When To Say No
To Your Dream Job
Have you ever wondered what might have happened in your life if you had chosen one road over another? I mean, what really might have happened?
I don't make a habit of writing about my own experiences but....several years ago while minding my own business (literally), I was approached by a major corporation (big players - cool $5+ billion a year in revenue) to head up their $50 million division. I was pretty happy doing what I'm doing. I love being an entrepreneur in the legal field. I have a successful paralegal training business, I'm my own boss; and I really wasn't looking to change. In fact, I subscribe to the old adage that you work 80 hours a week just so you don't have to work 40 hours a week for someone else.
The position was in a different state but involved a very comfortable housing situation albeit in the cold, cold outlands of the Hinterlands. I would have to uproot my home life, sell my business to this company. Well, shoot. I've been down that road before. But the challenge was tempting and frankly, when I weighted the upside, the idea of adding Vice President of Major Corporation to my bio along with the "financial security" and exciting, challenging scenario seemed like a logical step in my otherwise ho-hum 5 year goal plan. I tell myself that the dollars aren't anything to sneeze at either seeing as how rumors of my wealth have been greatly exaggerated.
"And what about my then boyfriend who
obsessed every day about his rapidly
decreasing hairline, his hives, and his love handles?"
I was willing to overlook the fact that I would have to move to a location where there was real snow in the winter. I'm from Los Angeles. I have no clue that the stuff actually comes down from the sky. I was also willing to overlook that a couple of years ago, there was a huge splash in the Wall Street Journal that the person who had the job I'm considering, walked out mumbling something about "irreconcilable differences with top management." I was also going to overlook that I had a fast-track thriving business definitely going places. Gee, now that I think about, I was actually getting excited.
Could I leave my exquisite view of the mountains and ocean in L.A. for the eerie chill of Eerie Lake? And what about my then boyfriend who obsessed every day about his rapidly decreasing hairline, his hives, and his love handles? Would he go with me? He was having a rough enough time adjusting to sunny suburban California life after the hustle and bustle of New York City where he was a rock and roll journalist.
First, I interviewed via Skype with the headhunter who had somehow convinced me to consider this job. Then I met with a VP who flies out here to see if my personality fits. Well, I don't know about my personality, but I sure did like his. ( I was till very single at the time.) Then, I'm flown across the country, put in a limo with a real-live-limo-driver-with-cap-and-black suit, meet seven top execs one right after the other and hustled back on the plane. Somehow I pass that round. A month goes by. I get a phone call. I have been summoned by the exec VP, the CFO and the president of this $5+ billion Fortune something company. This time, they're waving lots of stock options, a new car and a relocation allowance. Gulp. I think they're getting serious. But was I?
I immediately consult everything that's ever been written about how to handle a third and fourth interview: what to wear, what to say, what not to eat, how to breathe. I have long involved discussions with my partner, advisors, mentors and oh, yes, my shrink. I worry once again about being overweight but notice that people in the Midwest seem a little chunkier than Californians, so I stop at the Local DQ. I'm all set.
Then, I get THE CALL and not on my cell, either. The offer is coming down. YES!! I order up the snowmobile. I hop on Realtor.com and find out that for the price of a garage in L.A., I can have a mansion on a lake with my own personal boat dock. Not a bad deal - even if I don't know how to sail. One slight inconvenience: Two top execs are on their way out here to give me a final looksee. Oh, okay. I can't be bothered right now. I'm busy looking into designer muckaluks.
So, these major players fly all the way out to L.A. to visit on a Sunday afternoon. These two charter members of - I hate to say, "the good old boys network") pay a polite visit. As Arlo Guthrie once observed, "they were inspecting, dissecting, every single part of me, and they wasn't leaving NO part untouched."
I'm all dressed up in my Sunday best. My office smells like Pledge all the way down the hall. I'm ready. I've role-played, studied my answers. I am sure, confident and meaningful. I have prepared a vision for them and know how to play this game. I had written books on it.
"I'm all dressed up in my Sunday best. My office smells like Pledge all the way down the hall. I'm ready."
Things were going well until the duo decides to play "good cop/bad cop." Badly, I might add. The little guy was a bit too gleeful. The inevitable happens. They gave the what-do-you-do-when-this-happens test. Apparently, I flunked.
"At BigCorp," says the little guy, "We would have FIRED the person in charge for that! Not tomorrow-today!" Yeah, well, I saw it differently. I saw a learning curve, not a career buster. This makes me a bad manager? "What kind of leader are you?" little guy yells, swatting the table.
My heart suddenly pounded with terror. Oh, what the heck. I started to gag. I can handle anything but yelling and swatting tables. I slunk back in my chair, stunned. Was this a proper way to treat a potential VP? Furthermore, was this how I wanted to be treated?
I felt a slight dampness. Oh, Lordy! Sweaty palms. "Littleguy," I say, "Just what are you so angry about?" "I AM NOT ANGRY," he spits. (Angry littleguys tend to spit a lot.) "Yes," I say quietly, "I can see that." I wipe the spit from my eye and mumble that I need to get a flu shot. Zoom. Right over his head.
Realizing this is someone I would have to work with, I asked them to leave. I withdraw my candidacy. In fact, I write the letter and email it to the headhunter, the president of the company and the VP with the oh-so-fabulous-personality so fast, these two corporate wannabees are still walking down to the elevator. Would they have wanted me? I'll never know. What I do know is where I draw the line. I always want to be treated with dignity and respect. On that, I will not compromise.
I have re-evalutated my life several times since then and have reminded myself that I have created my ideal situation. I have a wonderful husband, a fantastic business, terrific clients, great colleagues and a satisfying life. For me, this was a close call and an excellent reminder that I want to develop what I have. The "good guy" was kind enough to send a letter of apology. But I learned an excellent lesson. The grass is not always greener on the other side. (Thank you, Cliche Lady.)
So now, it's back to the proverbial drawing board. I cancel the snowmobile. I put my bio back on the shelf. I forget about the affordable mansion with the personal boat dock on the lake. I take the air out of my floaties. And life is good. As for the boyfriend, I sent him back to New York to find his hairline, slim his love handles and put salve on his hives. In the end, it always works out.
About the Author
Chere Estrin is the Managing Administrator and Co-Founding Member of the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP). She is the author of 10 books on legal careers and has been interviewed by Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.