I got an offer for a dream job. Help me decide if I should take it.
July 9, 2014 5:15 AM   Subscribe

This was me. Following the advice from that question I both renewed my contract with current company and actively started looking elsewhere. I've just received an enthusiastic offer from another company, but I want to be mindful about my next step.

Here are the data points.

Me: mid-level thing-maker in her early 30s presently working at a well-meaning but hopelessly mismanaged small thing-making company. My immediate managers are very sweet, gentle and kind; workload can be full-on but the atmosphere is low stress and comfy, potentially stymying my growth as a thing-maker.

Upper managers - the one who make the broader financial decisions about the company - are straight-up incompetent, leading to a number of needless and demoralizing layoffs earlier this year. When the time came to renew my contract they flat-out refused to consider increasing my salary despite glowing performance reviews.

The offer: a very (very!) prestigious thing making company needs a mid-level thing-maker to do a specific thing-making thing. I'd be one of two other people who do that Thing, so they've been very blunt: the work load will be brutal, but the organisation is much more structured than current workplace, addressing a major concern of mine.

Two friends of mine have worked at this company and had a very difficult time - crushingly long hours, stressful atmosphere, hyper-masculine seniors. My immediate manager would be a woman (data point: I am also female) who is basically everything I want to be when I grow up - focused, driven, but relaxed and non-ego driven. Manager one level up is kind of a macho douchebag, but I would be somewhat isolated from him.

The pros to this offer? The name would be amazing on my CV. I would be very much more hireable afterwards. They are also very, very enthusiastic - I got the initial offer only an hour after my second interview. They didn't flinch at all from my salary expectations, which were at the upper limits for my experience level, and will offer other perks that are important to me (mostly training and mentoring opportunities).

The cons? I am concerned that the stressy environment in this company will bring out the worst in me. Especially when I was younger I was very sensitive, and I have a tendency to become anxious and overwhelmed. There's no doubt about it, this position will be hardcore, and I'm concerned that I'm being overconfident in my abilities to even consider working for Prestigious Thing-Making Company (although, that said, I was scrupulously honest about my work, myself and my temperament in the job interview, so I like to think I've given them a relatively realistic picture of myself as a thing-maker). There's a very real chance of failure that is making me a bit anxious, especially considering my relatively solid but dull and not very profitable position at current company.

I'm leaning towards yes, but I'd like to ask the hive mind first.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's no doubt about it, this position will be hardcore, and I'm concerned that I'm being overconfident in my abilities to even consider working for Prestigious Thing-Making Company

That little voice that says "You're not good enough"? That's fear. Fuck. That. Voice. Prestigious Thing-Making Company, Inc. didn't get that way by hiring dumb people and letting them screw shit up. They got that way by hiring smart people and supervising them well.

The stress of the new job is definitely a concern. Work to minimize it from Day One -- set reasonable expectations of how much time you're going to spend at work; find a good outlet for your work stress outside work (have a friend who has nothing to do with Thing-Making that you can vent to); eat well and get enough exercise (i.e., a little bit more than you think you need).

One minor thing: Before you formally accept the offer (which you want to do, and most likely should do), call up that awesome immediate manager and ask her, "Where do you see me in five years? Where do you see yourself in five years?" Think over her responses -- the first question will give you a good idea of whether PTMC will use you up and spit you out; the second question will give you a good idea of whether that immediate manager will be a good mentor-slash-buffer-slash-role-model.
posted by Etrigan at 5:22 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Take the job. If the stress level is too high, you can take that resume boost and experience elsewhere in a couple of years.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:37 AM on July 9, 2014

You should take the job. I'm your age and I was also sensitive and anxious in my early career, and accepting jobs that have challenged me and forced me to take on more responsibility has helped me develop a thicker skin when it comes to a lot of things. You're probably already tougher than you realize! There will be an adjustment period, but you can always step back periodically and consider whether you want to stay or go.
posted by neushoorn at 5:48 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's great that you're going into this with your eyes wide open, instead of being blindsided by what sounds like a dream job but ends up being unexpectedly stressful. What I hear you saying is that this job is exactly what you're looking for professionally, but you're worried that you will be personally way out of your comfort zone. Like others here, I think that's an opportunity. Go to therapy, read books, meditate, whatever you need to do to try to minimize that stress.

Personally, after spending years in a very stressful environment, I think the key is not caring so much. Do the best job you can do in the time allotted, and don't worry about anything else -- if people are putting unreasonable expectations on you, just be very clear and consistent about what you realistically can and cannot do. In an environment like this, people will push you and push you, and if you bend over backwards trying to please them, they will trample you. Now is your chance to learn to be a rock, and stand firm when people try to push you. Remember that they REALLY want and need your skills. They want you to succeed so that the company succeeds. With that in mind, I think it's easier to withstand the stress.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:03 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I personally might consider committing to this job for 1 - 2 years for the CV boost and mentoring, and using some of the salary pro-actively on a therapist, crazy-hours pilates instructor, industrial supplies of excellent gin, or whatever is going to get you through in sound mental form. But yeah I would go for it.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:25 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd be one of two other people who do that Thing, so they've been very blunt: the work load will be brutal, but the organisation is much more structured than current workplace

I don't like this. If they are so prestigious, and so structured, why aren't they staffing appropriately so that their employees aren't having to work brutal hours? Why don't they have organizational processes in place to ensure good work-life balance? Do they tend to churn through employees at a high rate because those employees are willing to eat shit just to have the prestigious name on the CV?

And while I'm sure you are a kick-ass worker, I don't see their insta-job offer as necessarily a good thing. What is the big rush on their end?

A good job isn't one where you have to cue up therapists and after-hours workout instructors to make yourself fit into their sick system. And places that chronically overwork their employees ARE sick systems. I worked in one. My colleagues dropped like flies from the stress. Marriages imploded. No job is worth it. None.

I think you can do better. There is a job out there that is in between where you are now with your too comfy gig, and this pressure-cooker offer. The fact that Big Deal Company is so hot to hire you tells you that you ARE hot stuff, and can do better than what they are offering. Go out and find it. You don't need to work for them to have your value validated.
posted by nacho fries at 6:50 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take it! You sound so ready to stretch your abilities and expand what you're comfortable with. Who knows, maybe you will figure out how to manage the stress really well and stay there for a long time. Or maybe you'll decide after a couple of years that you want a different, less stressful environment, and you'll take your super-hireable self to another job. Either way, next time you face a decision like this - to stay somewhere limiting but safe vs do something challenging but rewarding - you will know that you have the ability to take the risk and do the harder but more rewarding thing. That is a good habit to get into.

It sounds like a great opportunity and one you are ready for.
posted by aka burlap at 6:52 AM on July 9, 2014

Take the job! Expect to be exhausted and have no time for other stuff for the first few months but it'll get easier after that. Worth it for the money and the experience.
posted by dickasso at 7:18 AM on July 9, 2014

The job described in the interview may not end up being the one that you end up doing. After learning that the hard way several times, I look at whether I can work with the people, rather than the company or job description. Don't take a job that advertises stress; that shit's corrosive, and will burn you in ways you can't imagine.
posted by scruss at 7:35 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Take the job. Use some of the extra dough you'll be making to get massages and facials and a house-cleaner to help with any added stress.

You may find that extra work is exhillerating and fun and that you're learning a ton from it, instead of frustrating re-working of crap.

I don't mind working a 12 hour day when I'm engaged in what I'm doing.

Clearly they WANT you, so you must be awesome and able to do the job!

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:47 AM on July 9, 2014

Do it. Do it, and affirm that it will bring out the best in you, because it will. So glad for you. :)
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:53 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even in the midst of all the "yeah, take it" tone, nacho fries asks the question:

What is the big rush on their end?

The answer could be innocuous, but the question deserves to be asked. Call "immediate supervisor". "Gosh, I still haven't caught my breath from how quickly I received this offer. Can I ask some follow up questions?" She'll say yes. Ask anyway.

"This is the fastest I've ever seen a company move. Is there anything that speeded up the process?"

Ask it (or something like it) in an innocent enough tone and you're likely to hear something closer to the truth.
posted by John Borrowman at 10:33 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Congrats on the job offer, anon!

To add to nacho fries and John Borrowman's comments: While I don't know what company is offering you a job, if the company is as prestigious as you say, odds are good that they will have reviews on Glassdoor.com on their work environment and management staff quality. It's always good to be armed with more information to help decide whether the work environment will be good for you or if it's not a good fit for you (and therefore you're better off staying away from it).

Hope this helps, and hope everything goes well for you!
posted by Tsukushi at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2014

A few more thoughts that might help guide your decision-making:

You are in a narrow window of time that represents a sweet spot for negotiating everything except salary* that might help compensate for the long hours. Feel free to ask about other benefits that add value. Example: telecommute part-time; extra holiday days; specialized training; attendance at conferences; signing bonus. You can do this in a polite, professional way. If they want you that badly, let them put their (non-money benefits) where their mouth is.

If it feels like asking for too much, consider this math:

Let's say your current job pays $80K/year, 40 hour workweek. New job accepted your figure of $100k/year, with hours TBD, but let's say at least 50/week. You increased your salary by 25% (yay, you!) but you also increased your hours by 25%.

So, you are simply asking for the company to give you something tangible to replace the lost value of those hours of your life (whether those hours would've been spent on freelance work, pro bono projects, or rest and relaxation).

Emphasis is on TANGIBLE because stuff like having a cool new boss to look up to, or vague promises of promotion, or even having the company name on your CV are all things that can dissolve into thin air after you're hired. (The CV issue would be, what if you end up leaving under a cloud after a short stint, for whatever reason? Will you still put it on your CV?)

* The salary thing is probably too late to negotiate, since you gave them a number already. The fact that they didn't flinch suggests to me that your true value in the marketplace is higher. I think they are getting a deal, and they know it.
posted by nacho fries at 2:12 PM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you say 'no', you know exactly what's going to happen. If you say 'yes' you don't know what's gonna happen, but it could be something wonderful. Probably will, in fact, if you're smart and thoughtful and take care of yourself.

Face the fear and say yes.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:52 PM on July 9, 2014

Take the job, if it doesnt work out I bet your current company would rehire you at the increased salary. I have seen this happen many times.
posted by forforf at 6:12 PM on July 9, 2014

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