Why I Turned Down an Offer to Double My Salary Two Months Out of College
College, a time filled with memorable (and memory-less) nights, making and breaking relationships and seemingly endless amounts of work, constantly swelling due to the procrastination epidemic amongst students (guilty).
Eventually this time comes to an end and many students hope to see some papers loaded with legal jargon, vaguely understandable agreements and, most importantly, numbers preceded by dollar signs.
Yes, the job offer: the shiny prize at the end of the journey and the reason most students enroll in educational institutions in the first place.
I was lucky enough to have convinced several companies I could write computer code in a manner that wouldn’t cause their entire organization to crash and burn on a daily basis (only occasionally). So as my undergraduate education came to an end, I had a healthy array of options.
I accepted the offer which had the lowest pay and the longest hours.
But that’s a bit misleading. The organization I joined was (and is) young and fairly small, so I received a juicy equity package in addition to unlimited health bars, bubble waters and the ability to walk to work. Coming off of summer jobs that required 45 minutes to an hour of commuting one way, and a proportional amount of road rage in a barely functioning Pontiac, this was a huge perk.
Plus, the other offers were for organizations I wasn’t nearly as excited about. None offered significantly better pay and I was still making well above the average American salary. And I really can’t overstate how amazing unlimited bubble water is.
With that, I confidently declined to continue interviewing with a few remaining companies and turned down my other offers, ready to put the exhaustion of my first job search behind me.
Six weeks later, a company I thought I had declined came back and asked me to do a final online, video-chatting interview. I mentioned I had already accepted an offer and was working, but they still wanted to interview and I was pretty interested in their work so I figured it would at least be fun to chat with one of their engineers.
The next day I received their offer. Between minimum guaranteed bonuses and salary, my current pay would’ve been well over doubled.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me drool. After seeing my post college monthly expenses stack up and watching the wave of student loans repayment rapidly approach, this seemed like a golden ticket out of financial woes.
A big brand name, financial freedom and the ability to relocate to a west coast city I absolutely adore — what was there to lose? This was the thought constantly in my mind until shortly before the offer expired when I logged into my online portal and hit the big, fat decline button. I knew I made the right decision for myself when a wave of relief immediately swept over me.
Culture, culture, culture…
Culture is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of joining any company. The primary reason I chose to accept where I did was because everyone I met seemed like someone I would not only enjoy working with, but would be friends with outside the office. Not to mention, everyone was out to help their coworkers succeed and was truly dedicated to the vision of the company rather than just showing up for a paycheck.
On the flip side, the other company immediately showed red flags on the culture front. They took close to two weeks to respond to my inquiries about about offer details and the engineer I spoke with didn’t seem terribly excited about his role. Additionally, the job would require me to accept with neither seeing the workplace nor knowing the team/manager I would be working with. How can I accurately gauge the culture of a work environment without actually seeing it?
Glassdoor reviews and various other online posts by employees showed mixed reviews of the workspace as well. There were plenty of people who seemed to express contentment with their position at the company, but this was offset by an equal number who reviewed their experience unfavorably.
This hit home with me. I knew too many people who worked a job (and sometimes a career) they loathed but it came with excellent financial incentives. Sure they were financially content, but they seemed, from an outside perspective at least, perpetually unhappy. Is any amount of money worth sacrificing your happiness? In my opinion, absolutely not.
Personal Vision and Goals
“While it was great paying off my student loans and having financial independence shortly after graduating, I spent twenty five years in roles I really didn’t care for, even though I knew what I truly wanted to do instead. I’m not confident I would do it again.”
This advice came from an ex-coworker, who has since become more of a mentor and friend, after asking what he would do given my situation. The gist of his advice was to envision where I would be in five years given I had taken either role and choose the path where I liked the person at the end of it more.
Obviously it’s impossible to fully see where you will be after that amount of time. Five years ago I thought I’d be a full time personal trainer or starting a masters degree in architecture by now; certainly not sitting in front of VSCode for hours a day trying to make a stubborn computer do as I command.
Nevertheless, I committed to this exercise and the result corroborated my final call. As it stands, while I would be starting similarly in both positions as a developer, within the smaller organizations I saw much more opportunity to rapidly move into a technology leadership role and in the other I saw it more so as growing into a senior developer position. While neither option is negative, the former much more closely aligns with what I’d like to see myself doing in the future.
Do I feel enlightened or superior for having taken the less immediately financially appealing route? Absolutely not. I’m fully aware that I may come to regret my decision or that I completely misjudged some key aspect about either path. Given my exact position, I wouldn’t look down in the slightest on someone who chose the opposite route given they thought it was best for them. However, I’m confident that, at the time, I felt as though this was the best call for me personally.
That being said, I feel as though I learned a lot about choosing your first job and hopefully these points can help someone in a similar situation make the best decision for themselves:
- Take into account the advice of others, but don’t let it dictate your final call. I had plenty of people I cared deeply about trying to push me either way and it only muddies the waters.
- Second guess your highest paying offer. What do they expect out of you that drives this higher salary? Is the role truly one you would enjoy more than a lower paying one?
- Is the company vision one you support? If not, don’t waste your’s or the company’s time.
- Even if you do support the vision, would your position allow you to get closer to achieving your personal goals? If you don’t know what your goals are, try establishing them first.
- Seriously take into consideration the morale and work ethic of your potential coworkers. Don’t be afraid to ask them how their experience with the company is.
- Most importantly, take pressure off the decision! It’s a job, not an entirely life altering experience. If you end up not liking it, you can leave later.
Money is important, I will never deny that. However, if you see a route that won’t necessarily be as instantly lucrative as another, but you can make it work for your financial needs and are confident you would enjoy the ride more, mull over it again. You may be setting yourself up for much greater fulfillment and happiness.
Happy hunting :).