A Job Seeker’s Guide to Avoiding FOBO



It’s Friday night and you agreed to watch a movie with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. As you’re opening your bag of Orville Redenbacher, your phone pings. Your lively group of friends has made a last-minute decision to reserve a table at the new rooftop bar and you are decidedly unavailable. What do you do? For many young folks, this scenario is a nightmare. It ruins the moment they’re in and amplifies the moments they aren’t.

The young person’s Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has hastily evolved into the Fear of a Better Offer (FOBO). In the age of Tinder and Amazon, we’re accustomed to reviewing an inordinate amount of options. This especially rings true in a job market where employers are fighting tooth and nail for the best candidates. It’s a great time to be a job seeker, though this scenario won’t last forever. For the time being, it’s essential to know how to navigate job offers when there very well could be a better one around the corner. There are two questions to ask yourself when evaluating an offer, and they’re quite simple:

  1. Do you need money now?
  2. Does this role advance your career?

Whether you happily accept your first offer or roll the dice on your next interview depends wholly on your tolerance for having zero income. If you already have a job or family support and can afford to be selective, by all means, make your prospective employers sweat a little bit. But if you’re currently unemployed, take a moment and reflect on Grandpa’s favorite saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and take the job in front of you. If it turns out that the work isn’t ideal, suffer through it for a year or two and then move on. Whatever the situation is, you’ll acquire and enhance some marketable skills and avoid a widening job gap on your resume.

For those who have a little wiggle room, it’s best to evaluate each offer objectively on how it advances your career. To paraphrase recruiting expert Lou Adler, your ideal job move is going to represent a 30 percent nonmonetary increase. (Incredulous reader: Did she just say “nonmonetary?” Yes, I did.) The best job move will include not only an increase in salary, but an increase in responsibility, budget, direct-reports, client-base, geographic reach, product line, etc. If you can find an increase there, the money will follow.

You may be thinking, “But how will I know I’m making the right decision? How can I be sure that the first offer is the best offer?” (Clasps hands and takes deep breath.) You won’t know if you’re making the right decision until you’re six months into the job you’ve chosen and your coworkers’ obligatory politeness has worn off. Make the best decision you can with the information you have and trust your gut.


The absolute worst way to satiate that FOBO itch is to accept a counteroffer from your current employer. I don’t say this only because I’m a recruiter and it benefits me. There are countless pitfalls that come along with counteroffers. Right off the bat, your boss now knows you were looking for another job and doesn’t trust you. You’ll be standing first in line for the next round of unexpected layoffs. You should also be wondering why it required the threat of leaving to get a raise or a promotion. Short answer: It’s ultimately less expensive for them to keep you for now than hiring and on-boarding someone new. Finally, even with a competitive counter-offer, the nonmonetary reasons that caused you to look for another role will still be there, which is why the vast majority of people who accept a counteroffer will leave in the next year anyway.

FOMO and FOBO aren’t that different in the end. The FOMO-riddled millennial isn’t having fun with their friends at a bar and as a result doesn’t have any fun in the moment they’re in either. Likewise, if you spend too much attention in your job hunt focusing on the offer that isn’t in front of you, you’ll be the one missing out.



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