Verbally accepted a job offer, but now a dream offer has come along...
April 24, 2012 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Verbally accepted a job offer, but now a dream offer has come along... What should I do?

Okay, so I decided to quit my current dead end job and look for a new position. I'm in the video games industry and I'm pretty experienced, so tend to get interviews whenever I put my CV forward.

A few months back, I went for an interview at a small start up company which really interested me, they make social games and the company seems really relaxed and the guys I've met seem to be okay. (Not too manager-y and they said all the right things about how they treat staff - of course they did!, they all do!)

Eventually they offered me the job, but as I was asking for more money than they were advertising for, they couldn't offer me much more than my current salary. I thought about this for a LONG time and decided that I wanted a change and would take the "risk" of joining a start up - they offer a "minimal" bonus package and their working hours are strictly 9-5. (I have a small child, and another one on the way, I don't really want to work 24/7 any more)

I've verbally accepted the job offer, but I've still got reservations, (the commute isn't great, the projects don't inspire me, it's not a sector that interests me particularly, and in the long run it's not THAT much more money after you take out travel expenditure.)

THEN, a mega corporation advertised a position that is my dream job. I simply saw the advert and thought "I'll put my CV forward- there's no way on earth I'll get an interview" - I did... and it went really well, and then I had a second interview that didn't go very well at all. I thought I'd blown it and was really really upset with myself for letting the opportunity slip.

Unfortunately the Mega corporation have a very cut-throat attitude to their employees, they won't think twice about getting rid if you're not 100% good enough. (I *think* I am but I'm not 100% sure) - they have a 3 month probation period and REGULARLY let people go at the end of those three months if they don't stack up.

BUT... they pay a fortune, they have profit related royalties, they have "kudos" in the industry and having their name on my CV will basically ensure I get an interview for evermore. (It's like a rubber stamp of quality on my CV) - the job entails a lot of travel, a lot of work, and will probably have a big impact on my family life, but it's just an amazing opportunity and could lead my career to amazing heights. (Not to mention i'll be on megabucks)

I've just finished a third interview with them (which I'm really surprised I got after the second interview!) - I raised my concerns that the second interview didn't go well, and they explained it was a psychological test to see how I handle awkward people under pressure. And apparently I passed. They've just confirmed they are going to offer me a position. (Financial package TBC, although it will probably be a lot more)

and now I'm a bit stuck between REALLY wanting to take the high risk/high reward opportunity, or taking the safe option. I know it's a decision only I can make, but I'd really like to hear peoples thoughts about how to handle the following outcomes?

1. I turn down little start up and say "sorry my dream job has come up and they are offering an unbelievable package that I have to take" - and then live the very real risk that I may not be "good enough" and out of a job in 3 months. (which would be disastrous) - obviously this is majorly burning bridges with little start up and they would (rightfully) blacklist me from ever working for them again. I know how unethical this is, but then I also know how un-loyal companies can be when they need to cut their wage bill.


2. I turn down Mega-corp, and settle for start up, wondering what might have been for the rest of my life. Working 9-5, I'll see my family a lot and work will just be "a job" (something it's never really been for me) - there is future potential with this company, but there's also the possibility that it'll be gone in 5 years too. I KNOW I can do this job, but it doesn't excite me, and if I'm perfectly honest I'd probably be bored after a few months... (but then I take home a decent wage, with the occasional bonus and I know I'll never have to work past 5:30 again)

So now I'm after a few opinions, obviously everything on the internet about this subject is usually biased "headhunter" articles....
posted by tda101 to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you've got reservations about the start-up even before you consider the job with MegaCorp. For that reason, I don't think you even have to mention that you've got something else lined up if you want to turn them down - just say on reflection you're not sure it'd be great fit, and don't want to waste their time any more or give them the wrong impression.

You've still burned your bridges to an extent - but in a less cut-throat way.

But I have zero experience in your industry. For that matter, I also have zero experience with turning down jobs.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:47 AM on April 24, 2012

You've already gotten two offers, if things go bad with the big company, don't you think you could get a third?

Quitting a job for a better opportunity isn't unethical, even if you haven't started that job yet. Especially then, because there's no way that they really depend on you at this point.
posted by skewed at 4:47 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, subjecting you to a "bad interview" as a psychological test strikes me as flat-out unethical, and should give you pause about working for MegaCorporation.
posted by jayder at 4:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

maybe "psychological test" was the wrong way of wording the second interview - more like, the my perception was that the interview didn't go well (it was still amicable) and the interviewers technique was to try and trip me over to see how I dealt with it.

I've been in that "bad cop" situation a few times before (hell, I've BEEN the bad cop a few times) and it's usually a valid tactic (if a little slimey) to see how candidates deal with awkward people under pressure...
posted by tda101 at 4:53 AM on April 24, 2012

I say go for the dream job at megacorp,mas long as it really is your dream job. You say whenever you put your CV forward you get interviews, right? Well, if you don't make the cut at the end of 3 months, you put your resume out there and start somewhere else. But at least youll have no regrets. On the other hand, of you make the cut, and it really IS the dream... All the better!
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:54 AM on April 24, 2012

Nothing is ever certain. If you started a 3 month probation period thinking they'll let you go then they'll let you go. If you decided to work for the start up you may find that their investors pull the plug on them in six months...and you do seem to be able to get job offers so you are clearly employable.

If you decided to take the second job you just tell the start up you changed your mind. Nothing unethical about that.

What does your spouse think? The two options sound as if they each have very different impact on your personal life and you really need to talk to them to work out what the best choice for your family is, not to us.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The work vs life vs income balance is definitely my primary motivating factor in this decision.

We're not financially well off so a massive pay rise would have an enormous positive outcome on my family - what I lose in time with them I will gain in financial security. (I'm still reasonably young so in a few years, I can maybe say "okay, lets find another slower moving less pressured position" which will be immeasurably easier with megacorp on my CV)

Thankfully my wife is very supportive and thinks this is a decision only I can make and that she'll support me whichever decision I make. Her stance is there is no wrong choice.

Thanks to everyone for your replies, It really is helping!
posted by tda101 at 5:09 AM on April 24, 2012

Having accepted the startup's offer doesn't make you an indentured servant; if your family's interests are best served by you going to the megacorp, then don't feel guilty. But talk to your spouse about all that travel, etc., before you make the decision - that has a big impact on a young family's life and on a marriage.

Also, I've never heard of a startup offering a more laid back lifestyle than an established company. Are you sure they are painting an accurate picture?
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

More money is always nice. However, your sanity, time with your family, and happiness are the things you will look back upon down the road and be grateful for. Everything about MegaCorp sounds shitty, slimy, and unlike what you have said that you want out of your life.

Take the smaller job. You may not be on "MegaBucks", but your kids don't care. They want you around and happy. That's worth more.
posted by ellF at 5:14 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to make one clear statement. Decided between the two as you will.... but choosing megacorp us NOT unethical to startup. Not at all. So remove that from your thinking.

As for my opinion on the jobs: rell startup "I'm sorry, I am very interested in the position but I have a 3 month trial at a dreamjob that was just offered. I sincerely apologize and I'll keep you informed as to my status. In the meantime I can recommend guy X who may be a valuable asset."

Just how I would handle it.
posted by chasles at 5:16 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

You really sound to me like the one you want to take is the job with mega corp.

If it doesn't work out, if you hate it, or it impacts your family you can quit and apparently you can get another job fairly easily and have that on your resume.

I think Dream Job is a no-brainer--I don't see what the runner-up job gets you, really. You could get another job like that later. Dream Job doesn't come along every day.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:21 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to make one clear statement. Decided between the two as you will.... but choosing megacorp us NOT unethical to startup. Not at all. So remove that from your thinking.

Not at this point. Verbal agreement, no contracts signed, they also are aware they are stretching to "afford you" plus everything you've written make this a no-brainer decision with a clear conscience.

Do however end the chapter with startup gracefully and keeping lines of communication open.
posted by infini at 5:29 AM on April 24, 2012

My only warning with the mega corp would be to search around for people who have left the company and see what they say about it. If it's just the standard, "I hated it, it was too hard, life isn't fair" kind of pissing and moaning, fine. But if the complaints trend toward "they did the following unfair things to me" and those things really are unfair, then you might want to consider why they pay such good money.

I still think it's worth a shot, and I think the startup will understand. "Hey guys, I had put my resume in with these guys too, and just got an offer. I hope you'll understand that I pretty much have to take the opportunity."
posted by gjc at 5:41 AM on April 24, 2012

My only warning with the mega corp would be to search around for people who have left the company and see what they say about it

You might well be able to find employee reviews on, though they could bias towards the disgruntled ones.
posted by Dragonness at 5:57 AM on April 24, 2012

Dream job! Dream job! Life is way, way too short. To me, the only right answer is the dream job. Since you use language like "dream job," I think you know this.

It is always worth it to be challenged in order to have a better life. Don't take the safe route, here.
posted by hought20 at 5:57 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

choosing megacorp is NOT unethical to startup

Exactly. In my opinion, it's not even blacklist-worthy. They know you are looking for a job, and so they can assume you are interviewing at other places, and they are in your field, so presumably they understand what a job at Megacorp would mean for your career and your finances. If they are at all reasonable people they will understand that such an offer is hard to turn down and will wish you nothing but the best.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:58 AM on April 24, 2012

I run a tiny law firm. If I offered someone a job, and he verbally accepted, and then he was offered a job at an AmLaw 100 law firm, I couldn't blame him for withdrawing his acceptance of my job and accepting the job with the AmLaw 100 firm. I would just shrug because it's just pretty much SCIENCE! that someone would accept the big-time job.
posted by jayder at 6:17 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

You always get interviews whenever you put your CV in and you have a dream job offer? This is a no-brainer, you take the dream offer and phone the small company to politely apologise and say you can no longer take their job.

Its normal to have doubts about whether you are up to the big job, this is how you find out. You would be insane not to take it.
posted by biffa at 6:28 AM on April 24, 2012

Some brilliant, brilliant replies here, thanks everyone!

It's beginning to paint a pretty clear picture of what I should do (and what I shouldn't worry about!)
posted by tda101 at 6:42 AM on April 24, 2012

I'm skeptical that this "dream job" is really all that dreamy. You've raised some serious red flags - good companies don't hire people for three month trial periods and routinely fire them after, and they certainly don't do psychological fire-hazing as part of the interview process.

Both of those things would make the company a non-starter for me, reputation notwithstanding. And, the interview process would lead me to go so far as to warn my friends in the industry not to even bother interviewing there.

It's a shame, because 99% of the time, I'd say "Take the money!". *sigh*
posted by Citrus at 6:54 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to take a chance on the Megacorp, do it because it's a known quantity and you know what you are getting into: you know their reputation, you know their policies, you know they are a successful company and aren't going under any time soon, you know the payoff to your career should you succeed there.

On the other hand, all you really know about the startup is what they told you in the interview. As a company, they haven't proven anything yet. Personally, I've never ever worked at a startup, especially a game startup, where everyone goes home at 5:30. I'd be terribly suspicious of a startup with that laid-back of an atmosphere because for little companies, it's always a race to become successful before the funding runs out, something that typically isn't helped along by treating the job like it's a 9-5er. So, I suspect they are a) BSing you about the time/mind commitment or b) they are indeed that casual, which raises a red flag about the potential casualness of their approach to other aspects of their business or c) as a consequence of b, will soon determine that "oops, we are running out of funding so it's time to start piling on the work/cutting costs."
posted by jamaro at 7:34 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I was just finishing law school I applied for a fellowship and was rejected. Then a person who got the fellowship got a Fullbright, and took that instead, leaving the fellowship people with an unfilled slot. They called me, I took the fellowship, and that ended up being a really good experience that got me on a great career path which ultimately changed my life in really positive ways. So. Your turning down the start-up may create an opening for someone who will find the start-up opportunity to be just the perfect fit.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:41 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go with the job you are (clearly) excited about, and forget the rest.

This is one of my rules in life, btw. There will always be other opportunities if something doesn't go the way you want, but you won't have to regret passing up your dreamjob. Who cares how safe and stable the other job is, if you'd be miserable every day dreaming of what you gave up? Too many people settle. Don't be one of them unless you absolutely have to.
posted by widdershins at 10:04 AM on April 24, 2012

I'm tangentially in the same field as you, working at a social gaming company, so I kind of understand the predicament. It's pretty clear to me that you're probably going to do fine at either job, and you're probably not going to be fired at the 3-month review period. I say take the dream job, and re-evaluate in a year. As you say, with a year's experience at MegaCorp, you'll have your golden ticket and can do whatever you want.

But I think a few other people have chimed in with other, valid perspectives. I think something that is hard to do is to take a massive pay increase and then go back to something lower paying but with better hours- you take out a big mortgage, start eating out more, and suddenly you pretty much HAVE to work that many hours just to feel like you're keeping up, or that you need to do it to be "worth" your salary. So while I don't agree with them that you should take the safe, family-friendly job, it's something that is worth thinking about when that year is up and it's time to reevaluate.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 1:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

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