Choosing Between Job Offers

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With the job market so competitive, it may be unusual to have two job offers to choose from. In an article in Chronicle, Emma Thornton explored the dilemma she faced.  

As Emma indicated, the decisions you make can have long-term ramifications for your career and your future happiness. This article explores some of the questions to think about when faced with a job offer choice.

    Permanent or temporary?

It seems obvious to conclude that a permanent job is ‘better’ than a temporary one,  and it certainly does have advantages. You won’t have to be on the job market again in only a few years. You will have a chance to become completely integrated into one department unlike temporary staff who are often left feeling like ‘outsiders’ because they do not take a full part in the life of the department. As a permanent staff member you usually get more benefits such as a pension scheme and often have a lighter teaching load, at least for the first few years. However, if it seems better in other respects, do not immediately turn down a temporary job.

    Job description

The fundamental thing to consider when choosing between two jobs is which one will leave you more fulfilled? Taking a job for more money or for security is an understandable choice, but if you end up miserable because you hate the chosen job and you start looking for work soon again anyway, why not pick the job that you would enjoy doing? Questions to ask when considering this include: are you looking to challenge yourself and move into something new? Or would you prefer to take the safer option, the one that builds on current strengths and is more familiar to you? Is this a career building move or are you simply desperate to have any job?


Academics very often cannot be selective when it comes to location of work. They have to be prepared to move a long way from friends and family, or do very long commutes. However, for some people (like Emma) location is a key factor. She had a bad experience working in an isolated, quiet campus environment and did not want to repeat that. Others may really dislike the thought of big city universities. Starting a new job will give you a new lifestyle and the ‘whole package’ must be considered, not simply what you will be doing during your hours of work.

    Personal circumstances

There are other reasons why a full time permanent position might not be suitable for you, perhaps due to family commitments or because you want to sample academia first before committing yourself to a lifetime of work. Depending on your household situation, you may not want or need a permanent position.

But what about the future? Work-life issues

Many people advise against turning down a permanent position at the moment because the job market is so uncertain. In the UK with the REF cycle coming to completion in 2014, it is assumed that there will be fewer jobs available in the coming years, although no one can be sure about this.

As an individual job seeker you need to weigh up your need for a secure future against other factors such as job satisfaction and achieving a work-life balance. A permanent job might mean that you can fulfil certain dreams (such as buying a house or getting married), whereas it might also trap you into a lifestyle that you are not ready for or do not want. 

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