A former colleague was in a job search and contacted me to be a reference. Aside from the fact that I hadn’t worked with him in several years, from what I recalled, he wasn’t particularly effective in his role and I knew I wouldn’t be able to give him a strong endorsement. While the course of action seems clear now (e.g., just decline), I struggled with the decision in the moment.
Here are 8 career decisions you may feel torn over, but don’t need to:
- Negotiating an already good offer: Your initial salary is what all future raises, bonuses and promotions will be based on, so even if it feels uncomfortable, there’s always room to negotiate. You may not get everything, but if you don’t ask, you’ll get nothing.
- Asking for a raise (or promotion): If you have a measurable track record of success and have consistently stepped up, meet with your Boss to present your case. Worst case scenario? She’ll say “no.”
- Implementing limits: Everyone we meet has something to teach us. And, there’s only 24 hours in a day. If you’re consistently asked to coffee to “pick your brain,” set limits for how much time you can offer each month. Have resources you can refer people to if you’re unable to chat with them so they can keep moving forward.
- Resigning from a poor fit: Even if you’ve been in the role for less than a year, if there’s no fix in sight, accept that it was a mistake and move on. It’s not worth your health, safety or well-being to put up with toxic conditions just to make your resume look good.
- Pursuing an incredible job: Sometimes the best career opportunities cross our paths when we’re not even looking. If your company has treated you well, it’s natural to be torn about leaving. But there are no guarantees with your current company and few second chances on your dream job.
- Turning down a job offer: You know yourself best and if something’s not right, it’s not right. Even if someone in your network referred you, you’re not obligated to accept an offer. If it’s an internal promotion, clearly communicate why it isn’t the right time or role, and clarify your interests for your career trajectory.
- Interviewing as a passive candidate: Even if you’re happy in your current role, the truth is, you never know. If you’re contacted by a Recruiter or stumble across an interesting opportunity, check it out. The company isn’t obligated to hire you and you aren’t obligated to accept an offer. Sometimes the best opportunities start out as long shots.
- Declining to be a reference: As a former Recruiter, I know that a “meh” recommendation is equivalent to a negative one. If you aren’t able to honestly give a glowing endorsement, it might be kinder to decline.
In the end, I declined being a reference for my former colleague. He found someone else and ultimately got the job, so I’d like to believe my decision (although initially disappointing to him) actually helped him to land the role. Whether or not this is true, not every story can have a happy ending for all involved. However, if positive intentions are driving your actions, chances are things will work out in the long-run.