Hello. I'm facing a big career dilemma and I would love some feedback. The short question is whether I should call a job I already declined to ask for it back (it's been 5 weeks), but in order to best explain what is causing this dilemma and (hopefully) get some advice, I think I should give some historical context. My apologies in advance for the long question and thank you for any perspective and/or advice.
posted by curiousone to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For five years (2004 - 2009), I was working in my dream field in a fairly good position -- the pay was not good and I was always worried about money, but I loved the work and subject matter so much that I would only leave if I could find something better in the same (extremely niche) field. In July 2009, my budget was cut and so was my position. Since it was such a niche field with very limited possibilities where I was and am currently living, I started looking all over the country for something similar without any luck, as these types of positions are very few and far between. I then received an offer at a local organization (Job A) that was very prestigious and paid better than my previous job, but not in the specific field that interested me. Given the economic reality and the fact that I had just met someone I started seriously dating, I decided to take the job. Three months later, a colleague recommended me for another job that would be in the field I wanted, a big promotion, and at a very prestigious organization (Job B), but was out of town. My significant other knew that I had been looking for jobs elsewhere before I met him and said he would be supportive if I found my dream job, but I also knew he was very hesitant to relocate or date long-distance. Fast forward four months and I had interviewed and received an offer -- not only was it everything I described above, but it paid very well for the city in which it was located (almost twice what I was making before when adjusting for cost of living) and I loved every single person with whom I had interviewed -- it seemed like a place where I would fit in really well.
But my relationship had become much more serious by then, and despite his initial promises to be supportive, my SO was not willing to make the move after all -- we could try long distance but he said it would only be OK with him if I came back every weekend, and I didn't feel I could do that without jeopardizing my performance on the job. I went back and forth in agony (at the time I was almost 36 and also very much wanting to get married and start a family), so I ultimately decided not to take the job -- which I almost immediately regretted. I stayed in Job A for another nine months, then took another position locally (Job C) which was more closely related to my passion, but not exactly it, and was a more senior role but required me to take a big pay cut. That said, I thought it would get me closer to another position like Job B.
Fast forward another 10 months and Job C decides to restructure my department, basically forcing me to resign. I ask my boss from Job B for advice (ironically, even though I didn't like that job, everyone there loved me and I really looked up to my boss there), and she told me that they had just posted a job more senior than and a little different from the one I had before which would report not to her but to a new boss we would share, and asked if I was interested. She also told me how much it paid, and it happened to be much much more than anything I had made before. I told her I would have to think about it, as I really wanted to make sure that the next job I took was the right one. In addition, I had started phone interviews with another job (Job E) in my dream industry at an amazing organization, although not at the level I wanted and working for a boss who had not yet been hired, out of town, and I wanted to see how that would proceed. A couple weeks later, around the same time, my old boss contacted me to ask again whether I would be interested in Job D, and Job E said they wanted to fly me out to interview. I agreed to do an exploratory interview with Job D and made arrangements to fly out and interview with Job E. It seemed like the interviews with Job E went well, but I was very worried about how they would respond to my situation with Job C, so I was not sure how I did and when I came back I formally applied for Job D. This all happened to be right before the holidays.
A few days after returning from my interviews for Job E, the HR representative called to say they all really liked me and asked to have my references. Then, a few days after the New Year, the hiring manager called to offer me Job E, which was very flattering, but the reality was that the title would appear to be a step down (even though the level of responsibility was similar to jobs C and D), the salary was low for the very expensive market (it would amount to about a 25% pay cut when accounting for cost of living), and the relocation package was less than half of what it would actually cost for me to relocate. But, it was an amazing organization and there was talk (though no promise) about re-evaluating title and salary structures in the future. I asked for a week to decide, explaining that it was a very important decision because of the move involved. The hiring manager asked to meet in the middle at four days and the HR rep called to (very nicely) tell me she heard I had asked for a week, and wanted to know if I had any questions she could answer for me and whether I had any other offers she should know about. I told her I didn't have any other offers (which was true at the time) and that I had a number of questions, but that they were mostly for the hiring manager and that I was working on setting up a time to speak to him. I spoke to the hiring manager the next day and asked him a bunch of questions in an effort to assess the long-term career potential associated with taking the job, and I also told him about my concerns with title and pay (I had expressed my concern about not meeting the person who would be my boss earlier). He said that he knew he could not get me what I was initially asking for (I asked for what cost of living calculators said would be equivalent to Job C) and said he needed me to give him a "bottom line number" to go back and negotiate with -- I gave him a number that I thought might be attainable (although it would still amount to a big pay cut) and he asked me if I would take the job if he was able to get that number. I said I that in addition to learning what was possible in terms of salary, I wanted to spend some more time speaking with my potential direct report, as I didn't get to speak with her one on one during the interview. I came away with the understanding that he would set up the call and find out about salary simultaneously. He said he wanted to talk the next day, but I didn't get the information about the call with the direct report until a couple of days later and even then I didn't hear anything about the salary.
Meanwhile, I had e-mailed Job D shortly after I got an offer from E and they rushed to get me in and gave me an offer for a little more than the amount my old boss had originally quoted me (which happened to be 20% more in real dollars and 70% more, accounting for cost of living, than the offer from E). I waited another day and still didn't hear anything about pay from E so I started to get nervous and called the hiring manager for E, who said he had been meaning to contact me. I was hoping to find out what he had been able to negotiate so I could weigh the two options, but it seems there was a miscommunication and he told me he was waiting to find out about salary until after he knew how my talk with my potential direct report went (which I told him at the beginning of the call had gone well). He said he wanted to confirm my bottom line number and when I'd be able to come out so he could make the negotiation -- at this point I told him I had just received another offer and I said I thought I had to think about it at least overnight. He said "I thought you didn't have any offers" and I explained that I didn't at the time I spoke to HR, but now did. We agreed that I would call him the next day to give him the information he was looking for. Then Job D called and said they would need an answer within 12 hours of the Job E deadline, pointing out (neutrally) that they had jumped through hoops to get me in quickly for interviews. Knowing that I wouldn't be able to get an answer from Job E before I had to give a decision to Job D and not wanting to piss anyone off, I called Job E the next day and told them I couldn't take the offer because I felt the title and salary were not commensurate with my experience, but that I greatly enjoyed meeting with everyone and would love to stay in touch. He was very diplomatic and said he respected my stance, but I am not sure this is really the case. My stomach sank after I made that call. The next day I called Job D to accept and I started two weeks later.
I have never been motivated by money, but now that I am 37 (almost 38) and single, yet still hope against hope to get married and have kids, I feel like I can't afford to be taking pay cuts. That said, the reality is that I currently have no dependents and no debt, and I wonder if by working in a field I'm passionate about I will ultimately make more money and be more likely to meet someone wonderful to share my life with. In addition, I have been wanting a fresh start for a long time, and moving to a new city could help with that. Anyway, I have been at Job D for three weeks and it is OK (although morale there is very low -- everyone dislikes my boss and thinks he's an idiot, so I'm not sure how much I can learn from him), but every single day since I turned Job E down, I have wondered whether I should call and ask whether the job is still available and whether they would consider reopening conversations with me, explaining that I've realized working in a field I'm passionate about is more important than great money or a fancy title. What has prevented me from doing this is a fear that they will think I'm wishy-washy and that I'll lose standing in the industry, not to mention completely burn bridges with Job D, which has treated me very well despite the fact that I'm not passionate about it and that it requires me to commute three hours a day. Meanwhile, if I don't contact Job E, I may still be able to maintain contact with the hiring manager at E (although he also might want nothing to do with me) and I don't burn bridges with D, yet I feel empty inside for 10 or more hours a day and continue to obsess about this.
My apologies again for the extremely long question...I realize this is a first world problem, but it is a huge dilemma for me nonetheless. If anyone has advice, perspective, or opinions about what I should do, I would be incredibly appreciative. Thank you.