Good opportunity that I don't want right now, but might want in 6 months
January 12, 2021 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Should I jump on this opportunity now, even if I don't really want it?

Networking is not something I'm naturally good at or understand very well. When someone I don't know well does me a favour I feel so shocked and indebted to them that it makes my brain not work. So I'm having trouble navigating this situation.

I've been in my job at a small nonprofit of about 20 people, for about 20 months. In many ways it's a dream job for me and a really good fit, working on a small, closeknit team in a field I am passionate about. I've discovered some new talents and made a difference in the organization. That being said, in my current role I'm not feeling challenged, and I feel really stagnant and often bored. I also know I'm being slightly underpaid for the type of work I'm doing, but I get good vacation time, benefits and other perks that make it seem not so bad.

Our busy season is just starting now, and for the next 5 months we will be preparing for a large conference. Every member of the team is highly interconnected with the project because we have been planning it for the past year.

Before Christmas, I was really itching for a change, and interviewed for 3 other positions. I wasn't offered any jobs, but recently an opportunity has come up for a job which pays far more but is essentially the same just in a university setting. I haven't recieved a job offer, but through a previous application process, I built a connection with a well-connected manager at the institution who has offered to recommend the boss interviews me. I know that I am being slightly underpaid at my current job, and this new opportunity would increase my salary by about 25%.

For some reason though, the thought of applying for this new job is making me really anxious. First of all I don't want to burn any bridges at my current organization, because I've had a good experience there overall. Secondly, even though the second job pays more I wouldn't describe it as a "dream job." It doesn't sound as interesting as the job I currently have.

My instinct is telling me I should tell that manager that I've build the connection with that I've decided not to apply. I don't want to waste his time and the efforts he offered to do, if I don't have the intention of accepting a job offer. I'm well aware that he's doing this because it benefits him as well (he's doing a favour to the hiring manager), but I still want to stay on a good footing with him in case future opportunities open up once I'm ready to leave the current job.

My question is:

What's the better way to preserve the relationship with that manager? If I tell him I'm not going to apply right now, will he just assume I'm not interested/flaky and not consider me for future opportunities? What if I were to be completely honest and just say I want to preserve the connections I've made at the current job and wait 6 months to begin my job search in earnest? Can I still reach out to him then or is this a "one time opportunity" type deal?
posted by winterportage to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
IF you are sure you want this other job 5 months from now, then tell the manager that this opportunity sounds incredible, and normally you would have jumped at it, but you have just taken on an important project for the first quarter of this new year which you feel responsible for seeing through. Would it be possible for you to apply for the other role sometime in April?

This will leave you 4 weeks to interview and pass background checks for the other role + 2 weeks notice for your current employer, taking you safely into May.

If you are not sure you want to apply for the other role at all, then let them know you've just taken on some new responsibilities at your current job and you're no longer looking to leave the company. Thank them profusely for their interest in you. Refer any friends you have who may be qualified or interested. Let them know you're available if they'd ever like to get coffee or lunch sometime.
posted by MiraK at 6:31 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]


update: I just got a message from the manager that he has already passed my name along and told them to watch for my application. I haven't sent in the application yet! Eek, what do I do?
posted by winterportage at 6:41 AM on January 12


I also urge you to get some clarity on your own thoughts and career goals, because this description of your current job sounds rather contradictory! Specifically the underlined bits.

In many ways it's a dream job for me and a really good fit, working on a small, closeknit team in a field I am passionate about. I've discovered some new talents and made a difference in the organization. That being said, in my current role I'm not feeling challenged, and I feel really stagnant and often bored. I also know I'm being slightly underpaid for the type of work I'm doing, but I get good vacation time, benefits and other perks that make it seem not so bad.

If you happen to be in the early days of your career, I totally get why you would feel like this. It can be exhilarating to find a job where you feel competent and a team where you feel welcomed that also pays *anything at all* + good benefits. Double this feeling because a significant portion of your cohort who are also in early career are likely struggling to get a foothold and would envy where you are. Triple it during a pandemic when many across the board have lost their livelihoods entirely. So I get why you would call this a "dream job" even though you feel bored and stagnant!

But I would encourage you to start describing this more in terms of, "I feel grateful to be here, where the team is go great and I can make a difference. I am in a good place from which to start actively seeking growth, a challenge, and better compensation for my talents and efforts." Right? This is not your dream job! :)
posted by MiraK at 6:43 AM on January 12 [7 favorites]


I work for a slightly larger non-profit that hosts an annual conference so I know the busy season you're talking about, and five months is PLENTY of time for them to either hire a new staff person or bring a temp/contract person in and up to speed for the conference. Don't let the sense of obligation be what is holding you back. We've had people in the meetings/events department leave much closer than five months out and survived; they will too.
posted by misskaz at 6:46 AM on January 12 [13 favorites]


I think you should apply for the new job and move on without guilt!
posted by rawralphadawg at 6:47 AM on January 12 [14 favorites]


update: I just got a message from the manager that he has already passed my name along and told them to watch for my application. I haven't sent in the application yet! Eek, what do I do?

Don't panic. This is totally fine. You're still perfectly within the bounds of good, professional behavior if you speak to the manager and say exactly what I suggested earlier --- either that your new work responsibilities make you available only after the first quarter, or your new work responsibilities make you unavailable entirely. The manager can be a good advisor for how you should proceed re: the application. Just be sure to thank this manager for their championing of you, and let them know you owe them coffee. Then send a thank you card in the mail stat.

Another caveat: don't be OVERLY effusive or flustered when you speak to this person. You are not inconveniencing them in any way. You are expressing gratitude for their thoughtful gift of a cookie tin, not their donation of a kidney which you must reject for being too lumpy. KWIM??

You got this!

(And also: seriously consider applying for this new job and moving on without guilt, as the poster above suggested. All my advice is on the basis of you knowing for sure that you either want to wait or not take the job at all.)
posted by MiraK at 6:48 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]


Try to get over the idea of a dream job. It sounds like a much better fit and better paid. Do you really want to be bored and underpaid for another year? Two? Five months is plenty of time for them to get help, and jobs aren’t going to get easier to find. Quitting a job is not burning a bridge. It’s leaving a job that also has no obligation to keep you.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:49 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]


First of all I don't want to burn any bridges at my current organization, because I've had a good experience there overall.

Quitting a job is a normal thing that normal people do all the time. Just quitting a job in and of itself isn't burning bridges. If the organizational culture is such that quitting is viewed in this light, that's a sign that you should get out.
posted by number9dream at 8:07 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Quitting a job is a normal thing that normal people do all the time. Just quitting a job in and of itself isn't burning bridges. If the organizational culture is such that quitting is viewed in this light, that's a sign that you should get out.

Sorry, maybe I phrased it too strongly. I guess what I mean is I have good friends and colleagues that I don't want to leave hanging. But you're right it wouldn't be too hard to find someone in 5 months.

Just a further point - the organization culture here is actually great, and has been very supportive of us during the pandemic. It's not a case of toxic, overworked nonprofit that you hear about. I guess what is making it hard for me is leaving my boss (who's very sweet and kind) and the team in general. For example the CEO sent me a really sweet and personalized Christmas card to my home thanking me for my work. Obviously I know I can't pay bills with a Christmas card lol. But for someone like me it does make a difference
posted by winterportage at 9:08 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Look at your own posting history about the job you have now. Applying (and especially interviewing) are good skills to keep sharp, regardless. And so, SO many people (especially women) do not value money enough when it comes to their own careers. Please at least apply for the new job.
posted by cyndigo at 9:32 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Also! Applying for a job is not getting an offer, is not accepting the offer, is not leaving your job. Applying for a job is a chance for you to explore the opportunity, and, since it's of interest, it's worth exploring! You can't ask for a job to be held for five months for you. But applying will give you the opportunity to talk to them and learn more and see if it might be a bigger fit.

It's great that you have a good boss! That person will also understand if you move on, you know?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:14 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Apply! If nothing else, practicing interviewing skills (and learning to read the weird signals you can get about a workplace via the interview process) is a very useful thing, and you may find out that it's more appealing than it looks from your current vantage.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:46 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


It doesn't sound as interesting as the job I currently have.

Why? Are you sure? In my experience, job ads/descriptions often differ from what the job is actually like, and this is something that you can suss out in the interview. If being able to do a certain task or type of work is important to you, then you should say that in the interview as a question "I have found in my current position I value [x type of work], will that be possible for me to continue in this position?"

If the answer is no, then if you get the job offer and decide to decline, you can make clear you are not declining not because you're a flake. You could also present the job offer (if it happens) as an opportunity to ask for a raise from your current position.

So, yes, apply!
posted by coffeecat at 11:25 AM on January 12


Applying for a job doesn't commit you to take it. If you are open to the possibility of finding out if this job is actually a better fit than your current job, it is OK to apply and find out more. You might find out that the job is clearly better in ways that get you excited. Or you might find out that 75% of the job is doing the part that you hate more. Or you might find out that they decide to hire someone else and you don't even need to make a decision. Or you might get a perfectly reasonable offer and be back where you are now but with actual information to use to make your decision instead of it being all theoretical.

You are not wasting their time just because you aren't sure if you will take it if offered. After all, they are taking your time to come and interview without any promise of making an offer. You are allowed to interview without an advance commitment to take the job if offered.

This sounds like a good enough opportunity that is worth finding out more. So do that. Apply and find out more.
posted by metahawk at 11:37 AM on January 12


It's a bit hard to suss out how you're actually feeling about your work, but it seems safe to say you are at a minimum ambivalent about it. Some stuff you like, and some stuff you don't, right? Perhaps it would help to list out what elements you enjoy and what is lacking as a first step, and then evaluate what falls where.

If, like your follow up implies, you're mostly staying for the people and not for the job itself, either because you have guilt about leaving them hanging and/or you just love working with them every day, that's a bit of a dangerous game. People leave jobs - you could literally find yourself without the coworkers that are keeping your work satisfying for you within weeks, because long term most people will eventually jump if job itself isn't working for them. Relationships aren't enough to overcome that large of a deficit. For that reason alone, I wouldn't recommend staying if that's your primary factor, and I definitely wouldn't recommend not even considering opportunities. If the core work isn't working, that's key.

Agree with all the posters saying to give it a go, if for no other reason than it's good to explore options and keep your interview skill set sharp. There's no harm in exploring an opportunity and then passing because it's not right for you, but there is harm in refusing opportunities you haven't explored - that's when you miss a chance that could unlock career growth.
posted by amycup at 12:08 PM on January 12


Don't jump in with your 'five months' pitch just yet.

In some circumstances you might indeed say 'keep me in mind for future positions' (realistically they aren't going to hold the job for 5 months when they don't know you, anyway, so this is probably the better phrasing). But in this case, the way you're talking, I think you're interested enough and you should investigate further.

They want to interview you to see if you are a fit. You might not be. You might be, but if you show your hand at this point with the five months' notice, then that would pretty much rule you out. Let the process do its work.

You are interviewing them to see what they're offering. Clearly you sense that it could be a good place for you to be, but you can't be sure yet. In the same way that they have to interview multiple candidates because not everyone is right for them, you should not expect a 100% perfect match on the first time of trying either. Maybe it's much better than you ever imagined. Maybe it's much worse. Who knows? This is how you use the interview for your own ends.

If they give you an offer at the end of this process, then you are into the phase where you decide what to do - and it's a negotiation.

Now you know much more of the details, would you leave your old job tomorrow? Would you leave tomorrow but only if they improved their offer? Would you decline? (As with leaving a job, you are perfectly at liberty to decline an offer - they will happily tell all the other candidates 'sorry, no' if you accept - and they'll probably offer it to someone else down their preference list if you do.)

Or, coming back to the original, would you say 'I'm in the middle of thing at my old job; I want to take X time to finish it.' This will be less than five months when the process concludes, and depending on their abilities to organise interviews, perhaps even much less. The important thing here is this is you've not led them on a wild goose chase, you've simply informed them of the value of their offer to you and left it open to them to change your mind. They might accept your proposal, say it won't be possible, or counter that with more money, if they want you badly.

And, lastly, no reasonable person at your old job is going to begrudge you finding a better one.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 9:02 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Feeling kinda-okay about staying in your old job for now is actually a much stronger position to negotiate future job offers from than waiting until you're desperate to leave.

Applying now and putting your best foot forward does not mean you get the job. But it makes it more likely they'll keep you in mind for future opportunities.
posted by M. at 3:11 AM on January 16


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