Surprise! How to Handle an Unexpected Job Offer

This post originally appeared on The Daily Muse and Forbes

Many people think that holding onto a good job in this economy is an accomplishment. So getting a job offer when you weren’t even looking? That’s a small miracle!

Well, it’s actually not—the further you progress in your career, the more people you meet and the more marketable you become to other companies. So, whether you get a call from a headhunter on LinkedIn or an offer from your old boss to work at her new company, it’s completely possible that a new job opportunity could fall in your lap unexpectedly.

A surprise offer means you need to do some serious thinking—and fast. And no matter how excited you are about the prospect or how little time you have to make a decision, the new offer shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you find yourself in this boat, here’s a run-down of what to consider before going any further.

How Long Have You Been at Your Current Job?

Even though the expectation of staying in a job for seven years is now completely passé (seriously—who came up with that rule?), tenure absolutely still matters. Depending on how long you’ve been in your current position, and how frequently you’ve moved around in your field, it might be wise to forego a new opportunity if you need to build more experience in your current role.

How Happy Are You?

Take some time to reflect on how you felt about your current job before the new offer came along. Are you generally happy? Are you challenged and learning new things? Or are you getting ready for a change in a few months anyway?

Also think about how the new job relates to your overall career plans. Is it really a good fit, or are you just tempted by the thought of something new? Think about how you’ll feel about the new opportunity a year from now—once the excitement wears off.

What Perks Will You Gain or Give Up?

Think about the perks of each gig—not just health insurance and vacation days, but the things that make your life a whole lot easier. For example, are you permitted to telecommute at your current job? Would the new office have features like day care or a cafeteria? These are the types of things we tend to forget about when we’re weighing possibilities—but they’re important factors in your overall happiness, and should be considered along with the salary and job description.

Will the New Job be Stable?

The job market is recovering, but it’s far from stable. Receiving a new job offer is an encouraging sign of a company’s performance, but look into resources like their annual report and recent press releases to get a better idea of how secure your new job would be. Also, remember that it takes time to build yourself up in a new position. If you’ve been in your current job for a while, it’s easy to look past the challenges you faced during your first months of making a name for yourself.

Is This Really the Right Time and Place?

While being pursued is nice, it’s not a reason to accept a job offer if it’s not the right one for you. Think things through as carefully as possible, and make sure you’re making a move because you want to—not because someone else wants you.

I’m also a big believer in trusting your instincts—if an opportunity feels right from all angles, it probably is. And while the new company may not give you a whole lot of time to make a decision, you will have opportunities to ask questions throughout the process. If you decide that the grass on the other side of the corporate ladder isn’t really greener, it’s completely fine to turn the offer down. After all, there might be another one just around the corner.

Which means—be prepared! Of course, you never know when a surprise offer might come your way, but there are some things you can do on a regular basis to set yourself up for success if you do want the job. Always keep your resume up-to-date, know who your references are, and have at least an idea of what types of positions you’d be open to next.

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