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December 22, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

After a period of redundancy (thanks, ConDems) I am being swamped with job offers (well, two). How do I deal with this?

I have been out of work since the end of September and Do. Not. Like. I was offered a post in my field of expertise on Tuesday (this is First Job). It pays a reasonable wage, is for around 6 months (OK with that) and is a long way away (takes a couple of hours on the train, driving would be about an hour and a half - I've agreed with the potential employer that travelling every day will not be an option and depending on the requirements of the job, which I know will change as the project moves forward, will be working from home for three days a week). I verbally accepted First Job when it was offered to me yesterday and am anticipating paperwork through soon confirming times, dates and salary.

Completely out of the blue, I have also been contacted today by someone I know from a previous role I held, who is offering a short to medium term position in Same Field, with a broad job outline that reflects my specific skills probably slightly more closely than First Job and which would be located much closer indeed to home (as a comparison, return train ticket to First Job would be about £60 / $94 each day, whereas to Second Job it would be about £7 / $11 return).

I don't have the details of Second Job yet but will find them out in a phonecall I am about to make. I have explained in an e-mail to this second person what my situation is, but it sounds like they still want to talk me through Second Job.

My question is this: assuming all things are equal, and that proposed salary and length of work contracts are similar, and given the obvious difference in travel times and their implied costs, what is the best and most graceful way to decline First Job? I'm not worried about my reputation, as I think if it's done properly people should be able to understand why I might want a job that's similarly remunerated but much closer to home, but I just don't know how best to frame this conversation (if indeed I have to have it - Second Job could potentially pay peanuts). Complicating factor - someone I know well and have worked with before is working at a senior level at First Job place and was the person who tipped me off about First Job. How do I approach them if I do decide to decline First Job?
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence to Work & Money (10 answers total)
Luckily, I think you have an easy out for Job #1 with the commute. You can say after consideration you just doing think you can do that commute/work and home arrangement, especially as you don't know how often you'll have to go in over the next 6 months. You don't have to say their offer was worse or whatever. And chances are good you are not the only candidate they looked at they they thought could do the job -- you won't be ruining anything for them just because you were the best candidate and you're turning them down.
posted by brainmouse at 10:38 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think you've answered your own question. If all things are equal, it's perfectly reasonable to say: "Look I'm really sorry and I'm very grateful for the opportunity, but what with the commute etc. it's makes much more sense for me to go with the second job. I'm sure you understand." Even with the work at home option that's being offered for the first job, I think you could just leave it at that. Of course if things aren't equal that changes everything.
posted by ob at 10:41 AM on December 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Just be honest and direct. "I'm sorry, but another opportunity has come up and I'll be unable to take the position." If funding for the position dried up they wouldn't worry about "gracefully" telling you the position was unavailable.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:42 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Employers pull verbal offers all the time. And there are probably dozens of other qualified people who'd be thrilled to replace you.

You're in the drivers seat this time. They are pretty much every other time. Take job 2, be graceful to the folks at job 1 and enjoy this power, because you'll probably never get to enjoy it again.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:46 AM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It probably goes without saying, but get Job #2 in writing before telling Job #1 of your decision.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:58 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

It would be extremely poor character to back out of job number one so quickly after you've accepted. You gave your word. You'll want to let job#2 know that you just accepted a position but should your circumstances change you will be in touch immediately. That's the only path forward. If your friend who tipped you off to the job#1 also put in a good word for you then not only is your character and reputation at stake but so is theirs. I'm sure you would feel cheated if an employer offered you a job without stipulation (like funding contingent, etc) and then yanked it back. You never know when the people you are thinking of screwing over at job#1 might crop up again in an influential manner in your life down the line and you definitely don't want them cropping up with a sour taste in their mouth. And any company that encourages you to defect after you just accepted a position elsewhere as #2 seems to be doing per your post is not a company you want to work for. They've already given you insight into their mindset about loyalty.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 11:32 AM on December 22, 2011

I've worked somewhere where a new person arrived, worked for three weeks and then gave notice because he got a much more prestigious job elsewhere. Everyone, including this guy's boss, agreed that they'd have done the exact same thing in his position, and his boss just started calling the other people they'd turned down.

I guess it could be argued that you owe them your notice period, which is probably short enough that it would be up before you started work, making it completely meaningless. It's not poor character to give notice on a job.
posted by emilyw at 11:37 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It would be extremely poor character to back out of job number one so quickly after you've accepted. You gave your word.

No, it would not. This is not a social contract, it's a business one, and a better offer came along. Verbal offers get pulled all the time, and people abandon jobs two weeks after orientation because they got a better one, too. Particularly for a six month contract? There's nothing like this kind of loyalty required.
posted by KathrynT at 11:50 AM on December 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It would be extremely poor character to back out of job number one so quickly after you've accepted. You gave your word.

This strikes me as a very antiquated view of how the world of business works. A verbal acceptance isn't the same thing as signing anything. If the second job is a better fit, I'm sure the people at job number one will understand, indeed it would be unprofessional of them not to. Loyalty to a company or institution is something that might occur after a few years of working somewhere, not the day after a verbal confirmation when nothing is in writing. Even then, most people understand what "a better offer" means.
posted by ob at 12:45 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to respond.

TestamentToGrace, I genuinely admire the very strong principles you have demonstrated in your comment, and would tend to agree with the sentiment it expresses, under normal circumstances. Unfortunately in this current economic climate, we can't always afford to act in what we think ourselves is the most "noble" way, for want of a better way of describing it. It turns out that Second Job is actually better paid than First Job, so in that regard it would be remiss of me not to consider it; on top of that there is the possibility of Second Job being longer in duration than First Job. I have personal family responsibilities that mean that a better paid job, much closer to home and potentially for longer represents a far better opportunity for me to fulfill those responsibilities. And yes, I am feeling guilty about potentially "letting people down" - of course I am, because it isn't something I've done very much of before and I hate the thought of doing so now.

The person who gave me a heads' up about the post was very careful indeed not to put in any kind of good word - that would have been extremely bad practice and I absolutely wouldn't have wanted them to do so.

To those who offered advice on how to handle conversations, thank you - I will take all those suggestions on board. And to those of you who have expressed support and understanding over the awkwardness of the situation, I'm very grateful indeed.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:21 PM on December 22, 2011

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