Anxiety or Intuition?: Special Career Edition
August 6, 2016 4:45 AM   Subscribe

I have an offer for a position I was initially excited about. But something doesn't feel right, and I'm hesitating. Is that feeling just normal anxiety about change and the unknown, or a gut feeling about the position/place?

I've been offered a job that would help me to make a career transition. For someone with my background and skill set, opportunities to make this exact type of transition are not easy to come by. I should be excited, right?

And yet something feels unsettling and I can't quite put my finger on what that is. It's partly that the initial job description seemed to describe two jobs rather than one (not uncommon, I know). The most recent verbal description of the job also didn't match that initial written description. But that could just reflect the difference between working at Very Small Place (the job I'm considering) and Very Big Place (where I've been employed for years). However, I've also been told confidentially that the main person I'd be working with at Very Small Place means well but is generally scattered and overextended. To me, all of this data suggests that the new job could end up being as much work as the current job, but with fuzzier boundaries and less pay. And if I make the leap, it may be hard to leap into something else from there due to the specialized nature of the work. (I'm keeping the descriptions of the work and places involved deliberately vague for reasons.)

At the same time, new job presents an unusual opportunity that could be very cool--I was excited about it when I initially applied! And I know that I have a black belt in overthinking, struggle to make decisions, and love a good plate of beans. But I've also been told that I have good instincts. So, which force is primarily at play here, anxiety or intuiiton? And if both are, which one should get more weight?

TL;DR: I'm afraid of losing out on an opportunity due to possibly unfounded fears but equally afraid of making a choice that seems good on paper but may not be good day to day.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you pay another visit to the new job and ask more questions surrounding the things you are uncomfortable with before deciding?
posted by procrastination at 5:41 AM on August 6, 2016

Don't discount your intuition. Even as a formerly extremely anxious person (yay medication!) I felt a difference between general free floating anxiety and specific bad feelings about a situation.

For what it's worth, I don't feel great about the new role you've described. Very small place with main person scatty? Eeek, that has high stress situation written all over it.
posted by kitten magic at 5:52 AM on August 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

I vote proceed with caution, although, as a fellow overthinker, I understand the impulse to discount it as normal anxiety about a big decision. If anything, I'd actually expect the two job descriptions to differ more in a large company, with the various layers of managers and HR, generic job descriptions that haven't been updated in years, etc. In a small company, it's more likely that the person you spoke with also came up with the written job description. I understand that in a small company, you're waaay more likely to have to do random new stuff as it comes up, but they seem confused about what your current responsibilities will be. Not good.

It sounds like you have a person you can speak with who is familiar with the person you'd be working with (the one who told you that this person was kind of all over place) and with presumably that company as well? Do they know why there is an opening? Have there actually been two or more job vacancies here? (and you would therefore be filling both? all? of them?)
posted by eeek at 6:59 AM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it already sounds like two jobs, and add in a scatter-brained manager, it's likely to be three jobs with all of the managing up. I agree, another visit to talk again and ask for clearly defined boundaries and responsibilities is not out of bounds. If they balk for any reason, I'd take a pass on this position.
posted by vignettist at 8:43 AM on August 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

I imagine it would matter a lot whether you felt unsettled reading and hearing about the job description variations or unsettled in the actual office. I second get inside a few more times and attend to where your comfort level is in the workplace.

Obviously not a foolproof barometer, but perhaps helpful.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:30 AM on August 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's totally fair for you to tell them that you're interested in their offer, but that you're still a little unclear on what the specific duties are and could you please get a written job description that you and the hiring manager can both sign as part of the hiring process? Also, if the pay is low and you're concerned that they're going to ask more from you than what you're officially agreeing to do—which they probably will, especially with your supervisor potentially being a scatterbrain—ask for more pay.

Say "I'm really interested in the position, but I'd need to have a written and signed job description and also it would have to pay 20% more or else I'm just not comfortable accepting it." They've invested the time in vetting you and made you an offer, and I can guarantee you they're not offering the absolute most they're willing to pay. There's room for negotiation.

Every time I've had reservations going into a new job, they've turned out to be valid. Your inclination is to minimize those reservations because obviously you want the job and you see it as a step on your overall career path, but you should listen to them. Not necessarily to the point of walking away outright, but you should feel free to get some assurances and some compensation to both minimize and mitigate what are probably some very valid concerns.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:59 AM on August 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

I left a very large company (where my role was both stressful and very narrowly scoped) to go to a startup with a fuzzy job description (so much room to grow!) and a sort of "get on board the rocket ship, we'll figure out the specifics later! $$IPO!$$" vibe. It was among the worst professional decisions I ever made. The people I wound up supporting were not involved in the hiring process, and a couple of them turned out to hate me. It was miserable until I got laid off, and I'm still not sure what I'm going to do to recover professionally in a highly competitive and ageist market with a deep prejudice against the unemployed.

My hard-learned lesson: DON'T take the job without meeting the person you're going to be working with, vetting mutually, and asking THEM what they think the job duties are and what it's going to take to succeed. If I had done this I would have saved myself so much pain (and money.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:24 AM on August 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Small companies are...mostly not great. If everyone gets along, awesome, but if anyone's difficult, it magnifies everything.

I can say from my POV, ignoring your intuition, that it doesn't sound like a great situation to get into. If your current job is fine, I wouldn't leave it for this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:17 PM on August 6, 2016 [6 favorites]

A thought experiment could help you tell the difference between fear of change and intuition about this position in particular. Imagine you've started there, gotten over the initial transition, and things are going less well than you hoped, but a little better than you feared. You get the equivalent of your current, Big Place job as an offer. How do you feel about the opportunity to transition back?
posted by daisyace at 5:55 PM on August 6, 2016

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