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Career advice: Scoring a new-job decision

Todd S. Coombes | Oct. 2, 2012
Premier 100 IT Leader Todd Coombes also answers questions on seeking a mentor and keeping up with changes in the industry.

Todd Coombes of CNO Financial Group Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader Todd S. Coombes Title: Senior vice president and CIOCompany: CNO Financial Group

Coombes is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about scoring a decision on a job offer, finding a mentor and keeping up with technology changes. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to

I became a consultant against my will (I was laid off). It was a struggle at first, but I'm doing well now, with some long-term commitments. One of those has led to a job offer. On one hand, I like my independence, but running your own business can be a hassle. And having been laid off from a position that seemed to promise stability, I'm wary. What should I do? Comparing the pros and cons of consulting and becoming an employee can be difficult. Both options have their good and bad, and both involve elements of risk and trade-offs. When faced with life's challenging and complex choices, I have sometimes found it helpful to use a weighted decision scorecard.

The first step would be to identify the decision criteria that are most important to you. You mentioned independence, ownership hassle and stability -- these may be at the top of your list, but there might be other things to consider as well. How about compensation, benefits, growth prospects, preferences of family members and travel, to name a few?

Once you establish all of the criteria that matter to you, you need to weigh the importance of the criteria items relative to one another. There are many ways to do this, but one would be to assign each criterion a percentage of importance and then make sure the total of all criteria item percentages is 100. Next, score each item on a 0-10 scale for how well it fits consulting (0-not a fit, 10-best fit), and do the same for becoming an employee. Multiply the scores by the corresponding criteria item weighting percentages and then sum the totals for your two choices. There may be a clear winner, but you might find the scoring comparison too close to call. If you are still left wondering, consult others you trust and respect for their advice and then make your best decision.

How should I go about getting a mentor? I am currently an IT director at a midsize company. Mentorship is a great resource for career development. The first thing I would recommend is to observe leaders who might qualify as potential mentors. You should consider leaders who are accessible to you and have a leadership style that you admire. It's fine for your boss to be your mentor, but you might also want to consider others, either inside or outside of IT, to broaden the perspective.


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