Not Every Job Offer Is a Good Job Offer

It took a while to get a job offer in this tough market, but should you take it? Maybe not.

Well, it took a while in this difficult market, but your job search finally led to some interviews. And, surprise, one of them actually led to a job offer. But, should you take it? Maybe not, even if it is for more money. Just as investing in the stock market requires you to know when to sell, as well as when to buy, managing your career means knowing which offers to say yes to, and which to pass on.

With any offer, you should carefully evaluate whether it will serve as a steppingstone on your career path. If you view an offer as nothing more than an "escape route" out of your current job, then you should seriously consider passing on it. Ask yourself this: Does the new job take you in the direction you want to be going? If youre looking to get into management, for example, does the new position offer you more responsibilities than your current job? If your goal is more advanced technology exposure, will the new job offer it?

Do you want to move to security? Or to applications development? Or to networking? Finding opportunities to change disciplines like these can be very difficult.

If you consider the new job to be perfect, it is entirely likely that it is very similar to your current job (but with more pay). Look back at your work history. Have you been doing essentially the same work over the years, even though youve changed jobs a few times? If so, give thought to how you evaluated each of those successive job offers, and why you took them.

With any job offer you should be asking yourself a few things: What makes it better than my current job? Will I have an opportunity to learn? (Or, are you being hired so that others can learn from you?) What is the new employers perspective on IT and the IT staff? What is its track record on investment in technology and training?

And dont forget that, when you consider a new job offer, it is one of the few times you get to pick your boss. Are you looking for a mentor? A coach? Someone heavily involved, or someone who doesnt want be bothered and expects you to fend for yourself while s/he is off doing other things?

Will the new job give you more or less interaction with management and/or users? And is that what you want? Maybe youre entirely happy being a maintenance programmer and are not keen about the new responsibilities your current employer is trying to foist upon you.

Of course, answering these questions forces you to give some thought to your overall career goals. It makes you think about where you believe youd like to be in five, 10 or 15 years. Thats not so easy, especially in IT. Many of todays IT jobs didnt exist 10 or 15 years ago. And some of ITs future career paths may not exist today.

Ive found that trying to figure out what you want to do is a lot tougher than figuring out what you do not want to do.

Whatever your path, make sure that everyone knows youre on it. Your resume and cover letter should reflect it, and you should articulate it to the recruiters you work with. If you post your resume on job sites, take care to clearly indicate your direction in the goal/objective field (if available). No one has more responsibility for your career than you do.

Brian D. Jaffe is an IT director in New York, an eWEEK contributing editor and co-author of the "IT Managers Handbook: Getting Your New Job Done." He can be reached at