When deciding whether to take a job offer, you're hoping to maximize attainment of your objectives. If an opportunity scores highly against all objectives, you'll quickly know what to do.

But your choice may not be so easy. You may have two good options. Or one opportunity may be better on some objectives, but worse on others. There's uncertainty. There's risk. How do you pull everything together and reach a confident conclusion?

Michael (name has been changed) faced this situation. He wanted to leave his job at a start-up but couldn't determine his direction. He was told he could return to his former consulting firm. He also talked to venture capital firms and was close to an offer. But he could approach other start-ups, too. He didn't want to make another mistake. The question churned around in his head for almost a year.

Everything came together one day in four minutes. Michael prepared a matrix. He listed his objectives and ranked the performance of each field on those objectives. He scored each alternative, assumed each objective was equally important, and added them up.

Michael didn't let the numbers tell him what to do, but the way he filled in the matrix showed that consulting was best for him. Over a decade later, Michael enjoys his consulting colleagues, continues to grow, and takes pride in what he's accomplishing.

This matrix isn't new. People often do something similar when making other decisions, such as deciding where to go to school or evaluating which car to buy. It's not rocket science. But doing what comes natural in a rigorous way can improve your career assessments and lead to better decisions.

A decision to take a job offer can be a close call. Here's how you can make your own career matrix like Michael:

**First, set objectives.** A good way to start imagining objectives is to list the alternatives' pros and cons — what first comes to mind. They'll imply objectives.

Another way to stimulate ideas is to imagine objectives by category. There are five categories of objectives in the work itself: field, role, impact, personal growth, and the organization. These objectives define what you do, where you spend time, and how you succeed. Meeting objectives in the work is the best path to personal fulfillment and happiness.

Two other categories concern what you get *from* work: money and prestige. Sacrifice objectives concern what you put into work. Your objectives aren't all equal in importance, so finish this step by ranking your objectives.

**Then, evaluate alternatives against your objectives.** Your objectives become your criteria. Judge how each alternative meets each objective (one pair at a time), and write down your judgment in the relevant box of the matrix. You may rate each as high, medium, or low. Record the reasons for these ratings.

Think both about what you believe is likely in the first year or two and where an alternative might lead you over time. Also consider what you might do if things don't work out — your hedge against risk.

**Subjectively quantify performance.** The matrix is most powerful when subjectively quantified (similar to Michael's matrix). I suggest you do it this way: 1) weight the objectives by dividing 100 points across them; 2) score how each alternative meets each objective on a 1 to 10 scale; and 3) calculate a weighted average total score for each alternative.

If you skip the quantification, you'll still get insight from the high-medium-low ratings. But you're weighting your criteria one way or the other — either by assuming all criteria are equally important (unlikely) or by informally according some criteria more importance than others. When you think about how alternatives stack up against criteria, you're implicitly scoring them, whether or not you use numbers.

Quantification takes more time, though usually not much more. If it's worth doing a full assessment and if you can get comfortable with the idea of subjective math, then quantify the matrix. It integrates all the considerations affecting your decision.

**Finally, interpret the results.** The matrix structures your thinking, but it's not the answer. You must figure out what it tells you.

In most cases, the first matrix that's drafted leads people to question their original assumptions. They may add an objective. They may adjust the weight of objectives or adjust alternatives' scores.

Remember, the matrix is only as good as the underlying facts and judgments. The first draft sometimes leads people to realize they need to know more. By using the matrix, you'll be more likely to imagine what the job would be like and how alternatives measure up against the objectives you care most about. You'll know what questions to ask.

With multiple options on the table, it's hard to decide what's best for you and your future. But by assessing your career objectives and defining which are most important, you can reach a career decision with confidence. An easy but structured exercise like the career matrix can give you the answers you need all in one place.