Smarter Job Search: The Career Decision Matrix

Posted by Patra Frame
career decision matrix

How to use a career decision matrix to make the best choices when searching for a new job.

We go into a job search with hopes and desires. And, quickly or not, a possible job offer appears and suddenly it becomes a decision. Often I talk with people who are trying to decide whether to take an offer, hold on to it while talking with another company, decide if negotiation is worthwhile, or they’re faced with two-three offers. Commonly, that happy “I have an offer” feeling turns to a difficult decision.

One smart way to enhance both your job search and career success is to decide what criteria are most important to you at the beginning of the search. This process can be done at any time, of course. It is most effective done early in the process to help guide you in targeting employers, gathering information, creating a resume, and interviewing. Done early, it is also far more likely to reflect what you really want. Done when you already have an offer, and it is likely to be influenced by the offer(s).

Developing a Career Decision Matrix

This is a chart where you list the major factors you want in your next job. To decide on what to include, think about these questions and make some notes.

  • What do you love about what you do? How can you do more of that?
  • What is missing from your current or last job that you want to add in the next?
  • What are your long-term career goals? Life goals?

Consider writing out your ideal job as if you were writing a job description. What would the scope of the job be? The major roles and responsibilities?

Answer these questions:
  • What is the work you seek?
  • What’s the scope of the job?
  • What are the “must have” aspects of the role you seek?
  • What values and culture do you want the next organization to offer?
  • How do you want to work?
  • What balance of work, personal life, or side gig do you desire?
  • Do you want learning and development options? In what areas?
  • Is it important to you to work with new technologies?
  • What about the employer’s physical location and commuting?
  • How do you define desired compensation, including minimum pay levels or certain benefits?
  • Do you want to travel or not?
  • What, if any, flexible work options are you seeking?
  • What other work aspects are important to you?

Prioritize all of the ideas you list and choose the most important 8-10.

Create a ranked list. Some people also assign points or percentage values to each. This is column one of your career decision matrix. Set this up in a way that works well for you. Do not over-complicate it. Then when you have an offer, you can check the job and the offer against each of your specific needs and desires to evaluate the best match.

Using the Career Decision Matrix

At the beginning of your job search, this can help you to assess potential employers. Compare what they say about their organization to what is most important to you. Then check those aspects via your network, online employer reviews, and social media. Create or update your target list of employers from that information.

As you talk to people you know, mention your key values and some other aspects of this list. Ask for suggestions for possible employers, job titles, and market information based on your list. Do the same for referrals to others who could help you.

Use this matrix to create your resume, so that your value and accomplishments specifically support the role and scope of the job you seek.

When you are interviewing, use this list to be sure you are asking questions which will help you assess the most important elements of your criteria.

Finally, when you are considering opportunities, this serves as a checklist. Once you have offers, it allows you to compare them to your needs and wants effectively. It helps overcome the “wow I got the offer” instinct to help you make a clearer life decision. It helps overcome the temptation to take an offer for the pay level, even when that offer may not be your best match for success. If you have multiple offers, a career decision matrix can offer clarity about which is the best match. And the matrix can help you identify whether you need to negotiate something which is important to you.

Why it’s Worthwhile

The decisions we make about our careers are some of the most important decisions we will make. They directly influence our happiness, our success, and our financial life. Taking the time to understand what is most important to you and what your goals are helps you to assess and develop your career. Few careers are linear paths. Knowing which branches from the trail make sense for you helps you succeed over a lifetime. A career decision matrix, done each time you are contemplating changing jobs, is a valuable tool to ensure you make the best choices possible each time for your future.

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Monday, August 16, 2021 12:54 pm

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