Which job should I take?
March 20, 2013 6:04 PM   Subscribe

For a short term summer job-- Should I take the "coordinator" position for experience sake, or a 'lower' position job that sounds all-around better?

I am in my mid 20s, been out of college for coming up on two years now. My current job is on the school year timeline, so I'm applying to summer jobs mostly at nature camps.

My career goal within the next few years is to finagle my way into a fulltime job as an educator/program coordinator at some sort of nature center or environmental nonprofit. While I love working directly with kids and would do that all day if I could, it's clear to me from scanning job descriptions that this is not financially sustainable long term- I need to also be developing other professional skills.

Anyway, I have two job offers for this summer that I need help choosing between:

Job A: Coordinator of /specific branch of their summer programming/ at /current place of employment/

The good:
-My resume is pretty thin on coordinating and supervising experience, and I think this would be a great way to get more experience there-- I'd be supervising around 10 people and coordinating a branch of the program.
-This camp deals with slightly different subject matter than I'm used to dealing with (farming/gardening) which is getting a little trendy lately, it would be handy to have this experience. Also, I think it would be fun.

The bad:
-I work at this place now, and it's a mess. They're having serious financial issues, they're trying to restructure things, they're cutting pay and laying people off, the leadership is somewhat inept... it's just a daily stream of wtf moments to work here. The idea of being in any sort of coordinator position in the current climate here sounds like no fun at all. I should add though that I'm not worried they're going to go under before the summer or that they would eliminate my position before it started.
-The pay is bad. They cut pay for all summer staff positions and it's now significantly less than was initially advertised for the position and I'd get paid nearly twice as much at Job B.

Job B: Instructor at /branch of large state organization/ working directly with kids
The good:
-I really enjoy working directly with kids. I think I'd have a blast at this job.
-The organization and program seems to have things together
-It pays nearly twice what Job A pays
-I'd get three day weekends
-This is a large state organization, there are lots of jobs available. I don't really want to live in the state that they're in long term so maybe it's a moot point, but there are many more long term employment opportunities with this organization.

The bad:
-It adds nothing professionally to my resume. It is what I've been doing full time for the past two years. I'd gain few new skills. It would probably have a small supervising element to it, but nothing like job A.

Thanks for any input! I'm open to ideas from people working outside the field of environmental education of course-- it's tiny and I may decide it's not for me within the next few years and try to move in a different direction anyway.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total)
I don't know anything about environmental education, but to me, job B sounds better. I would not hire someone for their co-ordination skills on the strength of a three-month stint at another organization. Unless Job A is really prestigious somehow, doesn't seem like the degree to which it helps would outweigh the lack of fun you'd be having. And if the state agency is hiring whereas the other org is collapsing, is there a possibility you might be able to parlay your work at the state agency into a co-ordinator job there in future years?
posted by phoenixy at 6:16 PM on March 20, 2013

It actually does add something to your resume to work for and make connections at a large, stable and successful reputable organization. Also, when your next interviewer asks about the salary at your previous positions, you'll have a more favorable negotiating point. Plus, more fun and more money.
posted by steinwald at 6:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Title on résumé for a summer jobs are not what are going to help you land a permanent job. Don't go for something you will not enjoy, and which will pay less. Different employers mean potentially more references for you. Go for B.
posted by aroberge at 6:19 PM on March 20, 2013

If you really want to put words related to management skills on your resume, you can probably get a really great title as a weekend/evening volunteer somewhere in addition to either job.
posted by steinwald at 6:22 PM on March 20, 2013

At my company "coordinator" is simply another name for the lowest tier in a job, and does not imply supervisory experience. It seems to have taken the place of jobs that would previously be "assistant" or "clerk". Ex: Accounting Co-ordinator -> Jr. Accountant -> Accountant -> Sr Accountant -> Lead Accountant -> Accounting Manager.

So even if titles did matter, you're not exactly getting a great one.
posted by politikitty at 6:24 PM on March 20, 2013

It sounds like Job A is all around awful, but for the title, and that Job B is pretty ideal, but for the same thing.

I'd go with Job B - what's 2-3 months of management experience at a dysfunctional workplace really going to do for your resume?

This is a large state organization ... there are many more long term employment opportunities with this organization.

posted by charlemangy at 6:27 PM on March 20, 2013

When I was in my mid-late 20s I was on the same trajectory as you are. On the one hand, you can probably afford one more season on the front lines - and the pay and hours are better for Job B.

On the other hand, you are exactly right that you are going to need a Job A on your resume in order to advance.

However, all things considered, Job A sounds like it's in a toxic environment. Coordinating things there would be a lesson in the miseries of under-resourced management. You would learn how things should not be done. Its reputation might follow you. The most you would do is try to survive it.

I think you could do Job B, and look into those growth opportunities they offer. it would be a bit of a delay - people who want to lead generally take every opportunity they have to lead. If you had neutral instead of lousy things to say about organization A, I'd say make the sacrifice and work for A. But if A sucks, work for B, and try to move up a level in B. And use that extra day off to work on your career stuffI
posted by Miko at 7:09 PM on March 20, 2013

As something else to think about, every good job I've ever had has been the result of having a good connection with someone who is aware of my skills and personality, as opposed to having a piece of paper with a bunch of nice-sounding qualifications listed. Are there many more people you are going to be exposed to at Job A which can help you on your career path? From your wording of the question, it sounds like Job B will put you in contact with a wider range of people who could potentially help you in the future.
posted by antonymous at 7:11 PM on March 20, 2013

Also, anon, feel free to email me for more discussion if you want. I do have a lot of familiarity with that world.
posted by Miko at 7:12 PM on March 20, 2013

Take B - it sounds better and it sounds like there's scope for you to maybe go further in an org like that in the future.
posted by heyjude at 7:45 PM on March 20, 2013

I was about to tell you to go for the crazy coordinator job simply because it's short-term, but then I re-read the pros of job B. Seriously: job B. There are a ton of crazy, dysfunctional non-profits out there. When you find a good one, do everything you can to stay there as long as you can!
posted by smirkette at 8:36 PM on March 20, 2013

I agree with smirkette and I think you should keep your eyes open at Job B for take-charge opportunities and coordinate something while you're there. Bingo -- you're a coordinator on your résumé!
posted by amanda at 8:52 PM on March 20, 2013

Go for more money - job B. It also sounds like you would have more leadership opportunities there.

"they're trying to restructure things, they're cutting pay and laying people off, the leadership is somewhat inept... it's just a daily stream of wtf moments to work here. The idea of being in any sort of coordinator position in the current climate here sounds like no fun at all."

That there tells me that as politikitty says, coordinator is a technical term for a low position. I doubt you would really be coordinating much except your own compliance with whatever policy corporate headquarters poops out.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:20 AM on March 21, 2013

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