How to deal with uncertainty in job hunt?
March 14, 2009 4:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently jobless and have been hunting for web development/programming jobs for the past three weeks. I just received my first offer two days ago, but do not feel that the company is right for me. On the other hand I'm pretty anxious about passing up the opportunity. What do you think I should do? There's also an additional time constraint involved. [more details inside]

My gut feeling is telling me that it isn't the right company for me (small operation, pretty run down, gloomy staff, didn't really like the place), but I'm pretty anxious to refuse the offer for fear of not being able to find other opportunities.

The salary offered isn't great at all (15% cut from my previous pay). It seems that it would actually place me below the industry's average in the pre-recession era. Other people, however, seem to agree that it is pretty okay considering the economic mess nowadays.

There might possibly some potentials for growth in position, but I didn't intend to stay for long as I would be pursuing postgraduate study a year from now.

So, do you think I should just commit myself to this very first offer that I've got? Ideally I would like to hang on to it for a while, and carry on searching for opportunities elsewhere. Unfortunately the potential boss would like me to give the decision by next Monday (two days from now), so there isn't really enough time to do any other searchings at all.

Bear in mind that I'm pretty junior (2 years of work experience, specializing in Java/J2EE development). My current location is in Singapore; the job market here is pretty tight and quite affected by the economic downturn, although not as bad as in the USA. I'd say that it's comparably similar to how Hong Kong is faring at the moment.

I must have sent about 50 copies of my resume for the past 3 weeks till now, and managed to secure 3 interviews. Only 1 of those ended up with a concrete offer as mentioned above.
posted by joewandy to Work & Money (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A job is a job man. Take it. It doesn't mean you can't keep looking for others and going for interviews.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:26 AM on March 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

Any money coming in is better than nothing. Pride doesn't put food on the table.
posted by Solomon at 4:30 AM on March 14, 2009

Response by poster: It doesn't mean you can't keep looking for others and going for interviews.

This is true, but it would definitely make me appear as a serial job hopper in my resume.
posted by joewandy at 4:33 AM on March 14, 2009

It may, but hopefully you'll get the opportunity to explain that in the future. I think take it as well.
posted by ryanbryan at 4:45 AM on March 14, 2009

it would definitely make me appear as a serial job hopper in my resume.

Given the current economic crisis, I would hope that most employers would understand. The fact that your place of work closed is a pretty good reason for looking for a new job. :)
posted by Solomon at 4:46 AM on March 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not really. Just say it was a "backfill contract" or "relief contract" or something similar.

I admit I'm not a web developer or programmer, but most of my jobs have been in IT, and it's all much of a muchness in my experience (5 years in IT recruitment). Obviously Australia is a different marketplace to the US, but recruiters especially understand how contracts work and if you're going through a recruitment agency - which, if the US marketplace is anything like ours, is something like 90% of jobs - they understand how contracts work, and understand the playing field is pretty broken-up at the moment, and what you want to project is an attitude of "consistently able to find work" rather than "serial job-hopper".
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:48 AM on March 14, 2009

How much time do you have left given your current burn rate?
posted by Rubbstone at 4:59 AM on March 14, 2009

Best answer: ...below the industry's average in the pre-recession era.

Is this really relevant? Considering how many companies are shedding rather than hiring, the same offer might be above-average now. You're stuck in the present. Go with it.
posted by jon1270 at 5:03 AM on March 14, 2009

It is easier to find a job when you *have a job, and perhaps you'll find that this is a good place to spend the year before grad school. Ditto everyone above, particularly since you are early in your career. Good luck in your new gig!
posted by njbradburn at 5:04 AM on March 14, 2009

Ideally I would like to hang on to it for a while, and carry on searching for opportunities elsewhere.

Dude, I'd hang on to the job for a while and carry on searching for opportunities elsewhere.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:22 AM on March 14, 2009

This is true, but it would definitely make me appear as a serial job hopper in my resume.

It looks better on your resume to be jumping around jobs than to not have had any job during the same time period.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:29 AM on March 14, 2009

n-thing take it.

People move around a lot these days, frequently for very good reasons, especially in IT. Worst comes to worst, you have a job you don't like. If you don't take the job and worst comes to worst, you're unemployed for an indefinite period of time.

Still, I'd wait a good couple of months before sending out more resumes. Changing jobs more than twice a year for reasons unrelated to company-going-out-of-business does start to make you look pretty flaky. Give it a shot. Who knows, maybe you'll love it. Weirder things have happened.
posted by valkyryn at 5:35 AM on March 14, 2009

you should take this job unless you have (a) the necessary funds to pay rent without having one for another six months and (b) a real plan on how to make yourself more employable.

look, the tighter the job market gets, the better you have to be in comparison to your peers. this is about you working on your skills and work portfolio (or whatever matters in your industry). I'd take the job and work my butt off at night to get somewhere better as time passes. also make sure to network. you seem to not have considered who you might meet at this employer.
posted by krautland at 5:38 AM on March 14, 2009

Another vote for 'take it'. A job is a job.
posted by Kirn at 5:53 AM on March 14, 2009

Response by poster: thanks guys ... lots of solid advices here :D
i appreciate it
posted by joewandy at 5:56 AM on March 14, 2009

I've learned SOMETHING from every crappy job I've ever had. Get all the knowledge and exposure you can and it may lead you in a direction you hadn't seen before.

They must know how to run a business to be hiring in an economic downturn. Pay attention to that side of things.
posted by readery at 6:43 AM on March 14, 2009

the term 'serial job hopper' in high tech is kind of an oxymoron. people IN high tech will get it. people who don't get it aren't worth having the conversation with because nothing you say will justify it in their mind.

if you're a good programmer no one will care. you can also just honestly say, "I had gotten laid off and needed the work even though i knew the company wasn't right for me." anyone who doesn't understand that isn't someone you want to work for anyway.
posted by micawber at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2009

nth-ing (to the nth power) taking the job.

I was out of work for four months after quitting my job. It hurt me really bad. Just take the job and wait for something better to come along. Other employers will be encouraged by the fact you are eager to be employed as opposed to being unemployed for an extended duration.
posted by Brandon1600 at 9:18 AM on March 14, 2009

What readery said. Treat it as a learning experience. Since you're new to the field, you probably haven't worked in too many software shops and each one in the world does things differently. Pay attention to how they do things and what works and what doesn't. Keep a journal for reference.

And yea, there aren't too many developer jobs out there, grab what there.
posted by octothorpe at 9:31 AM on March 14, 2009

I'd consider counter offering with a salary you'd be happy with.
posted by advicepig at 12:04 PM on March 14, 2009

did I just get un-best-answered? damn, that's cold.
posted by krautland at 12:06 PM on March 14, 2009

As others have said, don't reject it just because a pay cut will look bad on a resume or because the company looks worse than the previous one etc.

It's all a matter of perspective. Your dream is to go back to postgraduate studies, where I imagine the goal is a tenure track faculty position (am I wrong?). Hiring committees won't be concerned with job hopping, in their world it's usually a sign of someone on a fast track to success.

You're under no obligation to list every job you take on your resume; an employer may ask about gaps but if you're in an interview situation, you're in a much better position to explain things than the 30 seconds a resume gets. Even better, if you're concerned about your resume, take the job with an eye towards improving things and putting that on the resume. Introduce industry best practices to the team, etc. If that happens in a shortened time frame, so much the better!

If you're looking for reasons to not take the job, I have a story. Fresh out of college in the middle of an economic slump, I had an interview from a small local company who wanted to contract someone to finish up a project they had promised. I didn't like the company atmosphere at all: a Corvette parked away from everyone else, the serial entrepreneur owner with a large office decorated in Corvette paraphernalia, while rest of the office felt like a slum. It was clear that the project was agreed to by sales without any consulting on the time frame or costs, and that I really didn't have the expertise to make it happen. So I recommended a friend who'd been doing embedded stuff for years, they wound up hiring him as an employee and two months later they stopped making payroll.
posted by pwnguin at 1:44 PM on March 14, 2009

As far as job hoping, don't list it on your resume. You are in a field where you can easily say you were doing Freelance work while looking for the write opportunity and will be taken seriously.

For added realism have a few freelance projects in your portfolio for that time.
posted by Mick at 2:48 PM on March 14, 2009

Response by poster: did I just get un-best-answered? damn, that's cold.

Uh, that's because better best-answers started to pour in later on ? In the end, I really appreciated every single feedback that I've gotten. Each comment gave me an additional perspective in the decision making, so ... thanks everybody! I think I'll take up the job first and see how it goes later.
posted by joewandy at 10:28 PM on March 14, 2009

Response by poster: Just an update for anybody who might care. I followed my gut feeling and decided to pass on the job offer. Shortly after that (next week), I found a slightly better paying position with more interesting job scopes and a shorter commute time. This is definitely a workplace that I can look forward to in terms of learning opportunities and exposures.

So I guess that sometimes it pays to take a small risk, and not to make decision based on worst-case scenario (as a poster above said).

Perhaps I can afford to do this only because I'm in Asia and I'm looking for a pretty junior position; the job market is still somewhat buoyant here in Singapore. Until I've received all the comments above, I didn't realize how bad you guys are having it in the US now. I mean, I know it's bad, but I didn't know it's that bad.
posted by joewandy at 3:01 AM on March 17, 2009

joewandy, the US economy has shed almost as many jobs in the last eighteen months than there are people in Singapore.

Yeah. It's that bad.
posted by valkyryn at 3:14 PM on March 17, 2009

Well, don't construe my story as recent, it's from the previous recession, and that company was probably doomed in better times as well =)
posted by pwnguin at 10:00 AM on March 18, 2009

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