At some point in your life you may have several competing offers for your next job opportunity. It’s a great position to be in, but it can also feel overwhelming when you’re in it. I approach most situations in business and life from an optimization standpoint. Given all the options, which one gives me the best result for the greatest number of issues that I care about? Negotiating multiple offers goes beyond which has the highest salary. These are the three most important strategies I use to break down big decisions and determine my best choice.
Start with self-awareness
Self-awareness is an emotional foundation that’s worth taking the time to cultivate and maintain. It’s one of the four components of emotional intelligence, which is a crucial skill for effective leadership. When you’re considering a job offer, it’s important to have a sense for what your priorities are and where they’ve come from.
Earlier in my career, I was recruited to work in the international division of a luxury retailer. I had a specific skill set that they were interested in. The offered me a promotion, a big raise and the chance to live a glamorous jet setting life — or so I thought. I ignored every red flag during my interview process because the job sounded so good on paper. I was flattered that they had reached out to me. “Jobs are like men,” I cavalierly told my girlfriends. “You want to be pursued.” Oof. In hindsight it’s easy to see how many issues there are with that statement, on many levels. I wish I could have taken a step back to recognize that I took the job because it looked good. The reality was that I was bored with the very skill set they recruited me for and had no interest doing the actual work. I lasted six months before I left to go elsewhere.
Lay out your big picture goals
The first thing I do with my clients is ask them to think through their personal and professional goals for one year, two years and five years down the road. They don’t need to be set in stone, but it’s worth starting out by thinking big. What’s coming down the road for you? Is it grad school, paying off debt, saving for a home, caring for family? Wherever you are in your career, your personal life moves along at the same time. Perhaps you get the chance to move to an exciting new city, but the salary wouldn’t afford you both the lifestyle you want as well as the ability to pay off your loans. A role at a startup offers you a low salary with potentially valuable equity, but if the company doesn’t go public that equity won’t help you pay your bills. Or a job opportunity that offers compelling work also comes with a hectic travel schedule, which wouldn’t be ideal for your spouse and baby.
Take all your priorities into account when comparing offers. That means understanding the policies around taking time off (unlimited vacation days sound great but can backfire), parental leave (you can make inferences about whether the company values families by whether dads get leave, too), and any other benefits like tuition reimbursement or even student loan repayment.
Don’t forget the status quo
If you’re feeling swept up in the interview and offer process, take a moment to revisit what prompted your search and whether it’s worth considering sticking with the status quo. If you’re the type of person who’s always looking for the next best thing, remember that one of your options is to do nothing — i.e., keep your current job — and another one is to take your new offer and negotiate with your current employer.
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.