I've changed my mind!

I’ve changed my mind!

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."

Arnold Bennett (1867 – 1931) British novelist

Sometimes job opportunities, like many opportunities in life, are like London buses. You wait and wait, beginning to wonder whether you’re at the right bus stop or if the timetable is out of date or if there’s something that you don’t know which others, going about their business with total confidence, are aware of, then all of a sudden, along come three!

So it is with job opportunities. You can be applying for tons of appropriate jobs, having interviews and conversations about them, and nothing happens for months, then all of a sudden, you seem to be in demand.

That’s kind of a relief. Oh, yes, I was going about it in all the right ways then. But then, oh dear, a decision needs to be made. Which one do I go for?

I encourage my clients quite early on in our meetings to set out their parameters for the job they are seeking. So these parameters might include salary range, location, level of responsibility, benefits. It’s easier when it’s all in black and white to make comparisons between offers, and also it’s less easy to become distracted by something glitzy. If you’ve thought in advance about what you’re really looking for, it provides a point of reference against which you can benchmark your offers and you can then make a more objective decision. This can especially be useful if the individual has been searching for the next role for a while, when they are in danger of being more easily sidetracked by something – anything – that is offered.

So, once it’s set down, it’s useful for me, as an adviser, to be able to point out that this offer falls below the salary range which the individual had defined, or is outside the accepted commuting range. It doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision or that I’m a party-pooper, nor does it mean that you have to be rigid about applying the parameters. What it does it to provide a framework for considering whether this is actually the right decision. So we might then embark upon a conversation to evaluate just what, if this job feels so right and yet it’s not what we had defined as being appropriate, has changed. Often there are valid changes, but they are better considered before the offer is accepted, not after.

Now, it’s hard enough to decide between job offers if you receive them all the same week and with similar deadlines for a decision, but it’s even harder to decide when some haven’t materialised yet. And yes, of course this happens, too.

So sometimes you can be in the position of deciding between something that’s tangible and secure and well and truly on the table, and the recruiter is dead keen and here’s an end to the job hunt for now….but that’s not the whole story because you’re also haunted by the ghost of that peachy job that’s floating on the horizon somewhere which hasn’t yet materialised but might, any day now.

And that one, of course, is more closely attuned to what you are really seeking - higher salary, greater prospects for progression, enhanced opportunities for learning, being part of a great team. Yup, all that, but it hasn’t materialised yet.

I’m not talking here about fantasy jobs; I mean that you might have had conversations, interviews, even got as far as discussing the remuneration package, but it’s not quite there, in the bag. Nothing in writing, and no date as to when that might happen. Maybe the other party needs sign off from the boss, they’re undergoing a restructuring, there’s some internal political issue which is preventing closure on this. It’s a real job, but not real enough.

What do you do then? Should I encourage my clients to hold out for the possibility of something, with varying degrees of tangibility? Often they could be waiting for a long time.

How comfortable you are with this situation partly depends on your personality. Me, I like closure and to know what I’m dealing with, so I would tend to decide, one way or the other. If I have a decision to make, I’d rather get on with it.

People who are opposite to me in personality type tend to prefer to keep options open for as long as possible, believing that the longer they do so, the more information will present itself, therefore the decision will be easier to make. With any luck, the decision will even make itself.

One way to weigh up the options is to take a look at your values. If your preference is to hold out or to stick with the first offer, what is that telling you about your values? The decision usually hinges on something that reflects a key value for you in your career strategy (even if you’ve never actually thought you had one). So, for example, getting international work experience, working for a particular organisation or boss, getting the opportunity to study for a particular qualification, yes, and even getting into this particular salary bracket, might not just be about this job, but part of the way in which you see yourself at this point in your life and therefore part of how you see your career shaping up, going forward. So it’s important.

Some people have asked me if it’s ethical to take a job you may not prefer, while you’re waiting to hear about the outcome of another, more desirable, job, knowing that if you are offered the second one you’d take it, even if you’ve only been in the present one a short while.

That is a personal decision and you can be sure it’s not going to endear you to your new organisation if you hand in your notice before the ink is dry on your employment contract. It’s not going to win you Brownie points with the HR team, your boss, or your new team. So just think about what that might mean for future work relationships, as people tend to move around quite frequently so you may come across some of these people again, in another organisation. On balance, you may think it’s worth it. On the other hand, you may not.

I’ve encountered this many times in corporate HR life and, while it’s frustrating for all concerned, to say the least, most managers can understand the notion of an offer that’s hard to refuse. It’s the difference between intellectual understanding and emotional reaction that’s the hard bit to grapple with, though, and some people don’t take it quite so philosophically.

So, if you have to have that difficult conversation, the gist of which is: ‘I know I’ve only been here three weeks, but I’m resigning’, how do you go about it?

  • Understand that it’s a bit like leaving your bride at the altar. It’s going to feel like rejection, however you explain it - a glorious future together cast to the four winds. Well, that’s the way she saw it – she wasn’t aware of a better offer lurking, remember? She thought you were committed. Emotions might run high and it’s not going to appear to make sense to the injured party, so first of all, keep calm and try to maintain respect and honesty.
  • Get clear on your values, as above. Understand why you’re doing this. Do some proper thinking. You might have been waiting for this job offer for months, but now that you have it, is it still the right thing for you? Think about what’s changed since you first went for it, and what you stand to gain as well as to lose.
  • Be consistent. Again, let your values inform you so that even a change of mind is consistent with what you’re all about. It’s then easier for you to justify your actions, both to yourself, and to others.
  • Be self-contained. Discuss the decision with someone close to you, if you need to, but don’t chat about it to anyone in the organisation, otherwise you might find yourself getting drawn into being critical in an effort to find ‘proper’ justification for your change of mind, which is unprofessional. Be clear that the decision is about you, not the organisation, and keep it there.
  • Don’t give too much detail, in the hope that people will understand why you changed your mind – it’s unlikely. Keep it simple and be as honest as you can. Admit that you wouldn’t have wanted it to be like this, but you have to be true to yourself.
  • Seriously consider a compromise, if it’s suggested, or even suggest it yourself. For example, working beyond your notice period, doing a critical piece of work. You’ll be seen as professional and adult.

If you get this far and you conclude that it’s all too unpalatable, and the current job has many advantages, anyway so you’ll stay put, then put the new offer out of your mind. Get it in perspective – it was another offer which on balance you decided to decline. It wasn’t the Holy Grail.

Maintaining your networking contacts is always a good career strategy, even (especially) with those who you didn’t quite get to work for. Concentrate on what you can drive out of the job you’re in and focus on getting results and building experience. That way you’ll be even better equipped to take a new opportunity, when it comes round again.

This article © Copyright Ad astra Career Management. Please do not reproduce this article without permission. If you wish to reproduce this article please contact us.

Recommended book

Take control of your career – practical steps to improve your working future.

John Lees
Lees McGraw Hill ISBN 0-07-710967-8 Paperback 240pp; £12.99

Take control of your career John Lees’ style is always immensely practical and jargon-free, and his aim seems to be to help people to find a career strategy that really works. No more so than in this latest book, where he bases his advice on the experiences of people who have made change in their careers and found success.

Focusing on understanding and dealing with barriers to progression, this slim and readable book is chock full of snippets of advice for what works in the real world and therefore provides a powerful focus for those serious about taking charge of their career. It’s a do-it-yourself volume, but with the added bonus of the support of hundreds of people who’ve been making decisions similar to the ones that you might be facing.

There’s a good balance of the theory of understanding the job market and the world of employment and practical exercises to help you to forge your path. With features such as ‘conduct your own career audit’, ‘renegotiate your job content’, ‘learn the art of career awareness’, it doesn’t just address the immediacy of the job search process but the whole of the career experience, so it’s an invaluable book to keep by you.

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