Weighing my first job offer after graduate school
July 9, 2016 11:24 PM   Subscribe

I recently completed my master's degree, and have spent the past six weeks looking for a relevant job. This week I received my first offer, but am torn about whether to accept or keep looking.

Here are the relevant details:

My partner and I currently live in Big City, but the job offer is located in Small Town, which is a two hour drive away. My partner and I have been together for three years and living together for two. Both of us are in our late twenties/early thirties.

Potential Pros:

1. The day-to-day responsibilities of the position are exactly what I’m looking for. I would be able to use the skills and knowledge I went to graduate school for, in addition to strengthening some areas where I don’t have as much experience. Overall, I think the job would look great on my resume and set me up for more opportunities down the line.

2. The salary is about 20% higher than I anticipated. I was prepared to take a pay cut compared to what I was earning prior to grad school, but this salary is actually more than I used to make. Plus, Small Town has a lower cost of living than Big City. After two years of earning a tiny stipend, I’m pretty thrilled at the prospect of a salary that will allow me to have some disposable income and start saving again. I’m also happy with the number of vacation days and other benefits like health insurance and retirement.

3. My potential colleagues seemed friendly and intelligent. I’m under the impression that they get along well with each other.

4. Both my partner and I agree that Small Town seems like a great place to live. While exploring the area, we found a cool little neighborhood that we could see ourselves in. There are lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation, along with a nearby college that hosts frequent cultural events.

Potential Cons:

1. My partner thinks it will be tough for him to find a job in Small Town, and I have to agree. He is a public school teacher, and already has a teaching job in Big City that he enjoys. If he can’t find a job in Small Town by the start of the school year, it’s likely he’d have to cobble together substitute teaching positions for at least the next year. Unlike Big City, Small Town does not have a large population with lots of school districts or teaching jobs to apply for. And even if he wanted to pursue a different line of work, there just aren’t many employers in the area. If I accept the job, we’ll probably end up living a two-hour drive away from each other for at least a year, if not two years. We considered living halfway in between and commuting a longer distance, but this would leave my partner with a hellish rush hour commute in and out of Big City. We also live in a region with snowy winters, which can make the commute even longer. Unfortunately, there are no reasonable commuter rail or public transportation options that would get us to our respective workplaces.

2. Although I’m excited about the job’s responsibilities, I have some concerns (possibly unfounded?) about the work environment:
-During my final interview, I had a chance to talk with a couple people who do the same job I would be doing. When I asked what was most important to succeed in the role, one person mentioned the ability to “manage up” and another said I should be comfortable in an environment where almost all the staff telework anywhere from two to four days per week. I tend to prefer office environments that are somewhat more social, and am nervous about joining a team where so many people work from home. But maybe this is something I just need to accept since teleworking is becoming more and more common. (Oddly, even though telecommuting is so prominent in the organization, the main hiring manager never mentioned it as an option for myself.)
-I would be reporting to two or three managers instead of just one. In addition to concerns about juggling competing demands on my time, I didn’t have much of a chance to talk with one of the managers. We only spent about 10 or 15 minutes together, and most of the conversation revolved around technical skills, as opposed to management styles or expectations for how we would interact. As a result, I didn’t get a good sense of what it would be like to work for this person.

3. I was really hoping to find a job that would allow me to apply my new graduate school skillset to my previous field of teapot design. This potential job would use the same skills, but in basket weaving instead of teapot design. Admittedly, the teapot design field is quite competitive,, which is why I’ve cast a wide job search net. I think I could eventually transition back to the teapot design field, but I feel a little disappointed at not being able to jump back immediately.

4. I would have to buy a car to get to work. I know I probably can’t spend my whole life avoiding jobs that would require a car, but I’ve appreciated being able to get by without one while living in areas with public transportation.

Other financial details:
-My salary for the Small Town job would be about 15% higher than what my partner makes at his Big City teaching job. If necessary, we could probably scrape by for a while in either location on only a single salary.
-I have $32,000 in savings. Obviously I don’t want to fritter away my savings while unemployed, but it also means I would have some financial cushion if I decide to keep looking for a different position.
-I think I would eventually be able to find a job here in Big City. Of course, I have no idea how long it will take and I’m guessing the salary would not be as high as what I’m currently being offered.

After going over these pros and cons, I still can't make up my mind. I would be grateful for any advice, especially as to whether my concerns about the work environment seem justified, or if perhaps I'm just being too picky.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You really need to take this job. I hate to say it, but in your calculations you are not weighing the value of a stale graduate degree in the job market on the cons side. Take the job for a year and then start applying to other roles. Moving from "post-graduate employment with a salary history and relevant experience" into another role is so much easier than applying out of grad school.

Can your partner take a sabbatical? Otherwise, a year is not a long time really; two hours means weekends and holiday and all of his school holidays, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:52 AM on July 10, 2016 [18 favorites]

Re: telecommuting. Verify thst you indeed have this option (ask in open ended question what this is, expectations, etc.). If you have this option, it is often a plus, not a con. As long as you manage and do your work, if your partner stays in home town, you can see the person many more nights per week vs non-telecommuting job.

Re: salary. Ask noncademics or run it through websites....mentioning this as a person who also compared a job to a stipend and a job pregrad school in academia. Often those jobs pay less economically than industry job. I'd still take the job, but this might be neutral vs positive. I just wish i had realistic expecttion in retrospect.

If I were in your shoes, I'd take it. One parameter that might change it is if you have tons of interviews lined up.
posted by Wolfster at 2:46 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Take it. But your partner should definitely NOT leave his job either. You guys are just going to have to be commuters or in a semi LDR for a bit. People have done this for longer periods and over greater distances.
Your cons do not add up. Take the job.
posted by Ready2016 at 3:31 AM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Congrats on your offer. This sounds like a great opportunity for a first job right out of school--not perfect in every way you want, but a great first step toward exactly what you want. I would encourage you to take it.

Please notice that the first "con" you mention is about your partner and their career... not yours. Please think on that a whole lot. What I say is not meant to diminish the importance of your relationship, but please consider whether you're serious enough in this relationship to let it be the thing to impact your career trajectory. I'm presuming you're not married with kids or you would have mentioned it. And your partner apparently isn't willing to make sacrifices in his already-established career to accommodate you.

I say: this sounds like the world's best setup for a LTR. You're close enough to spend weekends at each other's places easily, you can get together somewhere in between for dinner once a week. Bite the bullet, get a modest flat and a car.
posted by Sublimity at 4:44 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had the same situation and managed it by
A) teleworking Mondays and
B) finding a cheap (non-chain) motel in Small Town that cut me a deal on three nights a week.

So I worked from home on Monday, drove to Small Town on Tuesday morning, stayed in the motel, drive back Friday night. If you can telework even more than that -- hell, four days a week means you wouldn't need to live in Small Town at all.
posted by Etrigan at 5:27 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

You mention this small town is about 2 hours away. Is there the possibility of a place you could both live in the middle?
posted by jb at 5:52 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

You're going to get a lot of folks saying "oh, two hours isn't a big deal" or "you can LDR for a couple years". And you can - my wife and I have been long distance for three years (we've actually never lived in the same place, which is changing in a month, thank bob). But, you know, it sucks, depending on the kind of couple your are. Some couples are pretty strongly joined (lots of time together, prefer to do most of their activities together or together with other people, etc) and some require less face time. This isn't to say that both camps don't love each other - you can care about someone very much and need less face time - but really talk about how much face time y'all need and how even being two hours apart might affect you.

Also, running two households is expense. Sit down with your partner and make a budget and talk about how much living in two places - or you living in small town part time and big city part time, which is a thing you can do (I see a lot of academics do it) - is going to cost you, and if you take roommates as a cost saving measure, how that's going to affect your face time (I've gotten us hotel rooms on her visits here just so we could be alone for 24 hours, and my roommates are fairly low key). Don't forget to add in that car that you're going to have to get - cheap ones will eventually want repair, and ones that are in better shape up front are more expensive. I think you're going to find that bigger salary... isn't so much bigger anymore.

Being in an LDR takes a lot of time. I spend a lot of time on the phone and a lot of time on planes. It's harder to build up a friend base in either place, because more than likely, one of you is there temporarily. People don't take you as seriously (one of the 8 billion reasons we got married even though we couldn't live in the same place for a couple years, because people take married couples a lot more seriously. Heck, that's come up in this thread...)

I'm not saying don't do it, but the green tends to lean towards "LDRs aren't so bad, and lots of people do them" - and we do. But there's a lot of cons to them.

We don't know what's going to happen. This may be The Guy, in which case, letting your career trajectory impact your family trajectory would suck (family is important too, and y'all are serious enough to be having this conversation, so let's assume you're "serious enough", whatever that means.) Maybe the guy is going to be gone next year. Maybe the job is going to be bad and your nose is telling you something. So I can't tell you whether to take the job or not - we don't know - but do keep in mind that being in a successful LDR (even with only two hours separation) takes a lot of planning and can be expensive (the only reason we manage it is not insignificant financial support from her girlfriend).

I would make a budget spreadsheet for 1) staying in big city and it takes you awhile to find a new job (can you PT somewhere while you find the career job and stretch out your savings?) 2) moving to small town and partner subbing for the next year (it is too late in most districts to get a good teaching job for fall, but he might be able to score a long term sub job if someone is going out on leave) and 3) doing the LD thing, seeing how you two feel about all those numbers, and go from there. Don't forget to budget in saving for moving back to Big City if you decide you don't like small town. (From what you've said, I think y'all are leaning towards adventure in small town together, but...)

Good luck! :)
posted by joycehealy at 6:27 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Re: telecommuting - I work at a company where that is pretty common but it is not generally offered to new hires right out of the gate, except maybe at very senior levels. I know of quite a few people who started out working out of an office, moved away but kept their job through telecommute, but comparatively few who started off with a telecommute arrangement. Consider that this may be option for you down the road (six months, or a year); does this change your decision? Good luck!
posted by eeek at 7:07 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

"almost all the staff telework anywhere from two to four days per week"

WHAT!!! Talk to the hiring manager! If you can telework even two days a week, that's three days of a crappy commute and you can still live in your own home, and your partner can start looking for a teaching job in small town starting next year. If the weather's terrible, you can spend a few nights in a hotel in the winter so you don't have to drive back and forth, but I imagine that wouldn't be a factor most of the year.
posted by jabes at 11:31 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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