The situation, this week

A couple of weeks ago, I sort of threw my had in the ring for a writing position at a corporate healthcare entity. I wasn’t sure if I wanted the position or not – it’s more responsibility, longer hours, etc. etc. But it would also give me incredible experience, the kind of writing experience sort of akin to Andy’s position with that magazine in “The Devil Wears Prada” – if you can do it for a year, you can write your own ticket upon completion.

A week after I applied, the company contacted me and set up an interview. I interviewed and took a writing test last week – both of which left me sort of cold and appreciating the warmth and heart found in my non-profit, flexible schedule, cushy-hours job.  The bosses at potential new job didn’t impress me, nor does being on call or owning a blackberry or getting really psyched for casual Fridays. But…but…the smallest part of me keeps saying this job is the equivalent of medicine…a pain in the ass to take but oh so good for you.  It’s the kind of job that could lead to national and international work, fairly quickly.  And so for all of my determination not to take the position, a small part of me still…wondered.

Well, I received an offer yesterday.  An okay offer, but just enough under the amount I said I’d move for that I can’t help but wonder if the company is flat-out dicking with me.  According to EVERYONE (ie, S., A., my parents, and my old boss who is now a vice president) I HAD to counter offer because said company specifically asked what I would leave Current Position for and then ignored what I said. 

I HATE this sort of thing. I’m already anxious about the very possibility of taking Fancy Job (where is the bathroom? will I be able to read blogs on my lunchbreak? will I be randomly fired? will anybody be my friend?) and bargaining, egods, well, it’s led to a lot of comfort bagel-eating today. At the same time, I recognize the necessity in not selling myself short, in believing in myself (S.’s words).  And really, the offer, if you could see the numbers, well – you’d understand the distinct puppet and master situation occurring here.

So I countered, via email (as instructed, all of this has basically been done via email except for a couple of phone calls), and also asked some questions, like how is success determined in this position and what’s the evaluation structure like and oh yes, that salary seems bunk to me, how about a few grand more?

And I’ve heard nothing.  And it’s been one full work day. And I might have to swing by a Panera on the way home and buy the vat of Cinnamon Crunch bagels.  I’m all nerved up about this even though I know how ridiculous it is to be so…either they’ll come back with an offer or they won’t but I have a good job, a job I believe in with co-workers I like. I have a coffee shop I go to every morning for a medium cup, every wednesday I eat lemon rice soup and spanikopita for lunch (5.95 for the special) and my gym is right across the street. Fridays alternate between yoga and happy hour with coworkers. I’m comfortable. I believe in the work I do.  I love my scrappy little gym and my big office and all. that. stuff. If my salary isn’t met by Fancy Company,  what does it matter?

So why am I tied in knots? Why to I even care? If I were anyone else I’d talk about my untapped potential and pushing myself as far as I can go but really, that’s not me.  I think I’m nervous because I’ve never, ever said to anybody, ever  – no, that’s not good enough. I’m worth more than that. I’ve never put a dollar figure on my skills before, and it feels wrong. If I’m a writer, shouldn’t the art of it matter? Shouldn’t finding the story, identifying narrative, be more important than a few thousand dollars?

But then, I think, three grand to an international company is nothing. Three grand, to me,  is the balance of my student loan from graduate school.  And that’s not insignificant.

And so I wait.  Oh, I’m on the second book in the From the Stacks challenge – I’m reading The Awakening,  by Kate Chopin.  Upon beginning it I was immediately reminded of A Room with a View – is that an incredibly obvious thing to say? Are they often taught together, and I’m just sounding uneducated, like the time my dad called me up after deciding to teach Disgrace and Things Fall Apart in the same class and he thought it was an entirely new idea?  The Awakening also reminds me of Anita Shreve’s earlier writing.

At any rate. Wish me whatever it is you think appropriate. I’m going to pilates in an attempt to distract me from donuts disguised as bagels.

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16 Responses to The situation, this week

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    Well, I sympathize. I’d be all in knots too. Yeah, it’s all well and good to say that it would work out well either way (and it’s true, of course), but still — it’s stressful not to know! I’ve been in job uncertainty too often lately myself, and I know first hand what agony it can be. Congrats on the offer, by the way — you should be proud of yourself!

  2. yogamum says:

    I hope it all works out for the best. I think $3000 isn’t too much to ask from a big company. Don’t sell yourself short! Sometimes I think people take advantage of writers because they think they can get away with offering less — because of the “doing it for the art” thing!

  3. Stefanie says:

    Wow, congrats on the offer. You did right with the counter offer. Of course big companies want to pay you as little as possible so you did good to remind them you are worth more. Very nerve-wracking and I’m sure I’d feel just like you in the same situation. Good luck!

  4. Rebekah says:

    I say yay for the counter offer. Why not?

  5. Katie says:

    Scott says always counter-offer. That’s how he ended up getting paid an obscene amount for very little work.
    At least now you won’t have to wonder, what if?

  6. litlove says:

    No one respects you if you don’t stand up for yourself a little. My husband says these things are games, and girls take games too seriously; doesn’t stop him from being tied in knots, I notice, when it’s his situation! I know just how you feel, which is like being taken over by ambition that doesn’t belong to you. I felt the same when I was offered the chance of a chair. I felt I ought to go for it, even though I didn’t want it! You did the right thing, and big companies (in my meagre experience) move VERY slowly. The point is, they made you an offer, and you can be proud of that and that alone.

  7. Well done on the offer, Courtney, and you definitely did the right thing by asking for more. At this stage, it’s still a game (you’re not working for them yet) so you can play just as well as they are. You’ve earned the chance to work at this level and you’ve also earned the right to be paid appropriately. You deserve it!

  8. Kelly says:

    Good for you Courtney.

    You know, men will always get paid more than women, and it doesn’t often mean they’re more talented than us, they are just not imitatated to ask for what they want.
    And now, neither are you.
    Companies really are looking out for themselves, as are you. And you’re right. It’s not their money. It’s not like your new boss has to write you a check from their own account.

    Feel good about taking the steps and becoming empowered.
    My dad always tells me, ” Don’t be a beaten woman. Speak up.”

    No harm in asking for more money. Worse case scenario you won’t get it, but you’re not gettting it now. You could even get a counter from Company A, and then tell your current company, and let them counter.

  9. Carl V. says:

    I realize the whole thing is nerve racking, but I think you’ve done the right thing. Unless this was your dream job…one that you would take regardless of income, etc…then you have every right to respectfully request a salary that you believe is fair and will motivate you to do the very best. I believe that if you handled this correctly…and it sure sounds like you did…then you are either meant to get the job and will or there will be something better at another time. I would encourage you to de-stress and enjoy the passing day. They will eventually get back to you one way or the other.

  10. LK says:

    Hold out for the 3 grand. It is a small price to pay for having your soul sucked out on a daily basis, which is the kind of job it seems to be.

    If you decide to take it, keep remembering your original goal and set a timeline for getting out.

  11. Andi says:

    Whatever happens, I hope it’s wonderful for you!

  12. Thanks to ALL of you for your advice, thoughts and suggestions. I am extremely appreciative, and they come none to soon, since I’ve decided to supplement my bagel diet with m & ms! I wish I could give each of you a shout out but I fear I’ll be sugar crashing momentarily – I’ll post an update tomorrow!

  13. Emily says:

    I’ve learned, being on the other side of this: always, always, always counter-offer, unless you are blown away by the initial offer. Most companies will low-ball you just to see what they can get away with, but if they really want you, they will meet your requirements. It’s a good way to find out whether or not they really want you, and you certainly don’t want to give up a good job where you’re not unhappy and desperate to leave for a place that doesn’t want you.

    I’m rooting for you, and I know you’ll land on your feet no matter what happens. You’re too talented not to.

  14. nova says:

    I agree that the counter-offer was the best thing you could have done–if you end up taking the job, it will start on a better note for you.

    Also, I know the salary stuff takes some time to decide… as someone who works for a big corporation and had to hire people it takes WEEKS to just get a job requisition approved by all parties, then, when a salary increase is asked for, definitely longer than 24 hours for important people, and then HR, to approve it. Someone is always away on vacation, or will get to it tomorrow, or etc. and etc. The time drain sucks, but I bet someone is on the other side fighting for you. I want you to get that extra $3K.

    And beyond that, I completely relate about being comfortable in your current job and being nervous about the new one. I think that’s why I’ve stayed so long where I am. (Not that I’ve had any spectacular offers…anyone listening?)

    Best of luck! Can’t wait to hear what happens!

  15. Cam says:

    Having been on both sides of the hiring game a couple times in recent years, I can tell you that most places expect you to counter. It is also common to assume that you stated a price that was more than you present salary, so they l0w-ball thinking that they will match your current. I worked one place a few years ago where it was a policy to always offer the applicant’s current salary. Amazingly, a large number of people didn’t counter but accepted the job. Always, Always, Always give a counter offer. I’d recommend at leats 10% unless that puts you way over the amount you said in the interview.
    If you don’t get the cash, you can always ask for it in other perks. At one job where consultant staff typically didn’t get paid days off, I negotiated for 3 weeks of paid vacation instead of the dollar amount I asked for. I got it plus a small salary increase and the total comp ended up being larger than I had originally requested. An earlier salary review, tuition reimbursement, a computer, etc. are other things that you can bargain with.
    It gets easier the more often you do this, but as a commenter above said, this is something that men do without as much reservations as women.

  16. patry says:

    Donuts described as bagels. Heh.

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