Having two competing job offers can be a great problem to have—two companies want you, and they’re potentially even willing to battle for you. But as awesome as it may seem to friends and family who envy your tricky position, it can still be extremely stressful. You worry about making the “wrong” choice, and your imagination might spiral as you think about the worst-case scenarios. What if you’re not happy? What if you regret your decision?
Eventually, you’re going to have to choose one or the other—or, possibly, neither. And all the advice in the world can’t guarantee you’ve made the “right” choice for you. But here are a few ways you can make the choice a bit clearer.
Analyze Both Jobs Thoroughly
It’s important to compare both jobs and figure out where the differences lie in each offer. Look at the total compensation package—base salary, paid time off, parental leave policies, any potential bonuses or expected raises, health insurance, retirement, etc.—and factor in any perks. Maybe one company offers an annual stipend for professional development or continuing education, or a free public transportation pass. Maybe the other offers a sabbatical policy that allows employees to take extra vacation time after a certain number of years of work.
Write all of this down. Then, prioritize everything, and grade it, suggests leadership expert Ashira Prossack, who consults companies on hiring and retaining Millennial and Generation Z talent. “Having a visual representation of what you’ve been ruminating over helps you focus,” she wrote in an article for Forbes. “Seeing everything laid out and ranked takes the guesswork out of the situation.”
Don’t Underestimate the People Equation
A manager can make or break the working experience. A good one will want to see you succeed not just in the role you have but in the roles you may one day be well-suited for. If the folks conducting the hiring process aren’t the people who you’ll be working with or managed by directly, ask to meet or talk with those people. Ask questions about the role you’ve been offered and what kind of future they see for the person who ends up in the job.
You could also try to get a better idea of the workplace culture by asking to meet or speak with one or two of your potential future colleagues. Meet somewhere off-site, if possible, so they’ll be more likely to be candid. Ask about upward mobility, professional growth opportunities, what they wish they knew before they started working there and, of course, whether they like it. You may not get the full picture of any negatives, especially if the company desperately needs another body and everyone else’s plates will lighten up with a new hire. Watch for red flags like that and keep them in mind as you make your final decision.
Play the Long Game
Unless you’re already close to retirement age, it’s likely this won’t be a forever job for you. Even if you do end up staying with the same company for 25 years, your role will likely evolve a dozen times or more. So it’s important to think about how each of these jobs will set you up for the future. What’s your ultimate goal? Say you’ve been offered a job as an associate at a public relations firm, and eventually you want to own your own company. You may want to choose the job that’s more likely to give you management experience later down the road.
Think about the size of each company, too. A smaller company may give you valuable experience working on higher-level projects that would be reserved for more senior staff at a bigger company. But if you’d be one-fifth of a team, that also potentially limits your opportunities to advance without applying for another job at yet another company.
Negotiate for the Dream Offer
Put your offers side by side and identify the holes in each. If you could pick all the best things from both packages and create your own dream offer, what would it look like? And what would the salary be? Circle all those things or put them onto a new list. You may be able to bring that back to the hiring manager and negotiate.
Make a strong case for yourself that justifies why you deserve what you’re asking for, writes Deepak Malhotra, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Negotiating the Impossible. “It’s not enough for them to like you. They also have to believe you’re worth the offer you want,” he wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review. “Keep in mind the inherent tension between being likable and explaining why you deserve more: Suggesting that you’re especially valuable can make you sound arrogant if you haven’t thought through how to best communicate the message.”
Give Your Gut the Final Word
If all else fails, flip a coin. Seriously.
No, we’re not suggesting you leave your future up to luck. This is an exercise to help you better check in with your gut and make a more emotionally-informed decision. Say you flip and you get Job A. How do you feel? Are you disappointed? Relieved? Happy? Whatever that emotion is, seize it and analyze it more deeply. You might just find that flipping for the wrong job tells you everything you need to know.