Deciding between two job offers. How?
September 7, 2018 12:12 AM   Subscribe

I currently do freelance work for two companies that very much want me to work for them full time, and have both, in the last week or so, posted job openings for the job they want me to take. Neither is a dream job of mine. Both are marketing positions, but one is for a commercial business, and the other is for a non-profit. Not surprisingly, the commercial business one would pay about $15k more a year. But how much should I value the ability of being proud of who I work for?

Both have similar, nice-to-have benefits (adequate PTO, work-from-home days, etc.). Commutes are similar, slightly worse for the non-profit. The non-profit would be a union position, which is appealing. The commercial one would be much less secure. I definitely feel less stressed at the commercial gig, and that I work harder, and have more to do, at the non-profit. The commercial gig isn't a terrible company (i.e. it doesn't make weapons) but it's not selling anything I feel passionate about. But: an extra $15k would get my salary back up to where it was after a layoff (from a different company) five years ago, and a few lesser-paying jobs since. Has anyone had to make a similar decision? I know I am very lucky to be in this position. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total)
My rule of thumb: whenever you list all the reasons for choice A and choice B, the thing you say last is what you really want to do:
an extra $15k would get my salary back up to where it was after a layoff (from a different company) five years ago
Take the commercial job. (And do some volunteer work for the non-profit.)
posted by Etrigan at 3:44 AM on September 7, 2018 [14 favorites]

I would take the commercial gig because of the pay difference. It's not just an extra $15k in your pocket now; it's a higher starting point for the salary negotiation at your next job.
posted by neushoorn at 3:46 AM on September 7, 2018 [9 favorites]

You could take the commercial job, and donate some or all of the extra $15K to charity (which would be tax-deductible...)
posted by Murderbot at 3:53 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am with the others. Take the higher paying job and see how it is. Volunteer and/or donate money in your free time. Try it for some time and if you don't like the job, then look for another job using your (higher) salary as base for negotiations. 15K /year is a ton of money that you can use to improve your life in various ways.
posted by jazh at 4:05 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

But how much should I value the ability of being proud of who I work for?

It’s priceless. Go for the non-profit with your head held high.
posted by Kwadeng at 4:32 AM on September 7, 2018

I say we can't decide based on the information you give here. Doing work that you're proud of and having a job that offers stability are huge in terms of your overall quality-of-life (which is what this decision is about) but then so might be an extra $15k per year. We don't know.

"Getting back to where I was pre-layoff" is an arbitrary measure. How much does it matter to your actual life to be at that level? Would you struggle financially at the nonprofit, or would you still have enough money to pay your bills, save for emergencies and retirement, and enjoy whatever leisure activities you like to do?

If your needs are already met then a $15k pay bump is something that I personally would happily walk away from in return for more pleasant work and greater stability in my job. If not though, then you would be a fool not to take the corporate gig.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:32 AM on September 7, 2018 [6 favorites]

Congratulations on this excellent problem. There's a lot we don't know that could make a huge difference in the answer. Apply for both jobs and go on both interviews, just because weirder things have happened than businesses posting a job to hire a specific person and then ultimately hiring someone else. Have you asked the non-profit for more money?

Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The has pretty much said what I was thinking. Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 5:04 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Well yeah if you don't have offers for both jobs on the table right now then you're WAY ahead of yourself. Absolutely interview for both jobs and see if you get an actual offer. If you get two, then you have a decision to make. Until that point, it's just pipe smoke.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:17 AM on September 7, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh wait, I missed that they've only posted openings, not given you offers! Good catch seanmpuckett.

Definitely 100% apply for both jobs, that should be a total no-brainer. You only have a choice to make when you're holding formal, written job offers that merely await your signature in hand. Up until that moment, you have nothing to choose between.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:11 AM on September 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

IMO, being overworked, underpaid and underappreciated will dwarf any quality of life benefit of being proud of what you do. Apply for both jobs. if you get offered both, take the commercial job
posted by missmagenta at 6:17 AM on September 7, 2018 [9 favorites]

I don't understand the logic behind the suggestion to NOT take the job with the nonprofit because they don't pay enough, but then volunteer with them.

Interview for both jobs. See which one sounds like something you actually like more. Negotiate as best you can for the best possible position. Take the one you like - factoring in things like satisfaction, commute, etc.

I've definitely taken a pay cut to do more intellectually/politically/socially rewarding work.
posted by entropone at 6:20 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely apply for both jobs. And remember you can always negotiate the offers.

I worked for nonprofits for almost two decades, have worked in marketing for nonprofits for almost a decade and now freelance (by choice) mostly for nonprofits. So I like doing marketing for nonprofits! But here’s my thing: the reason I prefer to do this work for nonprofits is that I find it a lot more interesting. I’ve talked with people about corporate marketing jobs and it just seemed like I’d be super bored in those jobs, so I’ve stuck with NPOs.

That is to say, I think it’s really important for people who work for NPOs to have strong “selfish” reasons for doing so, otherwise they burn out. For me, being less bored has been worth the somewhat lower pay.

There is something really great about being in a union though. I had a union nonprofit job at a NPO for five years and it was amazing to have that kind of job security.
posted by lunasol at 7:28 AM on September 7, 2018

Also, it matters what kind of salary range we’re talking about. Is it $45k vs $60k? That’s a major difference in quality of life. $90k vs $105 is less of a difference.
posted by lunasol at 7:31 AM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

$15k/ year difference has a huge impact over longer period of time.

Simplistic model: 3% annual raises over 15 years means $264k less in total salaries over that time.

Ofcourse, the simplistic model doesn't account for effect on retirement savings, ability to pay down debt/ save, better ability to cope with another job loss, etc.
posted by zeikka at 7:48 AM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've worked my whole life in non-profits and government and left money on the table doing so, but I want to say that the worst decisions I've made in my career is when I put mission before my own happiness and well being. I stayed in my first job years too long because of this mistake. I stayed in another just months too long because of it. Both those times, something happened that made me miserable in the job and I stuck around because I wanted the organization to succeed. Spoiler, both have been around for over a century and are still going strong without me. The question I keep coming back to is, absent the other option, would I be happy with this?
posted by advicepig at 8:10 AM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

In addition to the +$15k differential, you noted that the commercial job is less stressful, which is worth alot IMHO, and less work. You can always go back to the not-for-profit world having restored your salary track record. Congrats!
posted by carmicha at 8:32 AM on September 7, 2018 [4 favorites]

Take the commercial job if offered and use the more relaxed work environment to save up some bandwidth for volunteering. Also, 15K will help boost your charity giving. There are ways to be a force for positive change in the world that don't involve who you work for. Financial security is a very important thing to cultivate if you have the opportunity.
posted by quince at 11:38 AM on September 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd approach it a little differently. To me, it wouldn't be about non-profit vs for-profit, but the culture of each company. If you've freelanced for them, you've probably talked to lots of employees for both companies. Which set of employees seems happier/more content/less negative about their co-workers and boss? I would pick that company, regardless of its tax status.

But yeah, that being equal, I'd take the for-profit job, make more money w/ less stress, and try to do something nice for the world elsewhere in my life if that were important to me.
posted by nosila at 11:52 AM on September 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

But how much should I value the ability of being proud of who I work for?

It's not just the salary vs. the reputation. It's the salary and the commute and the stress level vs. the organization's reputation plus job security.

I worked at non profits for over ten years because I was all about the mission. I couldn't have done anything else. You sound like you could. In which case, $15k sounds like a lot of money to give up.

So, that brings us to job security and how much value to give that. Do you have kids? What's the job market like where you live? Could you just fall back on freelancing again if something happened?

What about this idea: take the higher-paying job, save that $15k in the event of a layoff, and use the work-life balance to apply for more stable jobs, ideally at places that you feel better about.

Or here's another idea: see if the nonprofit can match the $15k or come close. I personally wouldn't earn that much less while having a worse commute and more stressful work days. But I'd take the worse commute and the stress for a job I cared about if they matched the salary. Ultimately though, only you know how much value to give to each of these pieces.
posted by salvia at 9:17 PM on September 7, 2018

I don't know what your career goals are, but as a marketing leader in a nonprofit that's previously been in-house in for-profit firms, I strongly advise you to apply for both and if you're faced with a choice between the two be very honest with yourself about the answer to one question: which will result in more impressive work for you to show off when your dream job does come around?

Which one has a better ad and marketing budget?
Which one will let you test approaches and demonstrate value with data?
Which will give you opportunities to fully own the deliverables so that you can control the results?
Which one will let you either build a portfolio or add stats like "increased awareness/sales/etc. by %"?

Marketing is not a gig of staying in any one place for that long a time and going in-house (vs. an agency) makes you look like a specialist, so make sure that any job you take has some stepping stone towards where you want to go in 2-5 years (or less). An organization where you can't demonstrate value creatively or with stats can make your career stagnate.

You mention the nonprofit, as if nonprofits are, by their nature, karma good. There are plenty of nonprofits that don't value the resources they're given, don't focus on the mission, have a weird ass mission, or are so caught up in internal politics that it's hard to get things done because you don't have the data of the bottom line dollars to prove impact as you do with a for-profit. So make sure the mission, vision, values, ways of measuring impact, and the board are all things you're aligned with before you make a financial sacrifice. And if you are aligned with their mission, will you be able to connect with the mission on a personal basis? Or will you just be doing fundraising and grant marketing that will keep you at arm's length from reminders of why you're there in the first place?
posted by Gucky at 10:09 AM on September 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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