Make sure you read “15 Ways to Hack-a-Job” if you’re starting to think about changing jobs. Here are 107 other job posts for job seekers that will guide you step-by-step through ensuring you compare offers properly especially how to negotiate compensation. You’ll find the condensed version in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired.

All of this boils down to this most significant piece of career advice: avoid “Job-Hopping Syndrome” at all costs. This occurs whenever a candidate becomes anxious to change jobs and overvalues the start-date compensation package with little insight with respect to the actual work that needs to be done, the company culture and the hiring manager’s true leadership style. Then if the job doesn’t work out as hoped the person puts the blame on the company for not fulfilling the promise rather than on themselves for not doing the due diligence required when changing jobs.

This story from before you were born sets the stage.

At the time I had been an independent recruiter for a few years placing people in senior staff and mid-management positions mostly in manufacturing companies. In this specific situation I had a candidate tell me he was rejecting an offer from my client for a plant manager for an electronics manufacturing company for the following reasons:

  • The pay was better at the other company. It turned out it was about 6% higher.
  • The location was closer. It turned out it was a 20-minute shorter commute each way.
  • The title was better, VP Operations vs Plant Manager.

For me the worst (and very selfish) part of this was that I wouldn’t get my 30% fee since I was a contingency recruiter at the time. Even worse, I had mentally spent the money since this candidate told me two days before he would accept the offer and would be starting in a few weeks.

The news devastated me. Not knowing another offer was even a possibility was something totally unexpected and shocking.

After partially recovering my composure, I asked for more details. It turned out the company was a traditional electronics assembly plant of comparable size, but the job was more a care-taker role and not much more than a lateral move for the person. The role the candidate was rejecting was with a rapidly growing company making computer displays using the latest liquid crystal technology.

I then asked if he had already formally accepted the offer with the other company. He said no since he felt he should tell me first.

As best I remember I then said something like the following:

It seems you’re about to make a long-term strategic decision using short-term tactical information. All of the reasons you’re accepting the other offer are based on what you get on the start date, not what you’ll be doing and becoming in the job. Consider that time is your most valuable asset, what you do in the next 2-3 years will affect the next 5-10 years of your career. 

He then asked me for an explanation. This is when I asked the candidate to draw a table like the following and suggested he compare both offers based on three different time periods – the starting date, the first year and the next 2-3 years.

It took about 20 minutes to complete the table.

Based on this it was clear that my client’s job was obviously superior based on what he’d be learning and doing in the first year and the future opportunities and industry put the person on a far better career path.

While the candidate did not change his mind during the call, I knew I had at least salvaged the situation since he told me he would call the other company and say he needed more time before making a final decision.

Very early the next morning the candidate called and told me he had a sleepless night comparing both job offers but ultimately decided to accept the offer with my client.

While I kept in casual contact with the candidate over the next few months, he reached out to me about nine months after starting. He wanted to thank me. Profusely. He told me he had just been promoted to V.P. Operations over multiple plants and was now leading an effort to expand the company’s manufacturing into China.

How to make this story yours:

  • Don’t make long term strategic decisions using short-term tactical information.
  • Avoid Job-Hunting Syndrome at all costs.
  • Focus on the growth of compensation not the starting date package.
  • A bird in the hand is sometimes worth a lot less than two in the bush.