I don't trust my gut
August 22, 2008 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Should I take the job or hope I get another offer?

I've been thinking about this for a few days and I'm not really sure what to do.

I am a journalist and was offered a full-time position, which I have to accept or decline by today. As you may have heard, the journalism industry is a mess right now with lots of people getting laid off, papers shutting down, etc. Jobs are pretty hard to come by.

The job I was offered is fairly low-paying and since this would be my first full-time gig (I have been freelancing and interning) I am afraid that if I start out with a low-wage it will be harder in the future to command more money from employers.

I have consulted some mentors (professional journalists) and their advice has been to a.)try and negotiate for more money, though the company that owns the paper recently laid off a lot of people and the editor said he doesn't have much flexibility in terms of the pay, b.) take the job since I am fortunate to even have an offer and considering we are heading into the end of the year, my chances of getting a job don't look good for the rest of the year.

My reservations are:
1. money: the job is in an expensive area (Bay Area) and I'm not fond of Ramen
2. location: My family is from another part of the state and I worry about my parents, who have both recently found out they had medical issues

I have reservations about the company and being a journalist at all...but I don't really have a backup career plan either. Friends have told me to "follow my heart" but that advice gets a blank stare from me. I don't trust my intuition/heart. I think emotions lead you to make terrible decisions sometimes and you can't trust your gut. Part of that line of thinking is due to my recent uncertainity about whether or not the religion I was raised under is even true at all....

My pattern, generally, with tough decisions is to procrastinate until the decision is made for me (as in, I wait too long to be able to act at all) because I don't trust my decision making skills. I don't want to do that again and I don't want my decision to be colored by anxiety, fear, or (possible) depression that I may have (probably evident in my past questions).

It's possible I could get another job that pays more and is closer to my family and with a stronger company...or it could be 6 months from now and I'm still without a job. I just finished my internship and I'm staying with my parents, as I was before the internship.

There are many factors at play here and I just really don't know which way to go. I don't feel strongly about anything (could be the slight depression?) but I know I need to do something.
posted by PinkButterfly to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Make two lists:

1. Pros and Cons of the job as offered.

2. A detailed-as-you-can-make-it mathematical analysis of your expectation for the job's pay, where that makes you live, what the commute is like, what your prospects are in 1, 3, 5 and 10 years for advancement, and options for sidegrades/upgrades that the job will give you or not.

The 1st one will help you cover all of your concerns and emotional plusses.

The 2nd one will help you manage the logistics.

From both of those, you should be able to arrive at a detailed, complete decision.
posted by felix at 11:44 AM on August 22, 2008

Best answer: This is just my opinion, but here goes:

Try to negotiate for a higher salary. No one has ever rescinded a job offer (to my knowledge) because someone asked for more money. That doesn't mean you'll get more, but it doesn't hurt to ask (and when you ask be sure to ask for something within reason, citing average pay for the position, cost of living in the Bay area, etc).

Then, if you get a higher offer or not, take the job. Here is why I say that.

1) You have only been freelancing so far. Having full-time, professional experience will bolster your resume. If you are laid off, it will be part of major cuts, and you will be that much better positioned to find the next full-time position with that experience on your resume AND a plausible, not-your-fault, reason for why you aren't employed any more.

2) You say your family is not in that area. While it is hard, there comes a time where you must make choices for your profession and journalism is not one of those professions where the job comes to you.

If you leave the area you can visit your family but, even better, if things DO go south with a layoff at the new company you will have a safe location with people who love you and support you to which you can return safely. They're letting you stay there now, they probably will again if you got laid off

3) Having worked at companies where there were layoffs, they usually have a hiring freeze before a layoff (USUALLY, not always). If they're hiring, odds are you're safe for a year at least.

4) You don't know if journalism is for you, and the slight depression may keep you from having any ambitions. The only way to find out if it's for you is to do it, and to commit yourself to doing it. I know from experience it is hard work, but it has some very bright moments that no other career can offer. So try it and see.

5) You said you let decisions make themselves for you. You need to make a decision, a proactive decision, to show yourself you can. Not taking the job is the "safe" way, but as you live with your parents now you have very little to lose. In a worst case scenario you end up back living with your parents. This is a great chance for you to strike out on your own, accomplish something, and find self-confidence in doing so.

So, I say take it. But, you know what they say about opinions...
posted by arniec at 11:49 AM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Have you made a budget? You can put parents' medical expenses in there (flights home, whatev). Consider the salary and your estimated expenses in hard terms. If you want to post a budget here, I'm sure people can tell you how feasible it is. The Bay Area can be expensive but it can also be a bargain, depending on your lifestyle.

Projecting how much money you will make in the future based on your starting salary as a brand-new person in the industry is too abstract.
posted by Eringatang at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2008

Action is better than inaction. You'll feel better making a decision than having the decision made for you (by missing the deadline to accept, for instance). And you can always leave the job if it's not right or if something better comes along. This isn't something you're going to figure out by thinking about more - you know the pros & cons, you just need some help moving forward.
posted by judith at 12:01 PM on August 22, 2008

Try to negotiate a better salary, but take the job regardless (some regular money is better than no regular money, after all). Nothing says that you can't continue to look for something that pays better while you work there. If, in four or five months, someone makes you a better offer, you can then either take the new job or use the new offer as a point of leverage with this job to give you more money.

But my vote is take the job.
posted by anastasiav at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2008

felix's lists are a good way for you to make this decision, but if you just want our opinion's, I agree with arniec and anastasiav -- try to get a better offer, but even if that doesn't work, take the job. This is because you have no backup plan, and doing something, however imperfect, is better than doing nothing.

Is journalism for you? Well, what if it's not? You don't have a backup plan now. It'll take you six months even to get an idea of a backup plan. What are you going to do in the meantime? Why not work at this job?

Parents' health. A big one. But "another part of the state" to me says either a really cheap plane ticket, or less than a day's drive. You will still be able to visit them fairly easily.

Cost of living. How low is the salary? I wouldn't even bother with the math if you're above $30k (unless you have special expenses). I know people who get by on much less than that. I'm not saying this is the way to get rich. But you have no plan for getting rich, so if the question is just -- can you live on what you're making? Probably. You can always work weekends at a restaurant if necessary.

Depression. If someone asked me, "how can I get myself to feel depressed?" I'd say, "wait until you've graduated, and then go live at home with your parents. Especially if they live in the suburbs or you don't have any friends in the area." Almost nobody can pull that off without feeling aimless, adrift, on the verge of ruining their life, and like everything is pointless. If you were saying, "I have clinical depression and can barely manage to feed myself," I'd say, "stay at home." But since you're saying, "I'm uncertain about my future, nervous about making a mistake, and have this slight depression," my take is that getting yourself out of your parents' house can only help.

The future. This isn't your entire future. If you take this job, you can then begin to work on your backup plan, by taking night classes in computer programming, studying for the LSAT, learning to bartend, or focusing on your budding career in journalism. In the earliest days of your career, I'd worry less about the precedent-setting power of salaries and worry more about building a strong network of contacts who can attest to what good work you do.

I used to get like the way you are, frozen in indecision. My mom used to say, "finding your future is not like aiming an arrow at a bullseye, where you have to get it right that instant when you release the arrow. It's like trying to find a building. So, just head in the generally right direction, and as you get closer, consult the map again or ask some people around you for directions. It'll be easier to figure out as you get closer." Whether or not journalism is the right career for you will be much easier to figure out while working full-time as a journalist than in the situation you're in now.
posted by salvia at 12:18 PM on August 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another vote for taking the job, at least for now. He says he "doesn't have much flexibility" in terms of pay, which means he has some. Ask for 10% higher, and take whatever he comes back with. The job may or may not work out for some reasons you cite, but in the meantime you have gained experience and (more importantly) contacts.

I am afraid that if I start out with a low-wage it will be harder in the future to command more money from employers.

You don't command more money by starting high. You command more money by being awesome.
posted by mikepop at 1:02 PM on August 22, 2008

I am afraid that if I start out with a low-wage it will be harder in the future to command more money from employers.

It's your first gig, and it's journalism. Low pay is pretty much a guarantee. You have to start somewhere on the wage scale, and most of us start on the low end in our fields - that's just how it works.

Can you keep some of your freelance jobs while holding a full-time position? I've done it, and it's not the funnest thing ever, but it can be doable.

Yeah, SF is expensive. But you really don't have to eat ramen. There are cheap farmers markets (Civic Center, Alemany), there are beans and rice available in bulk sections, and if you order right, that burrito is two or three meals for about 6 bucks.

Take the job.
posted by rtha at 1:50 PM on August 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

As rtha said, your first journalism job will pay badly -- even at the bigger union papers, assuming you're starting at the bottom of the scale. (Mine did, and it was in another expensive city -- D.C.) I'm not sure if this will hold true in the next few years, but your salary will also jump once you move on from the first (small?) paper.
posted by Airhen at 2:26 PM on August 22, 2008

Seconding rtha. I'm a journalist too, was recently in your exact same position (but in NYC) and I'm so thankful I took the offer. You're lucky to even get a full-time gig given how many people have been laid off. This will give you the option of biding your time while the publishing takes a hit to the chin, and all the while you're getting paid, gaining experience, and ducking alee from the storm.

In terms of salary, of course you should negotiate, but again, rtha is right to point out that you're not going to be rolling in cash. I make beans as a senior editor, so it won't improve much as you climb ranks. Also, they know these jobs are hard to come by, that there will be ten, or a hundred more people lining up to take what you're dithering over.

One boon during the grim state of journalism is that young people like you and I are getting hired because we offer cheap labor. Yes, we are replacing far more qualified journalists, yes, that hurts the quality of editorial content until we get our sea legs, and yes, we are working with an already pared-down and demoralized staff with very little padding: but that's only going to toughen you up. You'll come out of this job with experience and connections. In these times, that's priceless.

Like I said, I took a full-time staff-writing job that I was unsure about in the beginning. I felt the content was a little beneath me. But due to some lay-offs in the office, I went from associate editor to senior editor in a matter of a few months. I'm much much busier than before, and often I feel ill-equipped to be running all the editorial content, but I realize now how stupid I would have been if I'd held out for a high-brow (or higher-paying) job that didn't exist.

Take the job.
posted by zoomorphic at 2:30 PM on August 22, 2008

I am afraid that if I start out with a low-wage it will be harder in the future to command more money from employers

Your future employers won't know what your current employers paid you.
posted by kindall at 4:07 PM on August 22, 2008

Take the job!

Try to negociate the higher salary, because it can't hurt to ask. But even so, take the job! It doesn't pigeonhole you into a low salary, it gives you experience and a starting point from which to move up. Who knows, maybe they start with really low salaries but give good pay raises to people who do good work.

Also, remember this:
If you don't like it, if it doesn't work out, if you find a higher paying job, you can always quit.

Seriously, take the job.
posted by emd3737 at 4:10 PM on August 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you all :)

I'm still trying to decide/negotiate.
posted by PinkButterfly at 8:34 PM on August 25, 2008

Response by poster: By the way, I ended up taking the job. Thanks for the advice.
posted by PinkButterfly at 9:46 PM on October 4, 2008

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