“Job offers don’t come all at the same time the way they are supposed to,” a transitioning service member told me the other day. “It’s not like you get a chance to line them up and compare them.”
Sorry about that, man. The way job offers really happen is one of those things people forget to mention, probably because it is one more anxiety-provoking thing about your transition that will make you lose your hair and gain 10 pounds. And does anyone really want that for you? No.
The essential message we coaches and trainers and transition authors want you to hear is that not all job offers are alike. You need to compare base pay, signing bonuses, medical, dental, parking, location and the day-to-day work itself while you still can. And counteroffer. By heaven, please. We are begging you. Counteroffer!!!
To simplify the comparison between offers, we trainers show you job offers lined up in a nice little chart like they arrived in the mail on the same day. It makes the offer process seem like a straightforward math problem.
The dirty little secret is that job offers do not appear at the same time for young enlisted, junior officers, mid-career pros or senior leaders. In fact, in my time as Military.com’s Transition Master Coach, I have only met one guy who had five offers come in at once so he had to make a zippy spreadsheet to compare them all. (Nice to be him.)
More Like Whack-a-Mole
During military transition, expect your job offers to come in like a very slow whack-a-mole game. You leave the interview and know the offer is coming. You know it. You are ready. In the days to come, you are checking your email all day long and thinking: it will come sometime today … soon … eventually … maybe they forgot … maybe it is a no … it’s definitely no … I’ll never work again …
Then, POP! Out of nowhere, the offer finally appears in your email, and you must make a decision before it disappears.
This is crazy-making. The fact that the offer is not the one you were hoping for all this time is enough to make anyone feel as stable as a 6-year-old jacked up on sugar at Chuck E. Cheese.
How do you compare job offers when they don’t come at the same time? I’d coach you through it this way.
What Is Your Decision Window for the Job?
Everyone has a window in which they are ready to entertain job offers. How long of a window you have is based on your financial situation. How many months can you afford to go without an income? Financial pressure has a way of making people jump before they are ready. Even for those with less financial pressure, letting an offer pass provokes some anxiety.
What Is the Actual Job Offer?
To go through the offer thoughtfully, we have provided our own Military.com Offer Checklist so you don’t miss any consideration -- especially the ones that are not financial. The one factor I hear about most consistently from service members after they have taken the job is how much more the commute weighs on them than they thought it would. Before you say yes, drive the commute during rush hour on Monday.
How Many of Your Moles Are Whackable?
The vast majority of transitioning military do not have a job lined up when they separate or retire from the military. Instead, they have a lot of potential moles out there. If you have worked at your transition steadily, you have some opportunities coming available. Maybe you have a Salesforce fellowship in the offing, and you like their 70% placement rate. Maybe you have several interviews lined up in the coming weeks. Or you have been brought in for coffee or lunch with a director or hiring manager to talk about a specific team. Or you saw a new job listing on Monster and USAJOBS this morning that sounded exactly like you. If you have several promising things on the horizon that seem better than what is being offered, you may be able to afford to wait.
How Much Do You Need This Town?
If you really need a job in a particular place where there is not much work, you might want to make allowances for an offer not being exactly what you wanted and take it. Location sometimes requires more luck and timing than other job-offer factors.
Can You Say No to the Job Offer?
If you must say no, Lida Citron offers these recommendations about how to turn down an offer without burning bridges (or killing any moles).
Is There a Perfect Job Offer?
One of the things that makes transition so hard is that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to job offers. It isn’t because there are not jobs. There are jobs. The problem is that when you are making this decision, you are making it for a future version of yourself. It is really hard for the active-duty version of you to predict what the transitioned version of you is going to want. Analyze everything as logically as you can, consult your stakeholders, then trust your gut.
It would be so nice if job offers happened all at the same time six months before you transitioned so you could make a plan. That is not how it happens. But if you ask yourself these questions and consider the offer carefully (and consult a coach or a mentor), you can handle whatever comes your way.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com’s Transition Master Coach. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.