Which job?
June 27, 2011 6:55 PM   Subscribe

I'm having trouble juggling two different job offers. Need advice on handling negotiation and making the best choice.

So I'm recently graduated and new to the job market. After a disheartening six-month job search, I guess I started doing something right, because I've recently received two offers.

Company A is a small company, with around 20 employees. They've offered me a four-week contract position at an hourly wage, and made it clear that they're looking to hire full time employees, and that the short contract is something that every employee has started with.

Pro's: I like Company A's office culture, which seems young and fun. They're really close to my climbing gym, and apparently they all go climbing at lunch. Awesome! Also they're in the East Bay and I'd be able to bike to work, which is another plus.

Con's: I'm already pretty good at what I'd be doing at this place, so I might not learn as much as I would at another job. Also, a weird thing about them is that they didn't give me an official offer letter until I asked, and even then, the offer letter did not have an end date. I asked about adding an end date to the offer letter, but was told not to change it. Also, obviously, a short contract is not a permanent job offer.

Company B is a large law firm in SF, and they've offered me a full time position.

Pro's: A full time job! My responsibilities would be more diverse, and I think I would learn more here.

Con's: Starting salary is low (40k). I've tried to negotiate but have been met with a flat no. Office culture does not seem as fun - when I was there for my interview, all I saw was a bunch of old dudes in suits. And as great as the city is, I would either have to commute every day on BART (ugh), or I would live in the city and pay super high rent.

Company A contacted me first, and offered the contract first, and I said yes. I'm supposed to start later this week.

Then last week, Company B contacted me and offered me their job. The longest they will wait for my start date is two weeks, so there's no way to honor the four-week contract AND take this job. I have to let Company B know by tomorrow at 4pm.

So my questions:

How would you handle this, in general?

As already working professionals, what do you think of the pro's and con's of each company? (With no previous experience, I'm afraid of over-valuing or under-valuing some of those individual pro's and con's.)

I want to call Company A and try to figure out how serious they are about a permanent position after the contract is over, but I don't want it to come out ultimatum-style or alienate me as sneaky or untrustworthy. On the other hand, this is where a sneaky idea presents itself to me: Would it be terrible to call and say that I do intend to honor my four-week commitment and that I'm curious about what a starting salary would be like for a permanent position in the future, as a way to gather info without burning bridges for a few more hours?

This is all going down before tomorrow at 4pm.
posted by pluot to Work & Money (14 answers total)
I personally would take the contract and let Job B go. Job B doesn't seem like a place you really want to work.

If you feel you can't get permanent work after this contract is over (either at Job A or elsewhere), and that's going to put you in a financial bind quickly, then you may have to decline Job A's offer and go for Job B. But going for a job you don't really want is almost never a great long-term plan.
posted by xingcat at 7:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would go with A, but only after I had told them of the other offer and given them a chance to match it with a full-time position.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:06 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Job B will likely look better on your resume, than Job A, to large employers. You'll likely learn more. Hopefully, you'll demonstrate that you can work effectively in a fairly formal office culture. These are all powerful indications to your next employer. Just as all the reasons you list for liking Company A are going to be significant about Job A to other subsequent employers like Company A, which you want to keep in mind if your desired career path includes working for lots of small companies with informal work cultures, in a suburban setting.

In this market, at your stage of life, if only for the learning opportunities and resume value, no question but what I'd go with Job B. You might find that moving to the city, finding roommates, and learning to manage on a workaday salary are all great experiences for finding later, better jobs in the city, too.
posted by paulsc at 7:11 PM on June 27, 2011

The commute should be a major consideration.

I'm also generally in favor of taking the job you won't hate vs the grown-up job, but I'm older than you and have gotten burned a few times.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:19 PM on June 27, 2011

Tell Company A that you have been offered a permanent job, that you'll still inclined toward them, but you're worried you'll be high and dry come four weeks. See what they say.

Tell Company B that another company is offering you more money, and see what they say.
posted by orthogonality at 7:34 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd pick A. The short contract doesn't bother me, and I can actually see it as a positive - the company is so protective of their corporate culture that even after choosing a candidate that they agree on, they put an additional level of protection in to prevent a bad hire. Bad hires are killer, and with a company of 20 people it's even worse. I may be seeing this through the lens of the positive spin you've put on company A, but if you felt like their interview was thorough I'd be inclined to believe them. There's not a lot of benefit to a company in bringing in someone for a 4 week contract and then letting them go.

As to valuation: I think that you're undervaluing the diverse opportunities you can get at a company of 20 people that's actively hiring. You say that you're going to be asked to do something you're already good at, but if the company is growing there are going to be lots of opportunities to grab other responsibilities.

If it were me, I would almost certainly go with A if my gut said to and not raise any more issues. It's a roll of the dice, but I would be very careful about any kind of fishing with A, salary or otherwise. It's a small company, and your reputation starts now. Unless you're absolutely sure that the person you're talking to at A is one who can handle these kind of questions in a businesslike fashion, you run the risk of them saying offhanded to someone else "pluot seems great, but they came back with more problems after they accepted. Oh well, we'll see how the 4 weeks goes". That sticks, and small companies with tight corporate cultures are very much insider/outsider situations. If you have 4 weeks to make yourself an insider the last thing you need is a knock on you at the start, whether it's fair or not.
posted by true at 7:47 PM on June 27, 2011

You are good at Job A. You like to do what they do (climb and probably other stuff). They offered you the 4 week contract because they obviously like you. There is no reason you won't be offered a FT job after those 4 weeks, unless you do something really awful.
posted by blargerz at 7:56 PM on June 27, 2011

Best answer: I think A can pick and choose people because it's fun! and young! and has great office culture. How many people there were hired after their 4 week stint and how many didn't make the cut? I'm leery of places that hold out this carrot. B might be dull (old guys in suits? Perish the thought!) but it's a serious job and they take you seriously, too. Think about what you'll be doing, because repetitive work isn't much fun, even if you all go climbing at lunch.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:18 PM on June 27, 2011

It sounds like you want to take the job with Company A...which I think is fine as long as you can handle some risk. I don't know how badly you need a job at the moment, but if it's pretty badly, you might want to go with Company B. Company A has not guaranteed you a full-time job (I agree with Ideefixe that I would want to know what percentage of contractors were offered full-time positions, though it's probably a bit late to be asking that now), and even if they do offer you a job, you don't know what the salary will be; it could be less than what Company B is offering.

That's just food for thought. If you're ok taking on a little bit of risk that the Company A job won't come through, I would say you should go for it. Good luck with whichever company you choose!
posted by whitelily at 8:25 PM on June 27, 2011

I'd go with A, but call them back with what orthogonality said just to give your gut one more read that it's the right choice.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:12 PM on June 27, 2011

I also like orthogonality's suggestion, and I agree that the commute is (and should be) a major consideration.

However, as an ancedatapoint, I was in a very similar position a couple of years ago, and chose Job B, and have since been very, very happy with my choice. I initially chose a full-time offer because I am a risk-adverse person generally, and I really, really needed the security of a stable income. I had/have consumer debts and student loan payments, and I had to prioritize being sure I could start to chip away at those things. If you have any significant debt and/or loan payments, obviously, that should be something you think about.

Interview settings, I find, rarely accurately convey the nuances of an office culture. My wonderful, supportive, appreciative boss came off okay in the interview setting, but his total awesomeness wasn't apparent until I'd been here a while. I wasn't sure initially how much opportunity I'd have to grow professionally in this organization, and now (coming up on 2 years) I've been able to almost completely overhaul my job duties, get a title change and a major role on a new grant-funded project, and am reasonably-likely to be reclassed to a higher pay grade (for the second time) in the next month or two. Now, I was incredibly lucky to stumble into a position that I could run with in this way, of course, and even luckier that my boss is supportive and wonderful about spreading praise and acknowledging good work. But if you think Company B's position offers a lot more potential for professional growth, that's a big deal, especially if you're just getting your career started.

I admit, my hour-plus commute (on transit) is not my favorite thing, and sometimes the politics and conservatism here is trying. However, I have gotten more career advancement out of this job than I had any right to expect, and I feel really, really lucky that my safe-choice job-acceptance also turned out to be a great choice professionally too.

So, I guess, the office culture and fun! stuff! has value, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a stifling choice to go with Job B. Stability and career growth is important, and if Job B is feeling not-so-fun (as opposed to I-hate-it-here) you don't want to blow that off.
posted by Kpele at 10:19 AM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for your advice, awesome MeFites. I ended up telling Company B that I'm joining them, and I'm feeling pretty good about my choice.
posted by pluot at 12:29 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting back, pluot. It's informative to hear how these things wrap.
posted by paulsc at 5:10 PM on June 28, 2011

FWIW, I was gonna say B. It seems unlikely that a large law firm in a major US city would not give you a raise after observing some good work for whatever period of time. And opportunity to learn seems important to you.
posted by troywestfield at 8:41 AM on June 29, 2011

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