Lydia greeted Alex with a concerned look, the hum of the coffee shop blending with the gravity of their conversation. Lydia, once his boss and now a mentor figure, was someone who could help him figure out how to make important career decisions.

Alex reached out to Lydia and asked if they could meet to discuss a job offer that he just received. As they sat down, Lydia asked Alex if he had seen this recent Wall Street Journal article. She described it as a piece on employee dissatisfaction reaching an all-time high, highlighting a disheartening reality across the global workforce. She knew that Alex was a rising star, but taking what appeared to be a great offer on the surface might be more glitz than substance when viewed from different angles.

To get right to the point she handed him a career decision matrix her company was using to prepare job offers. She said reviewing the factors might be helpful as Alex evaluated his current offer. She described the tool as a way to ensure job candidates had a complete picture of a job to ensure they didn’t wind up being in the disengaged majority.

She began with the first factor: The Job Offer. “It’s not just about salary, title, or location,” Lydia explained. “It’s about the alignment with your personal goals and values. Are the prestige and the benefits enough to sustain you if other aspects are lacking? Sometimes candidates get blinded by the size of the offer package, rather than the size of the job. So let’s keep this in mind as we review the other factors listed.”

Then, she moved to the second factor: Manager & Teams. “This to me could be the most important factor of them all. You’ve read about Blanchard’s situational leadership model, right? It’s about how leaders must adapt to the development level of their team members. The manager and team you choose should offer not just guidance, but also the autonomy to develop your skills. Google’s Project Oxygen underscores this, revealing that one of the key traits of effective managers is being a good coach, empowering teams rather than micromanaging them. If there’s not a good fit with your manager don’t take the job under any circumstances.”

“The third factor is The Work Itself. ” Lydia continued. “This is the essence of what you’ll do every day. Does the work challenge you? Does it align with what Stephen Covey says about beginning with the end in mind? Are your tasks and projects meaningful and leading you to your ultimate professional goals? Think about the best job you ever had, maybe it was the one when you worked in my group? You were motivated to excel without any direction because you enjoyed the work. Do you know enough about the job to conclude it will offer the same type of intrinsic motivation? If not, don’t take the job or make sure you learn more about it first. You might want to ask the hiring manager to describe some of the projects you’re likely to be assigned. This will help you rank this factor. If it’s not a 4 or 5 I’d be concerned, since this is what will drive your day-to-day satisfaction. And as the WSJ article points out, this is the key to engagement.”

She tapped on the fourth, The Company. “A company’s mission, its values, and culture are not just buzzwords. They’re the soul of your everyday work environment. They should resonate with you on a personal level. In fact, I’d say a good proxy for the company culture is the quality of the hiring manager’s leadership style, the pace and intensity of the department and how major and minor decisions are made. If these don’t align with how you think, feel and act, it will be a big source of dissatisfaction.”

Lydia spoke with passion as she described the fifth element, The Future. “Opportunities for learning and growth are non-negotiable. It’s not just about climbing the ladder; it’s about expanding your capabilities and finding new horizons to explore. This is where the hiring manager is so important. Remember when you worked in our group we pushed you and a bunch of others as fast as you wanted to be pushed and we assigned you projects that tapped into your technical and team strengths. Make sure you have the same opportunity at your new company. If not, we’ll be having this same conversation a year from now.”

Finally, the sixth factor, Work/Life Rebalance. “Your job isn’t your whole life. Gallup’s Q12 metric evaluates how well a job supports your well-being. It’s about having the flexibility to maintain a healthy balance. Make sure you talk with some people you’ll be working with closely at the new company to understand this aspect of work. Be concerned if the company didn’t proactively introduce you to these people without you having to ask. In my opinion this is a key factor when a candidate decides about accepting an offer. As you know we go out of our way to introduce our job candidates to people they’ll likely be working with once on-the-job.”

“Project Aristotle by Google further discovered that the best teams thrive on trust, structure, and clarity; meaning, the impact of your work; and the belief that what you do matters. It’s not just about being on a team but being part of a high-functioning one where you can rely on each other, challenge one another, and grow together. That’s why meeting other people who will be your peers, including those in other departments is so important. But again, this is where the hiring manager becomes so important. Ask yourself if that person can become a mentor and coach, and if not, I’d urge caution despite the size of the compensation package.”

Lydia’s advice was clear. “Don’t make a long-term career decision using short-term data. As long as the compensation is competitive, the other factors will be more important to where you’ll be the happiest, the most engaged, and where you’ll also be the most successful.”