4 ways to handle a job offer when you weren’t looking for one

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Laura had just returned from an IT industry conference. Apparently, it had been a whirlwind event, full of informative sessions, and new contacts. Returning to the office, Laura looked forward to briefing her team on the latest tech trends. She was excited about how her new knowledge could benefit the company. But, information wasn’t the only thing she’d bring back from the conference. She’d also come home to a job offer.

As Laura prepared a small presentation of what she learned at the conference, an email notification pinged her phone. She looked down at the screen and immediately was hit with a jolt of surprise. “Hi Laura, would you interested in joining the team?” read the subject line. It was a quick, straightforward email from a new contact she’d made—and had clearly impressed—at the conference. Apparently, Tony, a contact she made at the conference was stunned by her industry knowledge and her go-getter attitude. Now, Tony was aggressively recruiting her, and he wanted her to start right away.

“He said he loved my energy,” Laura told us. “He said I would love his team immediately. It felt good to get noticed.”

The problem was, Laura loved her current company. She hadn’t been looking for a job, and she didn’t know how to handle the situation. That’s when she contacted us. “What are the best steps to take if you get a job offer when you’re not even looking?” she asked. “How do I know if it’d be a better fit than my current role? Of course, I’m intrigued by a higher income, and new opportunities, but I also don’t want to leave a company I already believe in.”

With an ever-changing economy and job market, this wasn’t the first time we’ve heard these types of questions. And, with tools like LinkedIn, where our work history is shared with the world, hiring managers are approaching people who aren’t necessarily looking for new career opportunities like never before.

Read on to discover our insights, gained from years of leadership coaching, training sessions. And comment below if you have some more tips Laura—and anyone in her position—should follow.

1. Ask, “What intrigues me about this job?”

If you’re considering leaving your current gig, something is drawing you to the new offer. Would you have a more flexible schedule? A team environment that encourages creativity? Would you get to work with a star in your field, or would your vacation days and benefits be through the roof? Think about what attracts you in the new position, and then see if you can find parallels in your current job. Don’t be afraid to put your new offer on the table and ask for some equal perks from your current role if you think you’re not ready to leave. Good managers understand there is a risk that they could lose their best employees. They understand that teams and workplaces evolve over time—and a job offer from outside might be a great catalyst to start growing your own role into your dream position at your current company.

2. Have brutally honest conversations.

Honesty is the best policy, especially when you’re trying to decide what to do next. Reach out to a career mentor or longtime colleague and share your new offer. Explain what excites and concerns you about the new role—and ask their opinion. Listen to them, because conversations with your outer circle can really help elevate your thinking. Then, if you are close with your current leader, consider sitting down with them and letting them know your thoughts. They’ll appreciate your honesty, and get a glimpse of your desire to grow. Talk about the pros and cons so your boss can understand the appeal of leaving and staying. If you decide to stay instead of go, your leader may be even more willing to work with you on formatting the perfect job with you, simply because they appreciate your decision.

3. Weigh your contributions.

Where do you think you’d make a bigger difference—at your current role, or at the new gig? It’s an important question to ask, because employees of all ages and industries report that one of their top priorities at work is making a difference. If you don’t have opportunities to really let your talents shine and create great work that wows and impresses, you won’t feel fulfilled. Long hours, difficult projects, and unforeseen obstacles are easier to handle when you know it’s all worth it in the end—because you’re making a difference people love. So follow your gut, and go wherever you think you’ll make stronger, more meaningful contributions.

4. Check your appreciation pulse.

Is the reason you’re itching to try something new because you haven’t been feeling truly appreciated at your current job—and someone new recognized your talent? If so, diagnose the problem. Is your current team simply too busy to stop and say thank you, or is recognition not a priority at any level of your organization? If it’s the former, there are steps you can take. Lead by example by thanking others when they do a good job. Reach out to HR and see whether there are appreciation initiatives you can take advantage of to spread recognition for a job well done. If you feel like the whole organization is lacking in gratitude, however, the problem runs deeper. You may want to try a new company to find a place that truly appreciates your contributions.

Laura reached back out to us a week later with her decision. “It’s funny,” she wrote. “I didn’t even realize I was struggling with many aspects of my current job until I stopped to think about it. But when I talked to my longtime leader about my offer, he was happy to negotiate. I got a little more flexibility in my schedule and some great opportunities to lead new initiatives because I was honest and upfront. Now I know I made the right decision—my manager clearly cares about me staying on the team, and I know my contributions are valued.”

Whether you decide to stay or go, here’s the bottom line: You go to work every day with the intention of doing something great. We all do. So, choose the workplace where you can make a difference, and where you’re valued and appreciated, and everything else will come.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

By david sturt and todd nordstrom
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