How We Chose Our Next Job

How We Chose a Job

Our gut reaction when Johnny got laid off was to panic. Well, that’s not entirely true. Our very first reaction was just shock, which feels a bit like nothing at all. It’s one of those moments when you think This is a big deal. I know this is a big deal. But I don’t really feel anything. So is it a big deal?

And then the next morning after a full night’s rest, it all sunk in. And the panicky feeling started. And when that feeling started, Johnny and I were both feeling an urgency to get a new job. Find a job. Any job! Now! Today. Must get a job. Must, must, must. On the inside, we were panicking. On the outside, we were just slurping a bowl of cereal and cooing at Baby Girl.

But very carefully and very purposefully we decided to ignore that voice telling us to grab whatever job came our way. We wanted to make sure we found the right one. And so Johnny began revving up his freelance work to supplement our lost income, and his job search began.

With Johnny’s job hunting skills (which he’ll share in the very near future) and a bit of luck, some promising prospects were soon on the table. And so one night, we opened Excel and rated each opportunity according to the following categories:

Work-Life Balance

Would Johnny have a clear separation between work life and home life? Would he be able to leave work at work most nights? Would there be travel, late nights? How often? These questions were especially important now that we have a daughter. I never want her to know our cat better than she knows her own dad.


As budget-minded people, we’re all about saving as much as we can. And the better the salary, the more we can save. That’s some math even I can figure out. This wasn’t our number one consideration, but it was an important one.


Based on our love of finding out about the 50 states, we of course took into consideration which states would best fit our needs. Our options were in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake, so we weighed the pros and cons of each of these areas: cost of living, nearby activities, climate, economy, etc. We also took into consideration whether the location would have other jobs for Johnny if and when it was time to switch to another company. We’d like to stay in one state for more than just a year this time thankyouverymuch!


This category referred to Johnny’s coworkers. What kind of work environment would it be? Would there be egos? Respect of one another? A nice old lady who brings cookies for everyone on Fridays?


Surprise, surpise, we don’t want a repeat of this last job’s outcome. What kind of job security could we expect from each company? Had they had recent layoffs? How was the company doing financially?

Cost of Living

Would we be somewhere where buying a home would be feasible in the next year or so? How would the cost of living affect our rent and grocery budget? This category almost single-handedly took Los Angeles off our list. If we wanted to save out there, we’d have to live quite small, which wouldn’t have been a big deal before we had a baby. Now, space = sanity when it comes to being a parent.

Career Opportunities

Whatever choice Johnny made, how would it set him up for future jobs? How would the position look on paper? Would it open up more doors or close some doors?

Family Proximity

The most true statement ever is, “Having a baby changes everything.” Before Baby Girl was born, we were cool with visiting family a few times a year. We missed them, but with FaceTime and phone calls, being away was a-okay. But now we want our girl to know her family. Would the job location put us closer to family? Would we be within a day’s drive?

End Game

What’s our end game? Would this job help us reach it? For us, our end game is where we see ourselves 10, 15, 0r 20 years down the road. Everyone’s end game is different, so it was a question of whether each job opportunity would help or hinder our long-term dreams.

We went through each category and gave each job a number between 1 and 3. We then added the numbers together, and two of our opportunities tied for first place! Ack, that’s always how it goes. But luckily some aspects of each job became more clear, and we were able to make a decision. And so Utah it is.

What do you look for in a job? Please tell us we’re not the only nerds who make Excel spreadsheets that rate pros and cons. If we are, just lie so I feel less like a weirdo.

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  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies July 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I’ve never done my pros and cons in an Excel spreadsheet, but these are definitely on our list of considerations whenever we’re considering jobs. Along with stress level and expectations of the position. Mr. PoP’s in sales, and there are some positions where there is an expectation that the employee will be pretty much in a constant state of pressure to get closings. That’s not so fun, and definitely goes into the equation of which jobs Mr. PoP considers.

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone July 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I have definitely never made an excel sheet to make any sort of decision!

    I did recently have to choose between jobs, but primarily went off of emotions. However, my emotions were based off of which job fit my career interests better, and which was in a location where we’d like to be fore awhile, so it’s almost the same as an excel sheet, right?

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:11 am

      I hate Excel almost as much as I hate clowns. But it did its job for this task, so no complaints here. And your emotions are basically Excel, so yeah, you used Excel, too.

  • Reply Chris July 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I’m sort of doing that right now. Maybe I should bust out a spreadsheet and apply some conditional formatting. I think I’m going to write a romance novel about my love affair with MS Excel.

    I’m struggling with moving because it will most likely mean a pay cut and/or position cut, but I know I need to move since I’m at the top of my field in this company already. Do you assign a scoring system when you weigh the pros and cons? Like distance to family on a 1-10 scale?

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:13 am

      We used a ranking system. So I had four job offers in hand, so we assigned a 1-4 to each offer under each category (location, salary, quality of life, etc.). So the lower the score, the better. More than the actual score, it was good to actually have to sit down and weigh out every offer/opportunity under different criteria.

  • Reply Jake @ Common Cents Wealth July 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

    These are great questions to ask yourself. My wife and I are in the process of asking ourselves these questions right now. We both still have jobs, so it’s not as urgent as your predicament, but we do want to move relatively soon. It’s pretty hard to really know an answer to all of these questions right away, some take a while to figure out.

  • Reply Christina July 22, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Utah is beautiful and has so many wonderful things to offer.

    I am from Arizona, though I’ve traveled a bit, and now live in Florida. I love that whole part of the country and it will always be home. Good luck you guys!

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:14 am

      We’ll stop and just look at the mountains surrounding us and realize we’re in a pretty incredible place. Sure, it had it’s downsides, but we feel really fortunate right now.

      Thanks for the well wishes!

  • Reply Brian July 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    We have never made an excel spreadsheet, but we have done pro/con lists. In the end, even with the little guy we would be willing to move to just about anywhere there is a decent sized urban footprint.

    My father-in-law, on the other hand, just wanted a job that wasn’t in the middle east any more. Of course he is still in the desert since he took a job with MGM properties in Vegas, but we are totally cool with that since we LOVE Vegas.

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:16 am

      Vegas is a great place to have family to visit. We loved that aspect about living in NYC and Boston — people always wanted to come and visit us. We never needed to go and visit anyone since they wanted to see the cities.

  • Reply Rob July 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    All good points listed in your job opportunities criteria spreadsheet, Joanna. I used such tools, listing both pros and cons against each category, as I rated each prospective employer that I was considering. And, as I may have mentioned, over the years I was employed full time at about a dozen different employers so I had plenty of practice refining the technique. I first assigned each category a priority number (ie., which ones were most important to us) and salary was not rated at the top. Then, as you did, we used this to assign weighting factors to each job prospect category, while also considering the noted pros and cons. Sometimes this alone wasn’t 100% used and gut feel came into play, such as did I feel that my perspective boss and I could work well together as a team. After all, all the plus’s can be there but you want to be sure that you don’t end up working for that proverbial “boss from hell”, right? 🙂

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:17 am

      While it wasn’t noted on the spreadsheet, there was definitely a “gut feeling” element to the decision. Lucky for us and the process, it ended up agreeing with the spreadsheet results, so that made our decision all the more easier.

  • Reply E.M. July 22, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I love this! These are all important factors to consider when obtaining a new job. You should definitely not become so desperate as to take the first thing that comes your way; it’s likely to leave you with regrets. It’s awesome that you guys made an Excel sheet for this purpose, it sounds like a good idea when moving is involved. Salary is definitely not the only component to a job/career and sometimes not the most important aspect either, as you said. It definitely can be annoying when two things end up being equal on paper; when that happened to me with my first job prospects I kind of just went with my gut.

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:18 am

      When in doubt, go with the gut. Unless you’ve just eaten Taco Bell. Then maybe wait 24 hours before you make a decision. 🙂

  • Reply Jacob @ iHeartBudgets July 23, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Way to stay level-headed about it. I’d definitely be freaking out, and probably compromise on a job. Good call on comparing all the options of each job and rating them on a spreadsheet so you can see it all on paper.

  • Reply Amanda July 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I think I may have missed something . . Did Joanna’s job come into play during discussions? I only ask because if my husband or I lost our job, we would look for a job locally. Like if only one of us had a job here, then how would it help to move to a new place where (again) only one of us would have a job? I’m not trying to be rude – I’m just curious.

    • Reply Johnny August 6, 2013 at 4:20 am

      Very good question, and you’d be right to factor that in. Joanna’s job is remote so location doesn’t matter at all. She’s held the same job for the last three or four moves of ours, so it’s enabled us to be much more agile during this process.

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