Get Your Money Straight and Say NO to Crappy Offers

That turd-burger for $1.99 might seem like a great deal, unless it’s not what YOU want.

About 6 years ago a headhunter contacted me about a job in Erie, PA, which is about 90 minutes from where we live now.  The pay would have been a substantial raise from what I was earning at the time and I reluctantly agreed to the interview.

The job was a chemist position for a plastics manufacturer that has been in business for over 100 years and paid over a hundred $G’s in a low cost of living city.  It was also a day job with regular hours and I was working a swing shift at the time with lots of nights, weekends, and holidays scheduled for work.  The upgraded work schedule alone would have made a big difference in quality of life in the Smidlap Chateau.  So why was I so reluctant to jump at what superficially appeared to be suck a great opportunity?

  • Erie, PA is not a place where I would choose to voluntarily live.  This is just my perspective but that’s really all that matters in a personal choice, but I think it’s a cultural wasteland over there.  I’ve seen enough beaten up Rust Belt cities to add most of them to the long list of places where I would not want to live.  Some places are low cost of living for a reason.
  • I thankfully got a little lost on the way to the interview and saw what a dump the downtown looked like and when comparing to the neighborhood where we currently live and own a nice house it was no contest.  Our formerly crappy Rust Belt neighborhood has turned around and I was not interested in relocating and waiting/hoping that place would do the same.  Let somebody else go and take that great offer who is more desperate for the money.
  • The company was owned by a private equity firm.  Even though they had been in business a long time there is much less stability when private equity decides they want to own a business, put some lipstick on that pig, and flip it to the next sucker owner.
  • I didn’t hit it off with the hiring manager in the interview.  He struck me as arrogant and I thought “this is not somebody I would want to work with or even be around.”  The joint also seemed disorganized and a little unsafe when I walked through on a little tour.  They showed me a room in a warehouse where my “lab” would be but there was no instrumentation or anything in place as they expected the new hire to build it from scratch.
  • Mrs. Smidlap still had her full-time job and a spot in a thriving and supportive arts scene here in Buffalo.  Even with a pay boost for me we would have been hard pressed to find her a comparable gig in the aforementioned wasteland.  That’s not to say some might not find the place appealing for other reasons.  It just wasn’t the right place for us at the time.  Plus, our social circle is nowhere near Erie.
  • Had we been deep in debt or far behind on our investing we might be more compelled to consider doing something just because we desperately need the money.  Plus, if we had children to support or other huge important obligations, the lure of money alone can be even stronger.
  • Even with double the salary, money isn’t everything.  If you’re thinking of moving to a place where you are unlikely to be happy/fulfilled you might want to take a step back and reconsider.  Right after I said money isn’t everything it certainly is something though.  We were in a position to say NO to a lousy opportunity only because we had done the hard work and saved and invested well.  We were debt-free, including our house, and were well on our way to financial independence.  For me, that is the best reason to be in that position of strength.  It’s like the fire department:  You hope you never need them (or your big stash o’ cash), but are glad they’re around if your place is on FIRE!  See what I did there?

So, I sat politely through the interview with the evil HR director giving me the stink-eye and drove the 90 minutes home and called the recruiter to tell him to please remove me from consideration.  Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, these recruiters seem to have access and information on high paying jobs that never get advertised.  I haven’t needed to fully use the LinkedIn machine in my career but if I was looking to change employers I would certainly consider working with a recruiter and not just going it alone.  That sound career advice from a guy who still eats paste.

Tasting room at Ponzi Winery in Oregon.

A different and surprising offer

My old friend contacted me from the other day from lovely Portland, OR.  He and I graduated from chemistry school around the same time and I used to go visit him in Santa Barbara all the time while he was getting a PhD.  He and his Mrs. both have worked at a large computer chip manufacturer for about 15 years.  They’re both overachievers and we’re friends nonetheless.  He emailed me to tell me about some technical jobs that would fit my experience and resume.  This really got my attention as Portland and the nearby Willamette Valley wine region would very much interest us as a place to live.  We’ve been there three or four times and always enjoyed the vibe and the world class wines without all the tourism of Napa or Sonoma in California.

Here’s a little write up of Willamette Valley How to Rock Travel In Oregon Wine Country

The only issue with the contact was the fact that it was rotating shift work as I was still doing when I last talked to my buddy.  He didn’t know that I had finally found my soft landing place here at Big Brother Corp. with a short commute, an excellent schedule, and somewhat challenging and engaging work.  Best of all, I am mostly left to my own devices and largely self-managed unless I need help with something.  Did I ever tell you Smidlappers how much I value being left alone?  Well, I do…. value it immensely.  I’m sure this big operation out west writes a nice check every payday but I wouldn’t go back to that rotating schedule for all the tea in China.  I’m done selling my Gold Hours for money.

I had to send him back a reply saying I had no interest in that schedule but would consider the move if they had a good fit that included the novel concept of sleeping at night regularly.  He said they did have a couple of “maybe” spots like that and would talk to the hiring manager about it.  This was only yesterday so we’ll see where it all goes.  The real point is this:  We don’t need to jump at anything just for the money if it’s not the right fit.  Because of good saving and investing we have options as to how we sell our talents and hours and where we choose to live.  It’s a pretty good feeling, although I’ve been getting itchy for something different and the wanderlust is again starting to show its face around the house.  This is the longest I’ve ever been in one place (since ’03) and changes in life have always rejuvenated me.  We’ll see where it all goes from here but I’ll sleep well knowing that if nothing changes soon life will still be just fine.  As an interesting side note, if you know anyone looking for a job or trying to change jobs, right now seems to be a good time to negotiate a very good deal.  My friend told me they even had to start offering relocation for lower level technician jobs due to being unable to attract talent locally.  The unemployment rate is low so it appears to be a good time to ask for the world in a negotiation.  You never know, they might just give you everything you want!

How about you Smidlappers?  Have you ever had to move to a place you really didn’t like just for the money?  Have you ever done the opposite, to hold out for a place you really want to live?  Let if fly in ye olde comment section.

I could handle living in Oregon, where they cure meat in the wine fridge!


14 Replies to “Get Your Money Straight and Say NO to Crappy Offers”

  1. I can totally relate to this. In my 20s and early 30s I was the sort of guy who would change jobs every 2-3 years just to “get ahead” in my career. I wouldn’t care about what it meant for my commute, family life, social life. If it was the right thing for my career then I would do it.

    In fact I was pretty bad at sacrificing my social life to my career full stop. Eventually when you stop saying yes to things for a couple of years (and never organise anything yourself) people stop asking you. Who woulda thunk it?

    With age I guess came wisdom. In my mid-30s I realised that I was pretty miserable, the Monday morning dread would kick in from Sunday morning. As a result (and with a bit of luck) I moved into the company I’m in now about 6-7 years ago and I’ve worked hard to make it work for me rather than the other way round. Working, slowly, to repair those relationships I broke. I’ve also set a very high bar for whether I will even consider another role when recruiters call me – to the extent that even when I’ve been offered roles I’ve turned the down because it will make me less happy.

    The consequence is that I’m happier than I’ve ever been at work. So yes to your manifesto of being picky about the job that you take!

    1. thanks for the thoughtful comment. it took me until my 30’s to figure it out too. i’m glad you got it sorted out. it sure got more complicated for us seeking two decent full time jobs so a couple of good opportunities might have slipped and that’s ok. i swear happier at home means happier at work.

    1. i hate to single out that one particular place. there are plenty of other places people find desirable that we wouldn’t consider for cultural fit. if i had important friends/family over there or grew up there it might be different. i’m glad you got to experience authentic rusty charm!

  2. “We don’t need to jump at anything just for the money if it’s not the right fit.” Amen brother! Right now I’n not making “enough” as a freelance to sustain long-term but I am short-term. I was going through an interview process with a company I started to get bad spidy feelings about. The Glassdoor reviews were awful (been there!) and it felt like it was the kind of position I was trying to move AWAY from. I’m going to withdraw being a candidate in that job. It’s so tempting to go back to “steady,” but at the risk of being really unhappy? I’m just glad I saved a lot of money to weather this transition.

    1. steady can be good but….and it’s a big but….it’s a great feeling not to feel desperate. that big buffer you built when times were good will serve you well. it’s allowing you to last a lot longer while waiting for the right fit and, to me, that’s a big reason we save. well done.

  3. Job interviews can be quite interesting if you don’t absolutely have to have the job. When I was looking for something closer to home I had a very awkward interview that was pretty amusing in hindsight. The guy who was hiring was trying to effect a culture change. No one else I interviewed with had bought in. Made it real clear that was not the place for me. But I’m very glad I went through the experience.

    “Some places are low cost of living for a reason.” So true.

    1. it sure is nice to not be desperate. even if i were jobless now i could take my time and find the right spot. i had a strange and open-minded recruiter contact me to see if i wanted to formulate feed for a large farm. i know zero about farming but i give the guy credit for thinking outside the box.

  4. How much snow do you guys have in Buffalo by now? I couldn’t imagine taking that amount of white stuff on each winter. And I live in Minneapolis. Having seen a documentary on Erie, PA I sure as heck wouldn’t move there either. And I’m from just a stone’s throw north of Flint, Michigan, so I know the Rust Belt quite well.

    1. we live in the city of buffalo and it snows a normal amount here. 30 minutes south of the city it’s already snowed about 4 feet at least. some rust belt is coming back and some just haven’t sorted it out yet. i know life is too short to live somewhere you don’t like….if you have the choice.

  5. It’s good to always ‘keep the feelers out’ but know that the opportunity has to be exactly what you want. Relocation, especially for a job, has to offer enough benefits to outweigh the drawbacks.

    I keep in contact with a few headhunters, mainly because they harass me on linkedin all the time. I normally tell them I’ll consider moving if they find me a position with a 25% pay increase and 25% reduction in hours worked. No bites yet.

    My boss is actually at a large chip manufacturer outside of Portland today. Let me know if you get any further in the process with them. Mrs. BF has some family in the PNW, we would consider migrating there as well some day.

    1. i say stuff like that to recruiters too. “i don’t want to waste your time or mine….” type phrases. i don’t think the oregon thing will go far and i’m fine with that or would be fine if i scored an interview. i’ll certainly let you know if i talk to anyone important out there. it’s a pretty nice area for sure.

  6. Finding a job that fits you well is so difficult! I actually quit mine without a backup this year because it just wasn’t working, and my finances were in a place where I could afford it. I’m now at a much better 9-5 job with pay stability. It was one of the best (and scariest) things I’ve ever done for myself.

    1. i did that a lot when it was just me to worry about. i used to do it without having the money to cover it and hope for the best. this way is better for sure. it all gets less scary with some age and experience. thanks for visiting and good luck on the new gig.

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