Which job, where?
November 5, 2012 9:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out which of these jobs to take. Avalanche within.

Lucky me, I have a job offer with company A! I have had two excellent interviews with two other companies as well. Company B is supposed to contact me with a decision tomorrow. Company C is supposed to contact me with a decision by Wednesday. My deadline to make a decision on company A's offer is Thursday. Help me decide?

Currently, I live in [crappy, depressing, crime-riddled Southern metropolitan area]. I'm graduating in December from [mediocre university] with a great GPA and lots of honors. I was invited to interview with three fairly awesome companies. Let's just assume I get all three offers; if not, obviously, I will take what's available.

Possibly helpful information about me: I'm the single mom of a two-year-old. (Dad is involved, but not moving. We will be working out a summer custody arrangement). I expect to settle in after I move, so school quality is a factor. I like nature, camping, reading, good coffee, interesting food, and a vibrant LGBT community. I'm very liberal. I'm having a really hard time trying to figure out where my kid and I will be happiest.

Company A:
is located in the area around Dartmouth College (VT/NH). The position is a perfect match for me/my skills and the team is small (less than 10 writers in a ~2000 person organization). I like the company culture - they really seem to care about their employees, the community, and the environment - and it appears I'd fit well with the team. The work will be challenging. The pay and benefits they're offering are exceptional (3 weeks of vacation, bonuses of around 20% of base pay), but appear to only allow me to scrape by in the area. The recruiter has said there is room to negotiate this offer.

It appears to be very very expensive to live here, and I have no experience dealing with extended cold/snow or what they call "mud season." The mountains and scenery are absolutely gorgeous and the area schools are apparently top-notch. There is very little traffic here and it's a very safe area. The nearby cities (within a 3 hour drive) are full of culture. There's a fair amount of culture here, but it is much more like a small town than a city. If I move there, I will know absolutely no one.

Company B:
is in Madison, WI. There are about 100 tech writers here, in different teams in a very rapidly expanding, quirky, ~6000 person company. The campus is gorgeous and kind of flashy, but I don't think the offer here will match the offer from Company A, even adjusting for cost of living. (But it might?) I don't know exactly what I will be doing at Company B yet, only that they are hiring a number of tech writers and I will be placed where they think I will fit best. This position requires some travel, which will be difficult for me. The benefits package is exceptional here and includes some really nice perks like a paid sabbatical every 5 years.

I like the culture in Madison, but the Midwest doesn't excite me in any way. Neither am I excited about nature in Madison - there will be snow, but no mountains. I don't think I will like the feeling of being "an island of blue in a sea of red." If I move here, I will know a couple of acquaintances.

Company C:
is in Austin, TX. This position should also be a great match for my skills, with the added bonus that this company does a whole lot of awesome stuff I have no experience in and which is challenging (engineering), which means I will be able to learn a lot of new things. I would be, similar to company B, one of about 100 tech writers in a ~6000 person company. This company hires a lot of people right out of college, as does company B, but I'm a bit older and worry I will feel out of place. The salary offer will probably be 5-7% lower than Company A's when adjusted for cost of living. The benefits package is great, but not as good as Company A.

Austin fits a lot of my living requirements as far as culture goes - nice and liberal, although it suffers from the same island problem as Company B. I don't find the scenery beautiful here, and I am not a fan of the heat. If I live in south Austin, where (from what I understand) the weirdness is, then I will have a ~45 minute commute to the office. If I move here, I will know a couple of acquaintances.

Right now, my choices seem to be between A and C, assuming that I even get an offer from company C. But maybe there's something I'm overlooking?

Which job should I take?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Go with job 'A.' It sounds like the one you want. If the recruiter said the offer is negotiable, then negotiate and get a better offer.

And don't forget you'd be close to Canada -- actually, I think the closest major city from there is Montreal. I love me some French Canadiens :)
posted by DoubleLune at 9:24 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Company A will have a good cultural and food environment, the best money of the three opportunities you're weighing even if it's less than you'd like, and the office setting that makes you happiest.

You can learn how to deal with winter. Step 1: Get Cuddle Duds or other brands of lightweight long underwear and some nice jackets, gloves and shoes for you and your kid. Step 2: After you've started your job and gotten to know people, ask about the laws governing winter tires and ask what advice people have beyond the legal requirements so you can drive safely; when it gets cold and nasty, get the right tires. Step 3: Read winter driving safety tips online, and drive with care when roads are slick. Step 4: Ask us here for help if there's anything you don't understand and can't figure out with Google.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 9:32 PM on November 5, 2012

Some thoughts, in no particular order:
- as a single-parent, is a job that requires travel a realistic option at your salary level? (in other words, can you afford the extra childcare?)
- if the pay/benefits are "exceptional" for your line of work in a particular area, but would only allow you to scrape by, that seems like a risky relocation to me. What if you lose that job through downsizing or some other reason? Then you might be in a place where it's suddenly a lot harder to get by.
- Availability of jobs in the area?
- Opportunities for advancement?
- Cost (time/money) for child to visit Dad? For you and kid to visit other people important to you?
- Support network in the area?
- Social network available to you? It's really important to fit in where you work, but if being a professional single mother is oddball for the area, maybe it's not a good fit.
- Are any of these companies willing to kick in moving costs? (You might as well ask from whichever company you accept.)
posted by stowaway at 9:56 PM on November 5, 2012

I'd go to Austin.

There are lots of technical companies which means there more opportunities if this one doesn't work or if you'd like to change companies for career advancement.

You're going to be a single parent with no support network. It's unreasonable to expect that you'll do a 6 hour round trip to enjoy the city culture on a regular basis. If you're scraping by then it'll be hard to arrange weekend child care which would allow you to be in the city.

Winter in the far North is just colder, icier and muddier. It's friggin' darker. It's dark when you go to work and dark when you come home. That might be a non-issue for you, but I hate it.

I was in Austin last week and the traffic has gotten pretty awful. However, it does vary quite a bit during the day. If you have flex schedules, you maybe able to avoid some of that.
posted by 26.2 at 10:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Do you have any issues with seasonal depression, or does lots of overcast/ dark/ non-sunny time make you significantly less happy? Hanover isn't too far off of the national average for sunny days, but compare that with Austin which is significantly sunnier than average, and Madison, WI, which is less sunny than Hanover. BestPlaces.net also lots of other general information about cities, which might help shape your choices by pointing out positives or negatives that you hadn't thought of before (such as, Madison is #2 on the list of America's Migrane Hotspots, and Austin is the #1 city for dating).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

OP it sounds like you are being very thoughtful in your approach and decision making (i.e. who do you know in an area, salary, skill set, etc.).
I am just going to point out 2 factors that I don't see you strongly address and it may just give you yet a few more variables to think about:

• Since you are in this position, you will be likely to negotiate salary for all the positions to some degree. Do it since can influence whether you will take a job in addition to your salary at the next jobs. If you can, wait until all job offers are in (if they give you this time). Then state to each company that "you are really excited about this job, very excited for reasons 1, 2, 3, but you need a few days to decide and one of your concerns is the salary because you have another job offer." Then be silent for a few days (or even on the phone). I've almost always gotten someone to add more to the original offer this way, but I usually only do this when I am in the position that you are: you have a few job offers, and money will be a deciding factor. But you may get one of the jobs to offer a slightly higher salary.

• Ask to look at the contract or ask if non-compete agreements are part of this. I am concerned in particular about your Wisconsin job- I suspect that I know that company, which is known for low salaries, travel, and having their employees sign non-competes. The advantage of that company is to be competitive for future jobs and the non-compete can ruin that chance - I could be wrong (it is not that company), but many companies try to play that game.

posted by Wolfster at 10:13 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I left a job I liked in Princeton, New Jersey to come to Austin and it was a good fit for me, so clearly job 'C' is right for you...

... like I'd know. My real advice is you'll have a better feel for what's important to you and what your gut tells you is really important to you but that your head is suppressing than any of us will. Given that, I'll tell you some things about Austin.

Austin is a place you can live without learning to cope with Winter (ours is 8 days long, randomly chosen sometime between Oct 1 and May 1 by a vote of the local weather forecasters). It does get hot, and that lasts for a while. I don't spend a lot of time outside in the summer, but days like today are near-perfect for me.

We don't have kids, but our friends with children are happy with their opportunities to do things here. Austin is the 13th largest city in the country, so it's San Francisco sized (but not Bay Area sized). It's also close to San Antonio and not far from Dallas and Houston. We regularly take trips to see concerts in each of those places, but we also take trips to see museums or do other touristy things.

South Austin is the funkier side, but the growth is moving to East Austin, so you may be able to find someplace that's both cheaper and nearer to your place of work.

And I know locals say "the traffic is horrible", but honestly, I've lived in other large cities and it's really not, unless you have no choice but to drive on I-35 during morning commute. Even then, I have to get from south Austin to 183/Breaker Lane about once a month (usually on a Friday by 8AM) and it turns a 22 minute drive into a 35 minute drive. East Austin might also let you avoid the big choke-point, which is the river. Your possible routes multiply when you don't have to cross Lake Lady Bird.

So, listen to your gut and then use your brain to figure out why that's your gut reaction and if the reasons are right, follow it. Austin is a pretty wonderful place to live, but it may not be the most wonderful place for you.

Good luck, and congratulations on having a good problem to have.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:33 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm very biased because I love New England, but I definitely think Job A. Are you sure it is as expensive as you think? Perhaps right in Hanover may be more pricey but there have got to be towns around there that don't have very high costs of living.

Based on your likes, I just think that you will fall in love with that area in terms of the lifestyle. The seasons up there can be pretty wonderful too, yes, even winter! And I have lived not far from there in the past as well as in the Midwest and I don't see how there is any more or less mud there than in Wisconsin.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:59 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

How secure are these jobs? Are there similar jobs nearby? If you settle in and then lose your job, will any of these locations be worse than the others?
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 12:07 AM on November 6, 2012

Managing regular work travel is a nightmare even if you aren't a single parent; I can't imagine doing it if I were. I personally would rule out Job B on that basis alone.
posted by pie ninja at 3:49 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

>Since there is precisely one company that fits company B's profile, I would recommend against company B. There isn't really work-life balance there, and I think it would suck as a place to be a single mom. The other thing is that it isn't in Madison, but at the outer edge of suburbia. It is a pretty long commute if you actually want to live in the good, fun urban areas of madison(near east).
posted by rockindata at 4:32 AM on November 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Madison is a great place to live and despite the lack of mountains (I'm from the west. i get where you're coming from on that) it's really not a bad place for a nature lover. It's also a pretty friendly city with enough to do and eat and see, even if it's not a great metropolis. BUT, if company B is the company that is obviously is, I can't see how you're going to be happy working there as the single mother of a 2-year-old. That company is known around here for hiring new grads and working them like dogs for 2-4 years until they burn out. I'd also be careful about the travel issue, since if you're on a team that implements their software or trains people on it, you can end up traveling 60 or 70% of the time.
posted by juliapangolin at 4:33 AM on November 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

New England is a tough place to live for a lot of people. I think you either will love it or hate it - and for someone young and potentially looking to date I would assume you will hate it. NH is a rural state with very little opportunity for a social life and it's going to be freezing cold in the winter. In general people in NE are not friendly - you may be able to base your social life on work and other parents, but it will be challenging.

The positives are definitely high quality schools in Hanover and the cost of living should not be ridiculously high (no sales tax and no income tax in NH). That said, as a young single person you'll probably prefer Austin. Based on a very small anecdotal sample size of people I know - Austin is definitely a place people are happy and NH is tough.

It sounds like Company B is not a great option and while Madison is supposed to be nice, I think Austin is definitely better.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:24 AM on November 6, 2012

About job A's geographical location, you mentioned that you would know absolutely no one. But you didn't mention how many, if any, people you'd know in each of the other areas. I would think that would be an important consideration as a single parent. If you know absolutely no one, and there's an emergency that requires you to be away, or you get sick, who cares for your little one? Of course you can build a network of trustworthy people, but that takes time, and in the meantime?

I would rule out job B because trying to travel for work while responsible for the care of a 2-year-old sounds like a recipe for regret and guilt at best. A bigger chunk of your pay would go towards childcare than with the other two jobs, and yet this job doesn't pay as well as A. Sounds like a total no, to the point that I'm not sure why you are even considering it.

You sound more enthusiastic about job A than job C, but given the facts as you've stated them here, I personally would go with C.
posted by parrot_person at 5:42 AM on November 6, 2012

Check out the Glassdoor.com reviews for company B, it is the epitome of un-family friendly. I cannot stress this enough. Working there was the worst year of my life.
posted by Maarika at 5:53 AM on November 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know you, but I'm inclined to recommend Austin.

I'm not a fan of winter, and if you're coming from the south to New England, that's a WHOLE lot of winter.

Neither Texas nor NH has state income tax, so there's that.

My concern is that you'll have a lot more options for work in Austin than you will in a small New England Town.

You'll have a lot more choice of housing and it won't be as expensive as New England. It will be cheaper and easier to fly home for visits.

Your options for dating and a social life are probably better in a large metropolis than they would be in a New England town where either you're a native or you're just rolling through for school.

It's more expensive to own a car in a snowy climate. You have to plug it in, have a second set of tires, even buy an AWD vehicle.

Utilities are more expensive in the Northeast. You'll use more of them.

Just some random thoughts about the whole thing.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved to a small New England college town where I knew no one. It can be really hard to meet people and make friends in a small New England college town. Especially in winter (just because it's harder to convince yourself to leave the house at all). Just something to consider - if you are very outgoing, or have some kind of hobby that will give you instant community, you'll have less difficulty, but making friends in small-town New England is no trivial task.
posted by mskyle at 6:09 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Real estate in Hanover/Norwich is expensive. Everywhere else in the area (Lebanon, White River Jct) it is much more affordable. And otherwise, the cost of living in that area is quite cheap. If Job A is winning out in every other way, you should go with Job A.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:34 AM on November 6, 2012

Austin. Even a married parent would have hard time making use of the culture 3 hours from Dartmouth - that's 6 hours round trip. And it's expensive there. Company B - see comments above. With Austin, if the job doesn't work out, you have other options. But I'd see if you can find housing a lot closer to the office. 45 minutes each way is 90 minutes a day. That is going to cut into the time you spend with your child. If you find a daycare beside your office, that might not be so bad, but then you'll be spending 90 precious minutes in the car with your child. And if you find a daycare by your home, you'll need to subtract commute time from the hours you have available to work. (Daycare open 7:30 to 6? That leaves you with exactly 9 hours at work, which would be cutting it really close.) Moreover, if you're starting a new daycare, your child will probably get sick a lot and 45 minutes to go get them or to drive home after you pick them up is a long way. And, once they are in school, daycare hours might get even trickier.

So I'd go with Austin - but with housing much closer to work.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:25 AM on November 6, 2012

Cost of living may be higher in NH but quality of life will be better. You will make friends through work, through your child's daycare, and in your neighborhood. This is definitely not your normal small New England town and I'm sure you'll find interesting people from all kinds of places.
posted by mareli at 11:18 AM on November 6, 2012

I agree with those who cautioned you about travel. I'm married with a toddler, and even in my situation, travel is tricky. If I were you, I would think carefully about the travel factor before making a decision.
posted by trillian at 6:47 AM on November 15, 2012

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