Rolling the Dice

August 18, 2008

The recent upheaval in my employment has knocked me off my emotional center; it is hard to think coherently about my upcoming choice.

Sometime this week, or early next I will be presented with one or more opportunities to accept a new position.  The choices as they stand today are, in no particular order:

Like shopping for a new car, each of these seems like a good idea in isolation.  Fresh from the test drive of an interview, I've been satisfied that I could do the job, that I would like the job, and that I wanted the job.

With the passage of time, or another interview, doubts begin to creep in to my thoughts.  That job would have me working in a completely brand new area, technology would change.  I'd be in a different building. Adding to the doubt process is the selection process.

Any offers that these interviews generate will come to me on a first come, first served basis.  And I have to say yes or no, not knowing if there are others waiting in the wings.

Like a gambler who sits down at the table knowing exactly how much he can wager, and under what conditions he will withdraw from play, I need to have some yardstick, some set of parameters that will allow me to navigate the choices ahead of me.  And, like a cautious gambler, I need the resolve to stick to my parameters in the heat of the moment.

I've ordered the positions from choicest to least desired in my mind.  The ranking was a combination of emotional and intellectual, subjective and objective, factors.  But what I haven't yet come to terms with is the tremendous roll of the dice, should I chose to pass on the first offer made if it is lower in my preferred ordering.

My preferred outcome is that choice number 1 makes the first offer, and that the compensation is within my range.  Then the decision is easy.  There really aren't any clearly defined 2nd or 3rd choices as there are too many variables, variables well beyond my ability to control, to list all the combinations.

If my 2nd choice makes the first offer and their compensation is within my range, I think it's a go.  If the compensation is outside of my range, then I don't know.  What if no other offers are made?  If I say no, then I have well and truly let go of the bird in the hand for one in the bush - one that got away.  What if my least favorite option makes an offer that is in the right compensation range?  Even the least desirable position is better than unemployment.

Try as I might, I don't think there is a strategy that leads me through this process without an element of emotional uncertainty.  Each choice has merit, each has some risk, and each has a potential downside.  In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talks at length about the power of making a decision in an instant, relying on instinct and your subconscious, over spending lots of time weighing your options.  I think sometimes the best decisions are made with a combination of weighing and instinct.  By weighing my options I've given my subconscious the data it needs to decide.  Now I just need an offer to trigger that instantaneous yes or no reaction.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.