We go into a job search or career change with hopes and desires. And, quickly or not, a possible job offer appears and suddenly it becomes a decision. Whether it is a good decision or not depends on your actions before you get to that stage.

One smart way to enhance both your job search and career success is to decide what criteria are most important to you in your next job or career change. This process can be done at any time, of course. It is most effective done early to guide targeting employers, gathering information, creating a resume, interviewing and evaluating offers. Done early, it is also far more likely to reflect what you really want. Done when you already need a new job fast or have an offer it will be influenced by those needs.

Often I talk with people who are flailing in their job search or career worries. Also those trying to decide – to take an offer, try to hold on to it while talking with another company, if negotiation is worthwhile, or are faced with two -three offers. Their decisions are in the moment and frequently not tied to a longer career plan. This can hinder your long-term growth plans.

Developing Your Career Success & Decision Matrix.

This is basically a chart where you list the major factors you want in your next job or career, including life needs. To decide on what to include, think about these questions and make some notes.


  What do you love about what you do? How can you do more of that?

  What is missing from your current or last job that you want to add in the next?

  What personal values do you expect to be matched at work?

  What are your longer-term career goals? Life goals?

Next, consider writing out your ideal job description – what would the scope of the job be? The major roles and responsibilities?

Then, answer these questions:

  • What is the specific work you seek?
  • What is the scope of the job?
  • What are the ‘must have’ aspects of the role you seek?
  • Is it important to you to work with a cause? new technologies? a stable environment? a specific size organization? public service?
  • What values and culture do you want the next organization to offer?
  • What balance of work and personal life (or side gig) do you desire?
  • What types of bosses do you work best with?
  • What do you need to succeed?
  • Do you want learning and development options – in what areas?
  • Opportunities for promotion or other growth?
  • What about the employer’s physical location, commuting?
  • Define desired compensation: minimum acceptable pay, specific benefits,  and any incentives. 

Prioritize all of the ideas you list and choose the most important 8-10.

Create a ranked list. Some people also assign points or percentage values to each. This is column one of your decision matrix. Set this up in a way that works well for you – a spreadsheet, a list in a notebook, whatever. Do not over-complicate it.

Using the Decision Matrix

At the beginning of your job search, this can help you to assess potential employers. Compare what they say about their organization to what is most important to you. Then check those aspects via your network, online employer reviews, and social media. Create or update your target list of employers from all this information.

As you talk to people you know, mention your key values and some other aspects of this list. Ask for suggestions for possible employers, job titles, and market information based on your list. Do the same for referrals to others who could help you.

Use this matrix to create your resume, so that your value and accomplishments specifically support the role and scope of the job you seek.

When you are interviewing, use this list to be sure you are asking questions which will help you assess the most important of your criteria.

Thus, you can check potential job and employers against each of your specific needs and desires and evaluate the best match.

Once you have offers, it allows you to compare them to your needs and wants effectively. This helps overcome the ‘wow I got the offer’ instinct and make a clearer life decision. It helps when you are tempted to take an offer mainly for the pay, when that offer may not be your best match for success. If you have multiple offers, a career decision matrix can offer clarity about which is the best match. And the matrix can help you identify whether you need to negotiate something which is important to you.

The decisions we make about our careers are some of the most important decisions we will make. They directly influence our happiness, our success, and our financial life. Taking the time to understand what is most important to you and what your goals are helps you to assess and develop your career. Few careers are linear paths. Knowing which branches from the trail make sense for you helps you succeed over a lifetime. A career decision matrix, done each time you are contemplating changing jobs, is a valuable tool to ensure you make the best choices possible each time for your future.