A Weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch




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Taking your time

by Douglas E. Welch

June 25, 1999

If you have been offered any high-tech job recently you will have noticed that it is becoming increasingly difficult to evaluate job offers. There are so many issues involved today. Everything from health care to retirement plans to signing bonuses to stock options. Too often we are so happy to be offered a job that we fail to take the time to thoroughly consider all the aspects of the offer. It is in our best interest to understand an offer fully before we say "Yes."

Don't rush

Too often companies will play on your eagerness and try to force a quick acceptance of the position. Resist making any commitment until you understand what is being offered and any pitfalls that might be involved. I have often used the excuse of having to confer with my wife before making any decisions. This gives me time to evaluate the job offer and also has the advantage of being true. We should never make decisions without the input of our significant other. They have to live with a new job as much as we do.

A company that is rushing you to accept the job is playing on your insecurity. Don't allow them this advantage. If a company wants you enough to make you an offer they can wait until you are reasonably sure that this is the position for you. You must decide if their rush is an eagerness to fill the position or an effort to hide some flaw in the job offer. It is rare that a company is directly trying to hid something but it can happen.

Health care

In the past a company either provided health care or they didn't. There was no need to talk about deductibles, HMO's, Co-payments and the like. Today these are all important issues that should be known before you accept any job. In one case, I found out, after accepting a position, that a full 10% of my salary would be deducted for health care costs. This required me to re-negotiate my starting salary the first week on the job. Not exactly a good way to start out. I should have known this information before I accepted but I was willing to make assumptions in my eagerness to have the job.

Stock Options

Stock options are becoming a large selling point in many high-tech companies. These options allow an employee to buy stock at a given price (usually much lower than the current price) if they remain at the company for a set period of time. You may have read about the "Microsoft millionaires" whose stock options made them rich. Unfortunately, there is a down side to these options. Not all companies survive long enough to vest these options. Also, you mind find yourself trapped in a job you hate just so that you can "vest" your options.

Some employees of Qualcomm, Inc. recently found another downside of stock options. When Qualcomm, Inc.sold a division of the company some employees found that their options were rendered null and void. The on-going legal battle may change that, but it should remind you that not all job benefits offered may bear fruit.

Get my agent on the phone

Evaluating job offers is becoming more and more difficult every day. When you add in the cutting edge offers including signing bonuses, company cars and other perks it is almost beyond the ability of your average person. When other industries became this complex it led to the rise of agents. While I hope this doesn't happen in high-tech careers for a long time there can be certain benefits in acting like your own agent.

Try to evaluate job offers as if they were for another person, a relative or a friend. Disassociate yourself and your ego from the job offer and see what questions arise. Write those questions down and call the person offering you the job. Work your way through the list until you are satisfied that all your questions have been answered.

Most of all, suppress the worry that asking questions will cause you to lose the job. In reality, if the job offer is withdrawn it is a clear sign that it wasn't right for you. As long as you make your decision within a reasonable amount of time (I would say 1 week is probably maximum) the company should be willing to wait. Conversely, if you know the job is not right for you, tell the company as soon as possible. They will appreciate the quick response and may still consider you for an upcoming opening that better suits your desires and their needs.

The days of accepting a job on the spot are gone. High-tech companies are becoming too complex to make snap decisions. You will be living with a job for (hopefully) a long time to come, so make sure that everything is arranged to your satisfaction. When a company makes an offer they already believe that you are right for the job. You need to take the time to make sure the job is right for you.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/

He can reached via email at douglas@welchwrite.com