struggling over whether to accept job offer

A reader writes:

I’m in a tricky situation. I’ve been working in marketing for the last 4 years – a mix of strategy, analytics, and creative. I love what I do, and I love my boss and team. However, there is nowhere in the company to get promoted and grow. Also, due to financial hardship, salaried employees haven’t had raises in 3 years. I want to stay in marketing, but want an environment where I could grow.

I casually mentioned this to a friend a month ago, and he told me about a position with his company (company A). He recommended me and forwarded my resume to his boss, and I got an interview. The position wasn’t truly marketing, but an sales analytical job. Company A is growing and I think I would click with the culture. I would get management experience (which I don’t currently have). In addition, there is opportunity for me to become a category manager later on. The downside is that I’d leave marketing, and the role is very operations and systems heavy (which isn’t me). They had already interviewed several people, but I got an offer immediately. The offer was more than what I currently make with better benefits. They need a decision fast, as my friend is temporarily filling out in that role in addition to his role. They consider this one of the best positions in the company to grow. However, after I got the offer, I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic. How can I leave marketing? While I’m not a huge fan of my current company, I’ve discovered my passion for customer research, advertising, etc.

However, lo and behold, I have an interview this week for a director of marketing position (very in line with what I want to do). However, it’s a smaller, backwards company and I’m not sure I’d fit. I told Company A I need to wait until I meet with Company B to make a decision. I am a little underqualified, but I owe it to myself to go for it.

If I don’t get the job with company B, I’m still not sure I want the role with Company A. I’m an idiot for turning down management experience, more money, and growth opportunity (which I don’t have at my current job), and I believe Company A would agree. My friend’s husband went out of his way to recommend me, and I worry about damaging my friendship with them. I would LOVE to work for Company A, just not in this role. They do have marketing departments, and I would LOVE to work in that area. However, this is the role they need filled desperately, and I feel that turning it down would burn the bridge of being considered for future marketing roles. Not to mention my friendship. It’s a small town, and there aren’t many companies that have marketing positions (although there are a few other options to explore). If I decide to turn down this offer, is it possible to not burn future marketing opportunities with Company A, and not ruin my friendship?

Furthermore, what if I get the job with Company B, and I don’t want it due to culture? While I certainly do have my complaints with my current company, I love my boss and team, and I love what I do. Am I the biggest idiot in the world for turning down two opportunities to make more money and grow? Is it possible that I am just afraid of change?

The job with Company A isn’t in the field you want to be in, and you say the work that it’s focused on (operations and systems) “isn’t me.” In other words, this job is not a fit with what you want. It’s just not.

It is, however, more money and better benefits.

For most people, there’s more to work than salary and benefits. Assuming you’re doing okay now and not in dire financial straits, you need to factor in the impact on your daily quality of life — the work you’re doing, your boss (who has a huge impact on your quality of life), and your coworkers.

The question before you really comes down to this:  Is this enough money to justify leaving a job you love for a job you don’t really sound like you want?  Only you can decide that. But in my opinion, it better be a damn big salary increase to even consider that.

One thing I can tell you for sure: You should not take this job in the hopes that it’ll lead you to a different role in the company later. First, you absolutely can’t count on that happening, and second, if you don’t excel in this role (which you may not, since you say it doesn’t play to your strengths), they’re not likely to be enthusiastic about trying you out somewhere else. You should take this only if you want this job, not some hypothetical future one.

As for their reaction if you turn it down: Anyone who has a problem with you turning down a job because it’s not in your field is ridiculous. In fact, it’s hard to think of a more understandable reason for turning down a job. And frankly, if your goal is to work in marketing at some point for Company A, then you position yourself fairly well to do exactly that by saying, “I would love to work for and with you at some point. I’m hugely impressed by your company, your culture, and your work, which has made it very hard to come to this decision. But marketing is my passion and what I’m great at, and while I’d love to work in marketing for you some day, I don’t think I can leave my primary field.”

As for Company B, I’d think long and hard there too. Again, do you want to leave a job you love for a culture that you think is “backwards”?

It sounds like you need to give yourself permission to think beyond salary. So here it is: Yes, there are many, many valid reasons to turn down a job that’s offering you more money. Unless the money is so huge that it would transform your life in significant and long-term ways, or unless you’re really struggling financially now, then money shouldn’t be the primary factor in whether you take (or stay at) a job.

And, you know, these aren’t the only jobs out there, so make sure you’re not thinking you have only three choices here. More will come along eventually.

{ 18 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat

    Hmm, I’m trying to move from marketing to something more operations/systems focused. If you pass on Company A, can I have it? ;-)

    This sounds like a perfect situation for the old school “write down the pros and cons” approach. Get everything out on paper, make the decision, then – and most importantly – do not play the “what if” game. Make your decision, stick with it, and trust yourself that you made the right decision at the right time for you.

    My $0.02…if there was zero opportunity for growth and development in my current position, I’d move on to another opportunity. That’s actually one of the reasons I’m looking to move on from marketing, even the large companies I have worked for have small marketing departments and I joke the only way to advance is through “abdication or assassination”. Given the choice between A and B, I’d choose a moderately desirable position with a good company over a good position with a “backwards” company any day of the week.

    1. Marie

      Excellent advice. This is something the OP of this thread needs to think through very thoroughly – no snap decisions here. Although the OP didn’t state why Company B is “backwards”, Company A sounds like the better of the two choices.

  2. Josh S

    As usual, I agree with AAM. There are many many things that influence your job satisfaction that have nothing to do with salary or growth potential.

    The choice you are presented with right now is this:
    -Your current job, which you love, but that offers no growth opportunity and a sub-par compensation package.
    -Company A, that has a great culture, great compensation, but is outside your strengths.
    -Company B, that has better pay, but bad culture and outside your strengths.

    Answer the question–for the next 3 months, which job will give you the most satisfaction/be the best job for you?

    I have taken too many jobs under the (incorrect) belief that the ‘entry’ position would be a bridge to ‘what I really want to do’. It has never panned out that way, and after a significant amount of time trying to ‘make it work’, I found myself disenchanted, frustrated, and forcing myself to go to work each day. Don’t do that to yourself.

    If you enjoy the work you do, make sure you’re going to something as good or better.

    (And hey, you might even be able to leverage your offer with Company A into a higher salary at your current job…?)

    1. CK

      I, too, have taken jobs to get my ‘foot in the door’ and while I did get my foot in, I could never manage to get my feet into where I really wanted to be in the company. There is absolutely no guarantee that down the line, a job in a specific department will open up – so you could be waiting for something that might never happen. It’s best to get into a company in the position you want NOW.

  3. Wilton Businessman

    With no growth possibility, I’d definitely be moving on. But I wouldn’t be moving on to a position that I didn’t want. I agree with AAM, just tell them “I would love to work for your company in Marketing, but I don’t feel that position X is a good fit for me at this point.” You may be closing the door for later on, but who wants to be stuck in a job that you think you’re going to fail at?

    The perfect fit is out there. Don’t be afraid to take it, but don’t settle for something less. You have the comfort of an existing position that is in your field, hang on until you find the right move.

  4. Ray

    Well, I would definitely stay away from company B. If your gut instinct is telling you it’s “backwards,” chances are you’re right.
    I would say either keep looking or try company A.
    On a personal note, I took a risky career move that meant a totally different line of work and a lower rate of pay, and it ended up transporting me into the career I really wanted. I know this isn’t always the case, but sometimes taking a risk gets you what you really want/need.

  5. Andrea

    Good advice. But in a small town, she might not have many other options. I agree that it isn’t just these three (and the writer herself says that there are some other options), but it’s possible that none of them will pan out. It’s worth coming up with a plan for what will happen if there proves to be nothing else out there in that area. In my experience, many small towns and cities don’t have many opportunities for educated and experienced workers once you reach a certain level, and if that’s the case where she is, then she ought to keep that in mind just to prevent her from thinking that something else will materialize in her area. Maybe it never will.

  6. Joey

    If you’re the gambling type and can see yourself staying for a while go for A. If you’re generally conservative stay put until you find something better. Liking your job and your co workers is something that a lot of people undervalue when they see $$$.

  7. Dawn

    Defintely go with your gut on both of these positions. It sounds like neither of these is the “right fit.” Trust your gut and you won’t go wrong for the most part.

  8. Original Poster

    Hi AAM, and all! Thank you for all of your advice!

    To clarify a few things:

    * Perhaps “small town” is an exaggeration. I am from a rural town, so it’s a big town to me, but I’m used to hearing transplants call it a “small town”. It is about 150k city population, almost 400k metro area. Nonetheless, to do corporate marketing like I enjoy doing, my choices are very limited, to Andrea’s point. There are only a handful of companies where I could work here (and I know through word of the street who I would and wouldn’t work for. I would work for Company A).

    *I am pretty sure that Company B’s culture is backwards. They are trying to go into the 21st century with some new online marketing tactics, but the company is family owned and all of the executives (mostly friends or family) are all male and close to retirement age. Word on the street is that it is a boys club (I am a 20’s female). They’re not that open to new ideas. I know this because I did a project for them in grad school 3 years ago (they were like “What’s Facebook?” lol). Furthermore, the person in career services at my alma mater (who referred me to them) told me they have already picked a lead candidate, and they are just interviewing more people to make sure they made the right choice. I’m going to the interview, but I don’t think this is the right move at all.

    But there is some new info about Company A. My friend that referred me to the job called me today to see if I had additional questions. I told him that I am considering this, but I did have some questions. Of course, he’s trying to sell me on it, so I’m taking this with a grain of salt. BUT – he said that the job is more of a marketing support role than a systems/ops role. I would, for example, help the sales team as they work with retailers to estimate how much inventory the store should stock during a promotion (which is, in turn, marketing, but a different type). It would make me a more well-rounded marketer, to Cat’s point. That makes it sound a little more like “me”. Hearing that eased a little of the nervousness in my gut, but I still need to think about it. In fact, he said if I’m still in doubt, I could come to the company and meet more people and learn more about the process. They are trying to sell me hard on this!! Of course, though sincere, his word is biased, and I am still thinking “Is this what I want to do?” I have to make a decision by Thursday. Wish me luck!

    1. Riz

      As another poster said below… don’t take their enthusiasm for you so lightly. I may never happen with another company again.

  9. Anonymous

    Having Company A enthusiastic about you is not something to take lightly. Good luck with your decision and let us know what you decide!

  10. Long Time Admin

    Original Poster wrote:
    “I am pretty sure that Company B’s culture is backwards. They are trying to go into the 21st century with some new online marketing tactics, but the company is family owned and all of the executives (mostly friends or family) are all male and close to retirement age. Word on the street is that it is a boys club (I am a 20′s female). They’re not that open to new ideas. I know this because I did a project for them in grad school 3 years ago (they were like “What’s Facebook?” lol). Furthermore, the person in career services at my alma mater (who referred me to them) told me they have already picked a lead candidate, and they are just interviewing more people to make sure they made the right choice. I’m going to the interview, but I don’t think this is the right move at all.”

    I’m in one of these “backwards” cultures, but it’s not just the company I work for now – it’s the whole area! However, my company is also family owned and run, very closed-minded to changes (“We don’t do that here” is frequently heard, “that” being normal business practices everywhere else). OP, don’t go there! Drop Company B from consideration.

    One thing you should consider, though, is how much you want to advance in your career. It doesn’t sound like Present Company offers much there, but Company A does. Do you *need* to advance in your career? I’m a single woman, but if I had a husband with a decent paying job, I could leave my dead-end job in this backwards company. Because you are still quite young (compared to me), and you still have a long working life ahead of you, this should weigh very heavily in your consideration.

    Good jobs are hard to come by. Good luck to you, and please let us know what you decide, and again in 6 months to let us know how it works out.

  11. Susan

    It’s too late now, since you have to decide by tomorrow, but it would have been great if you could have spent a “day in the life” with your friend who is also doing double-duty in the job they offered you. That would have given you a better idea of the true picture of the position.

    In past cases, I’ve done good enough work where I was able to sort of adopt my own projects to make my job a little more “me.” If Company A is forward-thinking and not terribly bureaucratic, this may be feasible.

    Good luck and let us know what you decide!

  12. Joe

    AAM said, “there’s more to work than salary and benefits”, and I cannot agree more. To speak from my own personal experience: I am a software developer living in New York, and in NYC, if you want the big bucks as a developer, you work in finance. I have never been willing to work in finance, because I don’t like the culture in most of these places, I don’t like the insane demands on the developers, and I find the work less interesting than some other areas. So I’ve turned down interviews and offers at finance companies, and never regretted it. Now I work for a non-profit, and while I certainly could make more money elsewhere, I love my job. I get to do interesting work, working with great people, for a cause I believe in, in an environment I am comfortable with. That’s worth more than money to me.

    As for career advancement, I also agree with AAM here. Advancement in a career that is not what you want to do isn’t necessarily helpful. Not everyone wants to be a manager (do you?), so management experience isn’t necessarily what you need. And if you’re managing people in an area where you don’t have experience, that is an extra challenge that can be very hard to overcome. Even if you do want to manage, do you want to manage people who are doing work that you don’t know?

  13. Original Poster

    Inquiring minds want to know, so here’s what happened:

    AAM and Joe – you hit the nail on the head! I went through the interview at Company B. That interview went really well (I thought). They seemed very impressed with what I know about customer research, customer behavior, branding, campaigns, etc. They told me about the innovative things they are doing (they’re not as backwards as I thought), and I even had ideas on how to grow and improve them. Ultimately, I don’t know if I have the experience they want, and I’m still not sure if I want to go there, but it was such a refreshing reminder of what I’ve accomplished, and why I love what I do!

    I realized at that point that I couldn’t take the job with Company A. I would LOVE to work for them, but being reminded of how I love marketing made me realize I want to grow in my field. I do want to manage, but I want to manage in the field I love!

    First I called my friend, and told him he deserved to know first, because I really appreciated him helping me and believing in me. He was a little cold, but appreciated my honesty. Then I had a GREAT conversation with the interviewer at Company A. I told him that this was a very hard decision for me, as I realize it’s a great opportunity but my heart is in Marketing. He said he completely understood where I was coming from. He has a marketing/sales background himself and said he couldn’t see himself in that role either. I told him I wanted to work for him, I wanted to work for Company A, and I wanted to be in a role where I could bring my utmost passion and enthusiasm. I told him that I consider a job move a 2-3+ year commitment. He agreed and said he wants people who get up every day and can’t wait to get to work because they love what they do. I told him I want to be that person for him. He said they are building a new marketing/brand management team and he would keep me at the top of his list. I hope he wasn’t just saying that. :) I sent him a follow-up email yesterday thanking him again, reminding him that I’m interested in new marketing opportunities, and I also referred him to my alma mater’s Career Services contact to see if she might know anyone who might be interested.

    So I’ll stay at my current job for now, see what happens with Company B, and keep looking for new opportunities. I have grown through this experience and can now better define and articulate what I want out of my next career move. Best case scenario is that Company A calls me back in a few months for my dream job. :) We’ll see! Thanks AAM and all! This has been so helpful!

  14. michelle

    I just went through this! But in my case company a was offering wayyy more and it was a job I though was interested in, but it meant leaving a specific area of writing to go to a different area.

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