So, you've been made an offer. Congratulations! If you're just out of school and facing a tough job market, chances are this will be an easy decision for you. But if you're one of the lucky ones who already has a job, or other offers, this could be a bit of a difficult task.
Learn Everything You Can
If you do have other offers, read up as much as you can on what each company is offering. It's not just about the salary. Remember, benefits can sometimes be just as important. Also look to see how big the company is and if they're well established. In short, find out if they're invested in the industry. You'll want to join a company that has proven it can stand the tests of time and economic swings.
For the best firsthand information about the workplace, ask around. When I was looking to enter the nuclear energy industry, I wanted to get some perspectives from workers in that field, and especially women. I asked my uncle who was a mechanical engineer at a site, and he put me in touch with one woman, who put me in touch with another woman, who knew of another female engineer. Pretty soon my phone was ringing off the hook! The information you can glean from current or former workers in the field is invaluable. You can ask how the work environment is, what the male to female ratio is like, how hard is it to balance a family, what the medical risks are, if any, even down to what foods to avoid at the cafeteria. Take advantage of their experience and learn as much as you can. The more investigative work you do, the easier the decision will become.
Looks at the Pros and Cons
If you have a job, this is a tough road; there are a lot of factors to weigh. Location, job security, salary, relocation assistance, benefits. But ultimately the decision comes down to you. When evaluating your current job, you need to ask yourself, "Am I happy here, can I reach my goals, and am I challenged enough in this job?" In some cases, the decision is made easier by a current job with a toxic work environment, limited upward mobility, or simply by a lack of opportunities in the field that really interests you. Other times, you just have to do the math and balance it out. This can be especially difficult if you're considering leaving your first job. You may feel like you're leaving the arms of a sheltering parent or that you owe the company something. Remember, however, that there's been a fair trade: they got work from you and you got a paycheck. In other words, you're even, so you can take guilt out of the equation.
If you do decide to take the new job, always accept the new position first, and then worry about telling your current employer! You don't want to get left in the lurch with two burned bridges and no job if something falls through.
Leave on Good Terms
Lastly, be careful not to burn bridges in other ways. This is one of those pieces of advice that's overprescribed and underutilized. It's important to go out on a good note, even if you were unhappy there. You may need to ask some employees at your old company for references someday, so don't go out cursing and badmouthing; instead, thank the company for the experience. Of course, be honest in your exit interview, but there's no reason to be rude.
Finally, good luck! The transition may be daunting, but if you've done your homework and weighed the options, you can be confident that you've made a well-informed and smart decision for both you and your career.