Do you have a hard time saying “No” when new opportunities come up? I’m not talking about a birthday party invitation, I mean those big, hairy job decisions that sometimes rear their heads when you least expect.

Example: I was wrapping up a big book launch for a client when, out of the blue, a former boss contacted me about a full-time role with an excellent company. The only problem was that it had nothing to do with writing and creativity—what I wanted to do for a living.

Would the opportunity be lucrative? Sure. There were several definite positives to the job, but ultimately it didn’t fit my desired career trajectory.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation where a new opportunity comes along—one that could potentially be life-altering? Even a job change or a promotion, while not life-changing, could change your path, at least in the near-future.

How do you handle this situation? You could obsess about it and twist yourself into knots thinking about it–exactly what I found myself doing!

I have a tendency to feel personally invested in helping others. It’s often hard for me to say no to someone, especially when I know that person well. I want to help a friend out, and I feel guilty—even bad—for saying no.

I decided to remove the emotion and determine the criteria by which I judge an opportunity.

job decision

If you have a hard time saying no, come up with criteria that can help you make decisions.

Here’s the list I came up with (my criteria for taking a job or business opportunity):

1. Would this help you reach your 5-year goal?

Of course, knowing your 5-year goal is step one:-) Have you taken the time to write down your goals and plan out the next few years ahead of you?

My 5-year plan is to have 20+ books published and make a living with my writing. The job opportunity would have been great financially, but I would be no closer to hitting my 5-year goal.

2. Would this help you spend more time on your ONE thing?

What is your ONE thing? What do you want to be known for having achieved? What’s your desired expertise? I highly recommend the book, The ONE Thing. Gary Keller argues that we must spend at least four hours a day on our one thing to eventually become experts.

If a job opportunity isn’t helping you practice your one thing, is it worth your time?

3. Would you learn new skills that align with your desired career?

Would the opportunity help you develop new skills that will help you reach your 5-year goal? If so, it may be a good move. I’d rather take a riskier lower-paying opportunity that helps me learn new skills than work a better-paying job that’s boring.

In fact, that’s exactly what I did in 2016 when I quit my corporate job to manage a book launch for an entrepreneur friend. I applied my project management expertise while also learning a ton about the publishing industry. I’m so glad I took the risk because the book ended up reaching #1 on the NYT bestseller list! Now, I’m able to take my experience and offer services to other clients.

Another consideration is whether the new opportunity will help you forge new connections. Now that I’ve made the leap into entrepreneurship, I’m amazed at all the new connections I’m making. Entrepreneurs and freelancers seem happier than my former corporate colleagues, and most of us genuinely want to help each other out.

job decision4. Does the work interest you?

Let’s face it, a job that bores you to tears is no way to spend your time. Even above money, time is our most precious asset. We have a limited time on this planet, don’t you want to spend it doing what you love most?

5. Will this bring you new income?

Time is important, but money helps too! We need to bring home some bacon to have food, shelter, and other essentials. Income should rank high on your list, but don’t let it overshadow other considerations. Look at income as part of the big picture.

I took a risk in leaving a well-paying corporate job, but the world didn’t end. It was a calculated risk. My husband had a full-time job, and I still brought in enough income to do okay. I knew full-well that I would earn less than in previous years and that it might be 5 to 10 years before I match my previous income. I’m okay with that because I’m doing what I love.

6. What does your gut say?

What does that tiny voice in your head say? Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably worth taking a pass.job decision

This last one brings some emotion into play, but there is a base emotional response that you should consider. In my case, my instincts said, “absolutely not!” to the new job. The empathetic part of me wanted to please my friend and former boss, but deep down, I knew this was not the right opportunity for me.

I hope this helps the next time you are faced with a new opportunity that could change your career path. Separate the emotion and make a list. The list is the standard by which to judge the tough decisions.

What is the last important job-related decision you had to make and how did you decide what to do? I’d love to hear your comment below.