Q: I’m changing industries, so I applied for a slew of jobs in a new field. I recently accepted a job offer for less money than I had asked for in order to get my feet wet and hopefully move up the ladder. The very next day, I was offered another job for the amount of money I had asked for, plus better benefits. It’s a small world out there, so I’m scared company No. 1 might have a target on my back. Can I retract my first acceptance without burning any bridges?
Congratulations on receiving two job offers in a brand new industry! It sounds like you’ve got talent.
I view the second job offer with more money and benefits as a GOOD problem—something which can be used to improve your situation overall. Reframe the situation and see it as what the market is willing to pay for good people. It’s a new industry for you; therefore, you need to know the range of compensation employers pay in your field. Take a look at my tips below for handling this career situation.
Which company and job do you like better?
Before you do anything, decide whether you like the job offer at Company A or Company B better. What is it about each company you like? What are the chances of career progression? What are the people like at each company? Is there more opportunity for promotion or acceleration of earnings in the future at one company versus another? If it’s a new industry, which place do you think offers the better platform one, two or five years from now? Carefully consider this as a first step.
Company B’s offer can be used for further negotiation.
If you like Company A more, but the salary and benefits of Company B are better, then use this as a starting point of renegotiation. Being offered another job that matches the money you originally asked for, along with better benefits, is a great thing. You can use this to go back to the Company A and tell them you received a better offer—and don’t be shy in asking if they can match it. Be honest and tell them you had been speaking to numerous companies during the job finding process, and even though you think Company A is awesome, another firm has come back with a better offer. There are many things to consider in accepting a job and money and benefits are two very important factors.
Value yourself and remember this when you are negotiating.
As an employer, finding the right employee can take some time. The company may have received hundreds of applications, but there’s something in YOU they like. It’s not only getting the right fit in terms of skill set, but also getting the right fit in terms of personality. After all, they have to work with you every day, so it’s better if everyone gets along. I also see it as a positive that two companies have offered you a job. Telling the first employer you have a better job offer can be a good thing in terms of how they view/value your contribution. A little competition can be good.
Think outside the box when negotiating.
If Company A is smaller and it’s difficult for them to match the salary and benefits due to legitimate financial constraints, perhaps they can offer more vacation or greater flexibility in your working hours. Many companies offer employees equity stakes in the firm once they’ve been there for a while or a yearend bonus if the company meets targets. You could also ask for greater opportunities on the job, such as attending more senior-level meetings or working on advanced projects to fast track your experience and your learning. Without knowing the industry or job you’re going for, it’s difficult to give too many specifics. But the main point to remember is: think outside the box in negotiation. If you really do prefer to work for Company A, then there are numerous things you can ask for so the first offer feels more in line with the second offer.
What if you really like Company B?
If you really do like the job offer at Company B more than Company A, then don’t be afraid to call Company A—but do it as soon as possible. Be upfront and tell them that unfortunately, you do need to decline the offer. They may be a little disgruntled at first and there’s a slight risk this could impact you in the future. But if you handle the situation respectfully, explaining it with tact and genuinely thanking everyone for their time and interest, it’s going to be hard for them to hold it against you when there are better opportunities at Company B, along with an increased salary and better benefits. Once the call is made, I’d also follow up with a handwritten thank you note to the key people you interacted with—perhaps the person who would have been your manager and the head of HR.