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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail/Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine To Five

Should I accept an offer now only to quit for the job I really want? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I am a fiftysomething man who has held senior executive roles over the past 20 years. I was with my previous employer for 12 years when it was bought and the executive team was let go, including me. I am married with two pre-teen children. With my experience, I believed my job search would be over quickly. Was I in for a shock! I’ve been searching for a job for eight months, I have six months left on my severance package and three job offers. I need to make a decision now. But the timing is not lining up.

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Job 1: I have a written offer. Job 2: I’m trying to get a senior vice-president role at a medium-sized company, but so far the president will hire me only as a contractor. His response is to come the same day I have to give an answer about the Job 1 offer. Job 3: I’m a finalist for a senior role with a top IT firm; I want this job, but they’re not making a decision for weeks. I am struggling with the ethics of accepting a position only to resign a few weeks later to accept the job I really want. I have to take one of the jobs on the table right now in case Job 3 doesn’t materialize. What should I do?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Doug Nathanson

Chief human resources officer, Canadian Tire, Toronto

The process of finding a new job is stressful, but it is important to not it overwhelm you into making a decision you will ultimately regret.

The first opportunity doesn’t sound ideal, while the second and third opportunities seem closer to what you are looking for. Accepting a new position always involves some uncertainty, but the key to making the right decision during a job hunt is to be self-aware from the outset. Create an honest and comprehensive inventory of your strengths, requirements and aspirations. Having a realistic set of expectations and criteria against which to evaluate opportunities is critical to the decision-making process.

It is a tricky balancing act once the first job offer comes in. Invariably, people who settle for a new job when it’s clearly not right become dissatisfied quickly. You must remain level-headed – incessantly searching for the “next best thing” will cause you to pass up good opportunities. You need to weigh your opportunities using your inventory, coupled with an assessment of how probable each opportunity is.

As for taking a job and then resigning, remember that your professional integrity and reputation follow you everywhere. Job hopping (especially after a matter of weeks) and omissions from your résumé are not viewed positively. You need to prioritize, pursue the right opportunity with vigour, and make a decision you and your family can live with and then assume your new role with satisfaction and confidence.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Bill Howatt

Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.

As the old metaphor goes, “when it rains it pours.” The good news is, you are still in the driver’s seat. I see no ethical dilemmas. As long as you are transparent and honest, you can navigate your good fortune and end up employed. You have made one decision to accept either Job 1 or Job 2, and have dismissed Job 3 for now. Your second decision is that Job 2 would be your preference. The first move is how to facilitate your second decision to become your desired outcome.

I recommend that on the day you need to tell Job 1 your answer, you approach Job 2 president to obtain his decision, which is the determining factor. Get on his calendar now for a decision that morning. Tell him your situation; if he wants you, he will make you an offer. If he says he needs more time, I suggest you move on. You want to get back to work. You have eight months of evidence that the job market may not be so abundant. The goal at the end of this decision day is to have secured employment.

No matter whether you land Job 1 or Job 2, you may still be invited to interview for Job 3. There is nothing wrong with a skilled professional exploring the best possible alternatives. It is a common practice in North America for top talent to move to better opportunities.

In this case, you don’t control the timing. Job 3 interview is just that: an interview. Until you know more about the position, there is no decision other than going to the interview. Pondering what may or may not happen is not a good use of your time.

If you are offered Job 3, and accept, you can look at the pros and cons and make your final decision. If you end up taking that job, make sure you are transparent with your current employer as to how you got to that point. Stress that it’s nothing personal – it’s a business decision, though the timing was not ideal. Also ensure the Job 3 employer is aware of your situation, and that you are now in a good role and have no plans to move. Remind them that you spent 12 years with your previous company.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers

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