"A bird in the hand" doesn't quite apply yet
January 15, 2012 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Help me think clearly about a potential offer for a job I'm ambivalent about.

First off, I haven't received an offer yet - I just finished the interview recently, and I don't feel 100% positive about my performance, so it's entirely possible I won't get an offer and this problem will solve itself.

However, the interview also left me ambivalent enough about the job that I'm not sure I want it at all, though hard-nosed reason tells me I should.

Here are the pros: it's in the same field I work in now (narrow, not a lot of other options likely to come up), it's a big step up from my current job (secretary to professional, essentially), and 80% more pay.

And the cons: I'm not interested in this field at all (took the secretary job out of college because I needed it), some of the work sounds intimidatingly difficult (legalese type stuff that I always have a hard time parsing, for one), the interviewer (and supervisor for the position) was very, very low-key, to the point that I worry that I'd have a hard time working with them (I left the interview unable to tell if it was simply their personality or if I was doing poorly, and that kind of ambiguity stresses me out a lot).

My job now is dead-end and boring, but generally comfortable and stress-free. I hold onto a hope of going back to school in order to get into a field that I find more engaging, though fear of student loans keeps me from doing much aside from taking a few classes here and there.

Reason tells me I should jump at any chance to move up and earn more, but there is absolutely nothing in this job itself that appeals to me. I can handle boring, difficult work in a friendly, supportive environment, but without that I worry about becoming isolated (especially in a new town) and even more depressed. What happens if I make this big move and then discover it's unbearable? I don't have the skills or experience to hop to some other job.

So I keep going round and round, and have gotten advice for both directions from friends and family. I'm hoping disinterested strangers might be able to give me a little more guidance on how I should approach this if I do get an offer.
posted by missix to Work & Money (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
80% percent more pay? I know what I would do. Money isn't everything but yikes, that is a nice raise.
posted by ian1977 at 4:08 PM on January 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If offered, I would take the job and sock away the savings for grad school. Everyone has jobs they don't like--at least you can make this one pay off for you.

It's totally intimidating to make a drastic change, but this is good practice, because life is full of sub-optimal opportunities and very few perfect ones. I think if they offer you the job, that's a pretty good sign that they think you're up to the challenge, and they've been in the business longer than you, so take confidence in that.

And if you hate it, well, at least you're making a lot more money while you're looking for a new job or applying to grad school.
posted by elizeh at 4:11 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you can live on what you make now I wouldn't switch. Money doesn't matter if you're spending sixty hours a week with people you hate doing things that bore you.
posted by winna at 4:12 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not interested in this field at all

And that's the voice you should listen to. Really, no interest at all? Not even in an aspect of it? (e.g. a person in customer service may not be terribly interested in the product and may just like working with people and problem-solving). If that's really true ... do something else if you can. Anything else.

On the other hand ... is this a job that you can compartmentalize and give yourself an end date? Go into this job thinking, "This is what I'm going to do 8 hours per day for exactly 1 year, so I can save money to go do XYZ at the end that time."

Good luck.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:12 PM on January 15, 2012

For 80% more pay I'd do it. Maybe it would help if you developed a specific plan associated with this: "I'm going to take the job and I'm going to save $$XX for school, and in six months I"m going to start studying for the GRE (or whatever you need to do to et ready for grad school), and in 12 months I"m going to apply for grad school..." etc, etc.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:13 PM on January 15, 2012

I'm going to tell you what I told myself when I was recently in this situation. "Dude, it's the worst job market in your lifetime, as long as the job isn't a greeter at Wal-mart, take the damn thing."

In my case it's returning to a field I left and while I still like that field I was hoping to expand to something new and different. But that's not the job I was offered and I really couldn't sleep nights if I'd turned it down.

Seriously, if you get the offer and it really is that much more than you currently make, take it and use it as step towards the future.
posted by teleri025 at 4:15 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're not going to be required to work more than a 40 hour week, and the job itself won't be stressful day to day, I say take it, save the extra money in an external savings account/CD.

An 80% salary bump is not insignificant, and if you maintain your current lifestyle, the money could get you a very comfortable start towards saving for school, or a down payment on a house or even just taking some sweet vacations.

If on the other hand, you think the job will be challenging in a bad way, or really taxing on maintaining a social life (ie. things to keep you entertained when NOT at work!) I don't think the salary bump would be worth it.

I've never minded working a boring job when I stiff have enough time to do stuff I'm into he rest of the time. But a stressful job that takes up all of my time and my thoughts when I'm not at work? You couldn't pay me enough to keep working there.
posted by nerdcore at 4:21 PM on January 15, 2012

My assumption is that a job that makes that much more money is at least a sixty hour work week. These days even low level jobs are meat grinders.

So that amount of money is not being given away for nothing, and the price is stress and long hours. That's why I say taking it might not be worth it, since the op doesn't hate what they're doing now.
posted by winna at 4:34 PM on January 15, 2012

Best answer: You're missing the important part of this equation. You are currently a secretary in a field you don't like. From here, you can either go a) into a secretarial job in a field you maybe do like; b) into an executive position in the field you don't like. Except from B, you can take your new skillset and new pay grade and make a lateral move to a different field a year or two down the line. This is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for you. Take it.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:36 PM on January 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I'd choose "low-stress and comfortable" over "potentially high-stress but well-paying" - but only if the difference was under 20%. Over that? I'm taking the high-stress job, even if only for a little while.

On the other hand, if you hate a job or just don't want to do it, all the money in the world won't sway you. I would never want to be a surgeon or a CEO.

Also, consider whether your reluctance to take the offer is just fear of change or a "better the devil you know" mindset. There have been a few times I've left a job I didn't like for a much better offer, and every time there was a part of me that wondered if I was making a mistake. In one of your previous questions, you said secretarial work made you unhappy, and you needed to find something else. Do you still feel that way?

Plus, if it turns out you don't like this job, it'll still look good on your resume (though you should probably stay at least a year). If all you have on your resume is secretarial work, many employers won't know if you're capable of anything else.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:42 PM on January 15, 2012

Seconding winna and Cool Papa Bell. Follow your gut on this, from someone who didn't follow her gut with respect to career and paid a hefty price for it. I wouldn't even take the end-date approach on it.

This is what I did: I went into the very field that, at age 10, I once wondered how anyone could do because it sounded so boring. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding! We have a loser (at least a loser career choice). It didn't appeal to me much more when I was in my '20's, but it did appeal to my political beliefs and need for prestige/ego reinforcement. Bleah. My later choices were, fortunately, more in line with who I am.

Since you can stand being where you are now, I'd suggest you stay there and keep looking until a) you find something that doesn't turn you off so profoundly or b) you find a program of study that appeals to you and you go back to school. It's not worth the 80% pay hike if you have to quit because you're bored/depressed out of your gourd. And I agree that you will probably have to work more hours.

If you want to beef up your resume in the meantime, look for volunteer work in a field that does interest you, maybe something you can do a couple of times a month, one or two nights a week, or on the weekends. You will likely make connections that might help you move up and out down the line. Does your firm support pro-bono/volunteer work? Make the most of it. I've heard that community college courses and professors are great resources for this too.
posted by Currer Belfry at 4:53 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You mentioned the 80% pay (nice boost!) but how do the benefits compare? Will the new job agree to pay your tuition for a course you are interested in (and if your current job does what is the actual dollar amount you get each year?)

You mentioned a new town, do you have to move or commute? If commuting, add that time to the expected hours of work and divide by the salary to see what you hourly pay REALLy is. If moving, will there be a change in the cost of living? Do you LIKE the new town?

Know yourself, are you likely to choose stability over risk? If you settle into this job are you unlikely to change positions for several years due to inertia the way you have with your current job? Is this the first interview you have had for a while; if so, you may feel more pressure to put your eggs into one basket. Going on interviews for other positions outside your comfort level would help build your knowledge base of opportunities that are out there.
posted by saucysault at 4:56 PM on January 15, 2012

Best answer: Missix, I feel for you. I really do.

I say to take the job with the 80% pay raise, and see how it pans out. Why? Because I'm nearly in the exact same situation. Last year I applied and interviewed for a job that I didn't think I'd have a chance of getting, and it came with a significant pay raise. Somehow, I got it, and I accepted, starting right away. And while it's in my area (software engineering), it's not in an area of software engineering that I'm comfortable in, and the work environment, a corporate cube farm in the suburbs, is one where I feel intensely uncomfortable in. However, the job itself, while challenging and overwhelming, has also been a fair amount of fun.

It also provided me with the necessary kick in the rear for me to get my career into a path I would be more comfortable in, and to provide the motivation to do so. So, I'm boning up on my math skills, and am looking at taking Calculus classes, so that I can eventually take classes in Computer Science. I've been taking my salary and living on a minimum, and squirreling the rest away into my Savings and Retirement accounts. For every day that I find filled with drudgery comes a night where I fire up my Khan Academy account, and relearn a new math concept, inching ever closer to my goal of what I want to *really* do.

I've also had the low paying yet comfortable jobs, and they didn't provide nearly the same motivation. Even if you take the new job and you completely bomb at it and quit/get fired, at least you'll get a couple of big paychecks out of it.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:59 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you're not remotely interested in the job despite the pay, then you're not going to be able to force yourself into the job despite reason. It sounds like you absolutely hate it already. So don't do it, money or no money. Doesn't sound like the money is worth it to you to put up with that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:57 PM on January 15, 2012

Response by poster: So many answers, so quickly! I thought this would languish, given that it's Sunday evening. All of the answers were helpful to read, so thanks to everyone. The favorites are for the ones that provide just the reality check I needed. I don't think my worries are unfounded, but the material benefits would be a huge boost either way and could give me a lot more options. Plus it would be nice to have some day-to-day challenges that actually require me to work hard and use my brain.

Still, I won't even know if they want me until later this week! A certain sense of ambivalence is probably good defense against disappointment if I don't get it.
posted by missix at 7:22 PM on January 15, 2012

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