Tricky job offer situation
October 7, 2017 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been working a job for a short period of time. I’ve been offered a job that seems better, but don’t think I can responsibly take it.

I’ve been working my first fulltime job at since early July. I almost didn’t work at this company at all, because hours before I got the job, “Ron” at Company B offered me a sweet gig, and I took it. Then the gig fell through. But Ron planned to keep trying to hire me, and I made Company A aware of this when I came back to them asking if the position was still open. Company A still wanted me, as long as I promised to stay until a project was done in mid-September (it's done).

Now Ron tells me he has a yrev, very good chance of getting me the sweet gig, and I think I want to take it—but I’m pretty sure I can’t. Please tell me if the sweet gig isn’t actually sweet, or if I’m wrong to think it’s stupid to leave my current job, given my field’s abusive culture and the possibility that I’ll also leave the new job in under a year. Apologies for length.

Current job pros:

- Generally not required to do email outside working hours, people punch in at 9AM, no working during lunch. (Not universal in field)

- Intimate atmosphere. Not cutthroat. Boss very fond of me.

- Abuse/yelling/threatening isn't tolerated. (Not universal)

- I’m an assistant with an executive's clout, which is exciting. I basically have the position that people breaking into my field pine for.

- While I have strong base knowledge about the field because one of my parents works in it, I’m learning even more due to my boss’s particular role.

Cons of current job:

- It’s two jobs. Pretty sure my boss didn’t want to pay for another executive, so he hired me (exec skillset without the experience to get hired as one) and just has me do all the work of an assistant AND all the work of an exec. In some high-powered offices, this is a thing…but people knowingly take those jobs because they fast-track you for, y’know, glory and money and alcoholism and whatever.

- As the company’s only assistant-y employee, I’m given any dogsbody task that arises. By default I’m charged with running the whole office; everything related to maintenance, upkeep, supplies, etc., is my regrettable bailiwick. As my executive functioning is mediocre at best (ADHD), I find this all very stressful.

- A major project is probably starting up in the coming months. Because it would give me yet more responsibilities, I’m praying it won't happen—which is perverse, since these projects are the company’s raison d’être.

- Lack of guidance. I had no initial training and continue to receive very little feedback about my work. Everyone is extremely busy and I don’t need handholding, but the situation isn't ideal.

- Our lawyer retired last year and my boss won’t hire a replacement (“waste of money”). So I’m often tasked with solving complex legal issues, relying on a binder of outdated, scribbled-on legalese. I then have to draft legal letters that I am unqualified to write, and which I often get angry calls about (from people yelling about our unprofessionalism).

- I manage ten interns who do complex, essential work (so, I’m not training and supervising people who do filing). I do take some pleasure in this, but I received zero management training and it’s stressful/time consuming. Also, our unpaid intern “program” is illegal and I resent my complicity (but unfortunately it’s common in the field).

- Shit pay, even with me living at home. Nothing like working your ass off for the privilege of poverty.

Pros of other job:

- Big, influential company in nice setting. Free food, sweet perks. Higher product quality (it’d be easier to believe in projects here).

- I’d work for Ron, who’s very enthusiastic about me and has a good reputation as an engaged boss.

- Time off is easy to get, and they don’t care about the hours you keep as long as you attend meetings and submit work on time.

- Defined role. No shadow jobs, wouldn’t be doing stuff I’m bad at.

- Union membership, which is hard to get. I salivate over this.

- Triple my current salary, plus lots of overtime opportunities.

Cons of other job:

- Somewhat terminal, not a launching pad. However, the job I ultimately want doesn’t have much to do with anything else; you try to break into it while working a dayjob. That said, connections help, potentially a lot, and…

- Bigger=I’m not as connected/influential. A major con. Can’t eavesdrop as much, no Rolodex, would meet a smaller variety of people coming through. Would have much less influence over projects.

- While I’m overworked now, timelines are loose. Here I’d have strict deadlines, and the company’s open about the fact that it extracts eeeevery bit of labor it’s paying for. There’s tacit pressure to take overtime.

- I’m applying for a master's program this year. That said, it’s not uncommon to apply more than once for better packaging. So it’s not guaranteed I’ll be gone by September, but it’s a strong possibility. Whereas I think Ron heard “might apply twice” as “can’t go until second app cycle.” I can’t ask until Monday if he’d be okay with losing me (sorry, this whole question could be pointless, but if he’s okay with it I have to make a same-day decision!), but I do know that my current company would NOT be okay with me leaving them so soon. While our agreement was that I’d stay until mid-September, the unspoken part of the deal was, “…but you’d sure as shit better stay longer.” I'd undoubtedly damage my professional connections if I left. I assume not all fields are like this, in that I wouldn’t be “burning bridges” in my situation solely by taking another job. But in my field, which emphasizes young people “knowing their place”/“paying dues”*, it’d come across as disloyal and arrogant. (*Accepting shit wages, being overworked, and smiling about it.)

- Am I wrong to think this résumé looks like shit? First job: less than 6 mos., second job: less than a year, grad school. That looks flaky, right? Would you hire this person?

- Family ties. One of my parents used to work for my boss and is still very close with the second-in-command, and while I didn't get my job via conscious nepotism, the connection probably helped when I came back to the company after initially turning them down. My leaving would be taken as a personal affront and would have negative social consequences for my parent. It would also make me feel terrible.

Thoughts? I need to decide by Monday whether I want Ron to get me into the union. I’m almost hoping he’ll tell me he misunderstood my grad school intentions and can’t hire me, just so I don’t have to choose.

P.S. My parents, who both have experience in my field, are urging me to stay in my current job. They’re very annoyed I’m worrying about pay and union membership, since they “know” I'm eventually going to be successful in my desired job and get into its union (nb: my desired job is very hard to get/succeed at). While I’m glad they’re supportive, I find this rhetoric unhelpful. And mannn, is it illustrative of a vast generational difference in financial anxiety. (They are Gen. Jonesers and were promised greater success than their parents. I am a Millennial and was promised a kick in the face plus a bill for kicking services.)

OTOH, my therapist was shocked when I said I was leaning toward staying. But he’s never worked in my field, and I'm not sure he completely groks the consequences that quitting could have.
posted by desert outpost to Work & Money (21 answers total)
I'd switch, based on what you've said. But not until I have a signed offer letter in hand.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:47 PM on October 7 [13 favorites]

What jeffamaphone said. If your current company wanted you to stay past mid September, they should've upped your salary by now or given you some other compensation considering all of the work you're doing. They sound cheap (not replacing the lawyer? Whaaat?! Unpaid interns? Blah!) and poorly managed. Eventually all of that's going to come back and bite them in the ass.

If the other offer comes through, take it; it sounds too good to pass up. You do you. Your parents can take care of themselves.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:53 PM on October 7 [12 favorites]

Hello, Union, I am a Union Member UAW, do it. I agree with your therapist. Union. Hello!!! Do it!!! Take the new job!!!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:13 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]

Ron previously offered you a job, then withdrew the offer leaving you high and dry. I would approach his new offer with a great deal of "show me the money" scepticism. What does he even mean by a "very, very good chance" of getting the job?

The thing is, when you really needed help, your parents went to bat for you. You may never know how much they put on the line. Your current boss also came through for you, and continues to treat you with kindness and respect.

This would be a reason to stay, especially if it's just another year until grad school. Years from now, you will sleep better knowing that you repaid kindness with loyalty.
posted by metaseeker at 8:28 PM on October 7 [9 favorites]

Look, I’m in a similar kind of industry where paying your dues is expected.

But what I’m not hearing in your question is whether or not you really want to be doing this work. Instead you seem like a person between a rock and a hard place. I presume that’s part of why grad school is on the table – or maybe it’s just to get ahead even further.

I would stay, knowing that nothing will change, or I would go, knowing that I can’t know everything about this new job before I start it, but that it will be something different from where you are now.
posted by tooloudinhere at 9:02 PM on October 7

Up until I read the end part about your parents and their relationship to your current company, I was going to say you sound like you are looking for an easier job (the first pro you list on your current job clearly demonstrates your priorities) and that you resent corporate worlds where they drive you to work so hard you become an alcoholic. Join the union. They will protect you.

But, I think you have to consider strongly your parents involvement here. I am speculating, but I happen to think they did more behind the scenes than you know about. I also think you have to consider the long-term. What if you do not get into grad school? What if it takes a few years?

To me, thinking longer term, I would want the job with the greatest chance to learn, to take on responsibility, to be exposed to the most people in my chosen field (networking) and I would not worry as much at your age about the pay or the union. But I have never held a union job, have pretty much always worked for myself or had my own company where I did the hiring and managing so take what this capitalist has to say with a grain of salt.

Also, as the parent of three kids two of whom I got the first interview for (one got the job, one did not) I appreciate your parents point of view. They stuck their necks out for you. The job you have does not suck so much you would leave but for this union gig. They see sticking around as not a hardship and helpful to the family name.

Finally, I think without talking to you, if you changed jobs your resume would look flakey, but if you get the interview, it sounds like you have good reason if you leave and that you can explain it in a reasonable way. Trying to get as much varied experience before grad school is to me a good thing. Although it is unlikely someone would ask why you stayed in one job before grad school, saying loyalty to my parents and commitment to something I started sounds reasonable too.
posted by AugustWest at 10:43 PM on October 7 [3 favorites]

As someone with ADHD, I'd follow jeffamaphone's advice and take the new job if I had a signed offer in hand. Mostly because you're having executive function issues, as we people do, and you are dreading and worried about this future project. For your own well-being, it sounds like that is a crappy place for you to be no matter how much you like the boss and how much your boss likes you. It sounds like your brain will be much better prepared to handle the new job, the pay is better, you have union protection, and you aren't being asked to pretend to be an attorney--which is crazy pants. I am a mom, and there is a lot I would do for my kid. But you are not obligated to your parents to keep the job you have for mysterious reasons that you don't even know about and that you were never asked to approve of or authorize. If your parents pulled strings to get you this job, that is on them not you. And the idea that somehow it would be on you is messy, unhealthy, codependent kind of thinking. Finally, it took me years to accept that my brain is wired differently than many others and that I need to take that into account when I'm choosing a job. Don't be me. It's a real thing and you should take it into consideration when making this decision. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:59 PM on October 7 [5 favorites]

You've gotten some good answers already, but as an employer (though likely not in your field) I wanted to chime in and say I don't think anything much about what any potential employee does before graduate school (unless they go to grad school quite late in their career, which would be a different story). That's precisely where I expect variation and exploration.
posted by frumiousb at 11:01 PM on October 7 [3 favorites]

Abuse/yelling/threatening isn't tolerated. (Not universal)

This is a huge, huge positive of your current job, and if you've not ever worked in an abusive professional environment you might not fully appreciate that. The 'most impressive' job I ever had (competitive industry, sought-after role, serious exposure to movers and shakers) was the most awful, because my boss was a bully and the culture was toxic. No amount of money, free food, or relaxed approach to hours worked would have made it worthwhile. Do you know what Company B is like in this regard? Because unless you know they're wonderful (and not just that Ron is a good boss - Ron could quit next week, or be hit by a bus, so you need to look at the wider organisation), I'd lean to staying where you are.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 11:22 PM on October 7 [8 favorites]

You really seem to lean toward the unionized job, but it's not that simple --- some unions are useful and some not so much, and we live in an increasingly anti-union political era. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-union (very much the opposite, as a matter of fact!), but while some unions are still strong and supportive of their members, others are weak. Also, in the vast majority of cases, once people reach the executive/manager level, they can no longer belong to the union.
posted by easily confused at 1:31 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]

It sounds like money is a big reason not to stay; with another offer in hand, you should consider negotiating your salary--and possibly for another assistant who can do some of the scuttier scut work.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:55 AM on October 8 [5 favorites]

I'd look at it from the perspective of getting to the job you want. It sounds like getting that job requires a lot of connections, and that your current job does far more in that regard? If that's true, then having a lower salary for a year might be a small price to pay.

However, I do think it's sometimes easy to overestimate the connections that one is building somewhere versus what they could do elsewhere, and switching jobs by its very nature leads to building new relationships. Would switching and learning that domain of work be valuable? If so, that's worth weighing.

But your parents, industry veterans, think it's better to stay? Sure they're wrong in saying that your success is inevitable, but ... there's logic missing from this account, so I don't understand. I'm sure they didn't say "no don't switch, because you'll inevitably be successful!" And i doubt you said "no, my success isn't guaranteed -- so I'm switching to this job where it's harder to build the connections I need!" I'm assuming that their logic is that this job is the best way to get to the place you want to be? What do they say about your workload and salary concerns?

If your idea is to downshift from a stressful day job into more of a self-contained one so that you can work on your thing after hours ("you try to break into it while working a dayjob"), I'd agree except that it sounds like you're planning to go to grad school for that thing in a year. So that makes me think you should spend a year meeting everyone and seeing how the industry runs, then go work on your craft, then get the stable day job while you try to sell your first screenplay (or whatever).

By the way, Job B's strict deadlines combined with "they don’t care about the hours you keep as long as you attend meetings and submit work on time?" That sounds like a possible nightmare from an ADHD / executive functioning perspective. Would you end up procrastinating, then pulling all-nighters right before the deadline?

Finally, I'm very pro union in general, but look at the specifics. Of my two union jobs, one had great benefits, while the other was worse than the non-union job I left it for on the specific benefits I cared about. Much worse. I'm not saying "unions are bad" just that the details and what the union has prioritized in negotiations can matter a lot to how well it meets your individual needs.
posted by salvia at 9:05 AM on October 8 [4 favorites]

If you were a bit later in your career or really needed money my answer would be different, but this early in your career I think showing flakiness isn’t great. Burning bridges at your current job sounds like it might negate the Rolodex you currently have access to. Especially if you are in an industry where relationships matter. It also seems incredibly disrespectful to your parents, who likely helped more than you think.

While it sounds great, I think something like the Ron opportunity could happen again in the future, and staying at least a year in your current job would be a better long-term plan.
posted by rainydayfilms at 9:35 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]

Oh, but making you do legal work you’re unqualified for is hugely sketchy, so I’m not sure your current job is actually good - it’s really hard to tell without more details on your industry (like, is it just unprofessional overall, so not a big deal? I don’t know).
posted by rainydayfilms at 9:39 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]

Which of the two employers will pay or help pay for your grad school tuition? Go with that one.
posted by halogen at 9:55 AM on October 8 [1 favorite]

"However, I do think it's sometimes easy to overestimate the connections that one is building somewhere versus what they could do elsewhere, and switching jobs by its very nature leads to building new relationships. Would switching and learning that domain of work be valuable? If so, that's worth weighing."

Seconded, seconded, seconded. I appreciate the various perspectives given here, and think they are all worth considering. But as someone who lingered way too long on and made a lot of decisions based on what others would/would not think of me if I made them and how this may impact my reputation, consequently landing myself in jobs I did not find exciting or interesting and for which I made a lot of sacrifices, I just want to offer that I am really learning that the healthiest thing to do is to take care of yourself -- gracefully, of course, but your happiness and well-being is important. My advice would be to think about what seems the most interesting and exciting to you right now, and to go with that. You can never know all the consequences of every action, but I've really come to believe that the best connections are the ones that want to see you succeed and that understand that the decisions you would make are not necessarily the same ones they would. I don't think you should feel guilty about doing what you think would be best for your health and for your personal and professional growth. And I can tell you that I've known people who left their company after only 3 months of working there -- but they did so very gracefully, and they did not burn bridges. I even know someone whose boss told him the door was open if he ever wanted to come back!! I think that's rare, but still, something to think about. While there is no ideal situation, I say follow what feels like the best growth opportunity in as many areas that are important to you (and it is okay to care about finances!!! I hate that we millennials are expected to be fine with being broke, when we start our adult lives with a boatload of student debt). Yes, connections matter--but they are ultimately not the same thing as your skill set. If you are not doing work you enjoy and are not developing the types of skills you want, most connections cannot get you to where you want to go. Skills matter.

However, do be sure to have an OFFICIAL offer IN WRITING (so, not an email, but a letter from HR) from the prospective new gig. And do not say anything to your current job until you have that. Good luck!
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 12:59 PM on October 8 [1 favorite]

Hey guys, just wanted to let you know that I so appreciate all the advice and different perspectives here. I stayed away to avoid the temptation to threadsit, but I'm really glad I read all these before I have to make a decision tomorrow. Not even sure which to mark as best answer!

I am definitely leaning toward staying in my current job. It sucks in a lot of ways, but I'm not sure I'm okay with the risks that quitting opens up. Of course, if I end up not going to grad school in the coming school year, I am going to be kicking myself, but hey, motivation to make my applications the best they can be, right? (I won't go unless I'm fully funded - and all the programs I'm applying to do provide full funding, it's just, there's fully funded and then there's "fully funded." Hence the worries about getting a good package. But I've decided to assume that I'll be going after only one application round. Better for my sanity.)

To the people who expressed concern about the reliability of the new job offer: yeah, that's one of the reasons my parents are wary.

And to those who asked about the culture of Company B: It's generally good, but just by dint of its size and prominence, emotions run higher. I know people who have worked there and no one experienced actual abuse. But occasionally there was interpersonal tension or ambient yelling. There is occasionally ambient yelling in my office, too, but it's never yelling AT someone else who is actually in the office/on the phone/otherwise present.

As far as the union goes, it's genuinely a very good one. I have posed a lot of questions to the members I personally know, and have probably never heard so few complaints about an organization, period. The worst of it was that [Union] East gets one more holiday a year, and everyone has to do annual safety training regardless of its applicability to your position. I'd love to be a member, but it's not ultimately the job I want to be in (I think), so I'm not sure I should rush into joining.

Now I'm just hoping I won't wake up tomorrow and feel an urgent change of heart...
posted by desert outpost at 11:21 PM on October 8

Go with the highest pay job. Save money and when you have enough quit and start your own stuff.
posted by gogreensolar at 3:50 AM on October 9

Final update: this morning my parents suddenly became much less enthusiastic about my current job, after I complained that based on my inbox I was going to be playing fake attorney today. I'd told them about the lawyer stuff before but I guess they didn't take it in. They were VERY unimpressed, and said that the decision now struck them as more of a question mark. But when I said I was leaning toward staying they agreed that was still their gut instinct, since due to the culture of my field, not burning bridges should probably remain my highest priority.

So I declined the job offer. I kind of immediately regretted it when I had to pretend to be a lawyer, and when the upcoming project I was dreading got confirmed, and when I got in trouble for letting the office run out of coffee and also for (jesus) somehow failing to notice there was a conference call scheduled and not calling us in. And then when I talked to Ron I discovered that he'd been specifically holding this position for me for months, which I did not realize, and which made me feel terrible. Maybe I've now singed that bridge, but I don't know what I could've done differently. What a shitty day!

Probably not the most inspiring update in the world, but I do appreciate everyone's input.
posted by desert outpost at 1:58 PM on October 9

Are you too late to talk to Ron again.

It sounds like your present job is expecting way too much of you and if the money's not good either!

Can't they take it in turns to get the coffee in? If you're pretendy lawyer it shouldn't just be your responsibility.

Get in touch with Ron
posted by Flowerpower at 12:55 PM on October 12

I don't know Ron. Ron might be an ok guy, or he might be the type who waits until you say no, then twists the knife just for fun with something like "oh, but I saved this for you for months."

What does that even mean? Save it for what, a surprise birthday party?

I call shenanigans.

If it was within his power to make you a job offer, he should have made you a job offer, full stop.

It sounds like someone who says "You can't go out with me this weekend? That's too bad because I busted my ass getting scoring these hard-to-get tickets. I guess you don't deserve it, and by the way you've put on weight."

Maybe he's very charismatic in person, to get away with this sort of thing, but it doesn't add up from a distance.

I hope you get into the graduate program, and in the meanwhile build good skills and contacts at whatever job you enjoy. It's a huge advantage to have such supportive parents - the much vaunted social capital - make good use of it.
posted by metaseeker at 2:36 PM on October 12

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