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How to trust your gut when it comes to a job offer

Mary Lorenz | November 23, 2016

trust your gut with a job offer

When you get a job offer, but your gut is telling you not to accept it, how do you know when to trust your gut or when to ignore it?

It finally happened. After devoting weeks – maybe even months – to searching for jobs, filling out applications, sending out resumes and going on interviews, you've finally got a job offer. Saying "yes" should be a no-brainer, right?

Yet for some reason – a reason you can't explain – you're hesitant to say yes. What gives? While you may not be able to explain the feeling in your gut that's telling you to hold on, you may want to listen to it. "Much like every other aspect of life, someone's gut is an extension of their instinct, and it is important to heed it even when they can not necessarily verbalize their thoughts in that moment," says Kelly Ogle, team lead for Accounting, Finance and Supply Chain Recruiting at LaSalle Network. For those re-considering a job offer, Ogle says a negative gut feeling "may be a trigger that they have what they're looking for in their current role and that they should stay, or the role they're considering sounds great, but doesn't have something really important to the them." Therefore, if you have a bad gut feeling about a job offer, you shouldn't ignore it.

The problem is, many of us have trouble listening to our guts because we have been taught to base decisions on facts; however, there's a scientific explanation as to why our gut might actually be one our best tools when it comes to making decisions.

The science behind gut feelings

The brain has two types of memory: explicit and implicit. Explicit memory is made up of the information we make a conscious effort to remember. Implicit memory is the knowledge we've accumulated subconsciously - or implicitly, if you will – from collected experiences over the years. Have you ever caught yourself singing along to a song you didn't even know you knew the words to? Chances are you heard the song so many times, your brain just naturally absorbed it. That's how implicit memory works -- it enables you to recall memories (such as the lyrics to "Shake It Off") you might not even realize you had. So when you have a "gut feeling" about something, it's likely the result of your implicit memory telling you that something is off based on knowledge you didn't even realize you had from prior experiences.

If your gut is telling you something is off about a job offer, take time to listen to it with the following tips.

Give yourself a break

Sometimes our minds become so cluttered thinking about a dilemma, it's impossible to listen to what our gut is trying to tell us. If you've been mulling over the job offer for a while and you're still not getting anywhere, give yourself permission to take a "brain break." Go for a long walk, take a yoga class or meditate – anything that doesn't require any thinking – and give your mind freedom to wander. By stepping away from the situation and clearing your head, you will give your intuition room to emerge.

Differentiate between intuition and fear

Sometimes what we consider a "bad feeling" is really just fear. Take time to reflect on whether what you are feeling is just fear of change or the unknown…or something more. It's perfectly natural to feel some fear upon accepting a new job, but just remember that every new job comes with a learning curve. Once you look at the situation rationally, you may find that what you were feeling was really just fear that will subside with time and experience.

Take "should" out of the equation

When you think about the job offer, do you really want to take it, or do you think you should take it? If you find yourself saying "should," it indicates an external or imagined pressure to take it – as opposed to what you really want. "Whenever I hear clients say 'I should,' I say: 'According to who?' They usually say, 'family pressure' or 'I guess I'm making it up,'" Hana Ayoub, a professional development coach, tells Fast Company. "The 'should's' help people tune in to when they're not listening to their gut."

Get in touch with your feelings

While there is validity to following your intuition, it's hard to do so when most of us have always been taught to "think things through;" however, sometimes our thoughts can get in the way of what our guts are trying to tell us. In order get more in touch with your feelings, try this quick exercise: Think about a positive experience from your past. Then think back to the moment you realized you were doing the right thing. What sensations did you feel? Next, do the same thing, but with a negative experience. Now, think about the situation you are in currently, with your job offer. What feelings arise? Are they more similar to the feelings around the positive event, or the negative one? This exercise could give insight into which direction to steer.

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