About this time ten years ago, I moved into the Hyde Park neighborhood just north of the University of Texas at Austin, where I lived, worked, and played for the next several years. My home, on the 4200 block of Avenue B, was also home to four others that year, five the next.
My roommates and I, all of whom were working as campus ministers at UT Austin, have lived a lifetime since then. Not one of us lives in Hyde Park anymore. Several of us no longer live in Austin. And I don’t even live in Texas. Five of the former Avenue B roommates, including me, are now married. And, among the six of us, we have fathered nine children. Eight graduate degrees—including five MBAs—have been conferred on us.
Our workaday lives have changed, too. None of us have the same jobs we had in 2011. Since then, we’ve started companies, worked in Big Tech, and brokered multistate beef transactions. I’ve had four different jobs since 2011, by choice, and that includes a three-year hiatus during law school. Point being? My roommates and I have thought about, and waded through, a lot of change—including changes in the places and roles in which we have worked. We have, in other words, prayed through, and processed, whether to say yes to a new job offer on more than one occasion.
While I suppose it’d be easier to give you a set of imperatives—“do X, don’t do Y”—the best way to decide whether to say yes to the job offer in front of you lies, as is so often the case, on the other side of more questions. Below you’ll find the questions and categories that have proven most helpful to my friends and me as we’ve considered whether to say yes time and again over the last ten years.
A Threshold Question
If you’re married, or moving in that direction, then there’s a threshold question to “rule them all,” not unlike the Ruling Ring in Tolkien’s universe. Answer the threshold question, and you’ll be well on your way to determining whether to say yes to the job offer. The threshold question, or questions, go something like this: What will saying Yes to the job offer do to my current, or future, family dynamic? Will it affect my work/life balance? If so, how? Is my spouse or significant other on board? Why or why not?
Asking questions like these may come naturally to you. But if you’re anything like me, they don’t. As is so often true in my life, my tendency is to focus on me, myself, and I. The incurvatus in se at the center of my being gets the best of me. Too often, my family’s concerns take a back seat so I can step into the driver’s seat and announce what’s best for Numero Uno. And this seems all the truer when a job offer is on the table. Over the years, I’ve discovered that one of the best ways to combat the centripetal force at the center of my being is to work my way through this set of threshold questions. Questions like these go a long way toward fighting off your inner egoist—and your spouse or significant other will appreciate it too.
If you’ve answered the threshold questions and still think you could say yes, then consider the following questions next. Unlike the threshold questions, feel free to consider these in any order.
If you’ve decided that the new gig will work with your current or future family dynamic, you still need to figure out whether the new job comports with who you are. Put simply, consider whether the job on the table really is for you. The answer to these questions resides on the other side of questions like Is this new gig a good fit? Does this job comport with who I am? Is this job really for me, or not? Am I made, or wired, for this, or is someone else better suited for it? Would saying yes require me to be, or become, someone I’m not?
As a husband and the father of two young girls living on a state law clerk’s salary, I’d love to tell you that investment banking is next for me. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, and daydreams, I know myself well enough to know investment banking and I have about as much in common as oil and water. Investment banking just wouldn’t be a good fit for me (although it might be for you). Before you say yes, in other words, make sure you know whether the offer “fits.” If you’re an Enneagram Seven, for example, you’d better think twice before you accept a job that’ll require you to do independent desk work in a cubicle.
As an aside, make sure and consider the “fit-ness” of the offer from 50,000 feet up. The “fit-ness” questions I’ve included here aren’t really meant to help you identify your individual skills, abilities, and limitations—although knowing those is helpful. Instead, these questions are meant to assist you as you evaluate your overall “fit-ness” for the job.
Next, it’s time to interrogate the offer. Crank up the metaphorical bright lights, as it were, and see whether the offer before you can answer two big questions. The first question is, Does the new job have intrinsic value? When you think about doing job X, in other words, do you find yourself saying, rather proudly, “I do X, and that’s inherently valuable because of Y and Z”? If so, you’re probably onto something. But there’s more.
My friend Nelson, an entrepreneur, says that we should always aim to be doing the kind of work that has both intrinsic and extrinsic value. To paraphrase Nelson, in an ideal situation, you should only seriously consider saying yes to a job offer if it’s valuable not only now but also later.
To figure this out, ask, Does the new job have instrumental value? Will it pay “dividends” tomorrow? Will I acquire transferable skills? Will the new job form me, over the long haul, into the kind of person or worker who is better prepared for the next opportunity? Will I be better equipped to bless my neighbors? If this still isn’t clicking, just ask yourself whether the new job will give you opportunities to develop skills, relationships, and networks that will serve you and your community well, not only today but also a week, a month, or a year from now. If so, go for it.
Fourth and finally, saying yes to a new job ordinarily means saying goodbye to another. So before you accept the new job offer, pause and consider the repercussions your leaving will have on the place you’ll leave behind. If you’re like me, you’re probably standing on someone else’s shoulders. Don’t forget them.
This is a humbling exercise that takes shape as you ask, How will leaving affect my current employer? Will leaving make it harder, or next to impossible, for my current employer to succeed? If so, how? What kind of a gap will my leaving create? If leaving an old job behind means crippling your current employer, or throwing a wrench in their processes, consider delaying your exit, especially if saying yes to the new offer can wait. You may not have an affirmative duty to press pause, but you should consider it. Doing so may prove to be the best way to honor your current employer even as you prepare to leave.
As you contemplate whether to say yes to the offer on the table before you, I hope you’ll pause long enough to take up each set of the aforementioned questions. Mull them over. Discuss them with those who know you best. Make lists. Analyze. Evaluate. Pray.
And then . . . decide.