy a great office environment (but these are less important to you).

With this checklist of job variables that represents your preferences and priorities, you can more easily compare offers to determine what matters the most to you by simply ranking each one in order.  This exercise also helps reinforce what factors are truly important to you, and ensures you thoroughly explore them during your search and interview process.

Lastly, this tool can serve as a reality check even when you are not actively in the job market.  When an exciting opportunity comes along, you’ll be able to take a step back and confirm that a decision to make a move would be consistent with your long-term career objectives.

To your success!

                                                                                                                                                         

David Dodge, CPC, is a twenty-year veteran of the executive search and staffing industry.  He is the Founder of Headwaters Search, an executive search firm specializing in placing B2B Sales, Engineering & Operations, and Finance & Accounting Professionals in the Twin Cities.  He also serves as Director of the Talent Resource Group, a division of Peterson Whitaker & Bjork, CPAs.