Beyond Base Salary, Part 3: 5 Things to Consider When Evaluating a Career Opportunity

Apr 24, 2024

There are many reasons someone might consider changing jobs. Relocation, a change in life circumstances, and a desire for greater professional challenges are just a few examples. It’s extremely rare for a candidate to make a career change based solely on their salary. Of course, compensation is an important part of any job offer, but it’s only one of many aspects that can tip the scales between accepting and declining an offer.

Whether you are comfortably employed but considering a specific new opportunity that’s come your way, or you’re actively seeking a change and considering many options, here are five things to think about when evaluating a career opportunity:

1. What are your top priorities at this particular stage in your life?

No job is going to be perfect, checking every box on your “pro” list with no “cons” to consider. Depending on where you are in your life and in your career, it’s important to know what your top priorities are and what sacrifices you’re willing to make. For example, if you have a young family, it might be important that your job offers strong healthcare benefits or that the company is located in a place with great schools. In return, you might be willing to take a lower salary overall.

If you’re nearing retirement, your focus may be on a comprehensive retirement plan and the opportunity to mentor the next generation of workers, rather than prioritizing perks like Long-Term Incentive Plans. As our lives change, so do our needs and goals, so it’s important to check in with yourself every few years to ensure that your current job is still serving your goals.

2. Does the opportunity align with your long-term vision for your career?

In addition to supporting your current life stage, any job opportunity needs to serve your long-term career goals. For example, when looking at a potential job offer, you might consider whether it represents a step up in responsibility from your current role.

However, even a lateral move can be a great step forward when the company has a lot of room for growth and offers challenging work and great learning opportunities. Not every job change needs to be a promotion, but ideally, a job change should represent a strong step forward in your career path.

3. What does the economy look like now and what’s the forecast?

A strong economy doesn’t guarantee job security, and even when an economy is facing strong headwinds, it can still be a great time to make a career change. The important thing is to know what the current conditions and expectations are and, most importantly, what your potential new employer is doing to navigate whatever economic landscape you’re in.

Does the income plan represented in the job offer factor in recent inflation rates? Does the company have strong strategies in place to keep business moving forward, even if the economy dips? No one can predict every change in the market, of course, but if a company you’re interested in has a strategic vision and is willing to share it with you, you might feel more comfortable moving ahead with a job offer there.

4. How do the location and company culture align with your personal preferences?

Despite the rise in remote work possibilities, most people still live where they work. So it’s important to think about not just the company you’ll be working for, but where you’ll be living. Research real estate, nightlife, restaurants, outdoor activities, weather, and local community culture – anything that might impact how you feel about your life outside the office in your new home.

Even if a job is a great career opportunity, if it’s in a rural area and you’re passionate about big-city life, you might struggle to be content there. Likewise, if you want to live close to your extended family, you might have to think hard before accepting a great job offer two thousand miles away.

5. What other forms of income potential does the opportunity offer?

As we’ve discussed in parts 1 and 2 of our series, there are many types of income beyond base salary that might be reflected in a job offer. As with life stage and personal preference considerations, everyone will have different types of income that most appeal to them and best meet their needs. It’s important to understand what all of the income options on the table are, how they work, and whether there are any risks associated.

For example, equity plans are in high demand, but you should be cautious when approaching an offer with a heavy equity component. Just as you would when you choose a stock, research the company, the management team, their history of success, their capital structure, sponsor, exit strategy, and equity terms, and carefully evaluate whether the offer is a secure bet. Similarly, you might notice a lower base salary than you’d prefer, but when you look into their healthcare plan, you might see coverage that would add up to tens of thousands of dollars in income differential.

Considering a career change can be overwhelming, but by thinking through these five factors that can affect your long-term success and happiness in a role, you can help ensure that you’re making the best decision possible for both your short- and long-term goals.

About the Author

Justin Wilkins

Justin joined Kimmel & Associates in 2008. He currently leads the Renewable Energy & Sustainable Infrastructure Division, which includes energy transition verticals such as solar, wind, BESS, water, wastewater, waste-to-value, clean fuels, EaaS, and other related segments. Justin works with investment funds, private equity, venture capital, owner/developers, IPPs, contractors / EPC, OEMs, and O&M providers.

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