The Importance of Having a Network (aka I Declined a Job Offer)

At the beginning of last month I had a bad week at work.  I was in a lull between projects and had time to overthink my career future (I’ve been overthinking my career future for a while now).  This overthinking resulted in me casually looking at jobs on LinkedIn.

And I found a job I was really interested in.  It was a fit with my skills and was with a really intriguing company.  I applied that weekend.

After two+ weeks with no word, I assumed they weren’t contacting me for an interview.  I was a little bit heartbroken, but work had picked up again and life was busy and I didn’t have much time to think about it.

Shortly thereafter, I got contacted for a phone screen.  Despite being sick that morning, I trudged through the quick screening call.  A few days later, I was called to come in for an interview with the hiring manager.  The interview went well and I had a good feeling that there was mutual interest.  It was time to do a little due diligence.

After discovering that an acquaintance from earlier in my life – one whose judgment I trust – knew the hiring manager, I reached out to to see if she had any feedback.

Let’s just say the feedback…wasn’t good.

It was sad to learn this, but I was thankful to get the intel.  Also, at the point where I reached out to my friend to get feedback, it didn’t really matter yet anyway.  I didn’t know if the interview would even lead anywhere.

But my intuition had told me my odds were good and I was right.  The recruiter contacted me with an offer.  After a brief phone call, she sent over an official offer letter along with benefits information.

After much deliberation, I concluded that the right choice was to decline the offer.  While there’s no guarantee that I would have a bad experience working for the hiring manager, I also know first-hand how challenging work can be when you work for a difficult manager.  Also, I’m not trying to escape a bad job situation; in fact, in many respects, I have a great work setup.  Combine that with the fact that Mr. FIREDup’s work situation is still in flux, and I just didn’t think I was at a point where taking this kind of risk made sense.

I still analyzed the offer details to get a feel for what an external company could offer in terms of pay, bonus, benefits, and time off.  The offer was comparable to my current package, but not better; the pay was slightly less (with some potential upside) and the PTO was a little less (which is probably going to be the same anywhere I go at this point).  Basic benefits were similar.  There are some amazing unique perks at my current company that I’d have to give up no matter where I would choose to work next.

There was quite a bit of anguish in deliberating over this opportunity.  The company is SUPER interesting and would offer an environment different from the one I work in now.  And the job sounded like such a good fit with my skills and the unique mix of work experience I’ve gathered over the last several years.

Declining Gracefully

I can’t even recall the last time I declined a job offer, it’s been so long ago.  Here are a few takeaways I’d offer:

  • Call with your decline rather than sending an email.  Email might be okay, and it’s kind of the easy way out, especially for someone like me who can get thoughts out better in writing than verbally.  But calling is a more genuine way to connect.
  • Have a script.  Have a quick one or two sentence summary to explain why you are declining.  I wrote out my response and then ran through it in my head before I made the call.  And give a reason for the decline.  I obviously couldn’t give the pure truth for my decline in this case, but the reason I gave was also true:  I thought I was ready to leave my current company, but upon further reflection, the timing isn’t right.
  • Give a sincere thank you.  It was not a stretch for me to tell the recruiter that I genuinely appreciated the opportunity to interview for the position.  There was a lot of time and effort put into the screening and interviewing process, and I wanted to recognize that effort.
  • Give a timely response.  I didn’t take much time to deliberate.  I didn’t want to delay their hiring process as they likely had another candidate or two waiting in the pipeline.
  • Don’t burn bridges.  You never know when you might run into someone again further down the road in your career or personal life.  I live in a large metro area with many employers, and was interviewing at a company where I didn’t know anyone, yet I still had someone in my network who could provide first-hand experience working with the hiring manager.  If this were the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, my Bacon number would be 1.

There was some dread in making the phone call, but I did it, kept it short and sweet, and it went as well as it possibly could.  It felt like the door was left open to potential future opportunities as the company grows.

Closing Thoughts

I have zero regrets in applying and interviewing for this job.  It helped me clarify a few things:

  • I thought I was ready to leave my current employer, but this experience made it clear that it’s not quite the right time.  But…
  • It also seems likely that if my current position doesn’t grow or change, that the time to move on from what I’m doing now will be sooner rather than later.
  • Yes, I have marketable skills…but they’re a unique set of skills and experiences, so it will take time to find my next thing, whatever that ends up being.
  • It’s REALLY valuable to stay attuned to the market and keep job search skills fresh.  I would argue this is important for everyone, because even if you are in a great job at a great company, circumstances can change rapidly.

I thought about the pursuit of financial freedom several times throughout this process.  If we were further along in our financial freedom journey, it’s more likely that I would have taken the job.  For me, that’s the point of financial freedom – I wouldn’t be dependent on making a high salary, so I could selectively choose to do work that I find meaningful or rewarding or exciting.  On the flip side, since we haven’t reached our financial freedom goals yet, my current employment situation is a little more lucrative and will help us make progress towards those goals more rapidly.

What would you have done in this situation?   Would you have taken the risk, or stayed put?

4 thoughts on “The Importance of Having a Network (aka I Declined a Job Offer)”

  1. I only considered leaving my employer two times during a 30 plus year career. The first time was to take a big promotion to move to Dallas and be a VP for a natural gas company I was managing a small group of engineers at the time and I decided to take the job and a healthy pay increase. My company was owned by a billionaire family and when the patriarch heard that I was leaving to go to this gas company, which he knew a lot about, he hopped on his personal jet and flew to our plant to talk to me. He showed me their financials and predicted they would be bankrupt in six months. I turned down the job and he was right, the gas company went under a few months later. He then promoted me to running our plant a couple of years later. Best advice anyone has ever given me! I was lucky I worked for a guy who cared about me, you were smarter and took action to find out for yourself! Well played.

    • How amazing that you worked for someone who cared so much about the work you were doing! It sounds like it also worked out well for your long term success at the company.

  2. The only reason I’ve really disliked any job I’ve ever had is if there is a person or a couple people who make the job miserable. I’d absolutely reconsider making a switch if someone you know and trust has a negative review on that front.

    • There were several other smaller things that had me waffling on whether to take the job, but my friend’s feedback was a big influence on my decision for sure. I’ve had bad managers in the past, but it’s been a while and time has dulled the bad memories. Having just come from a workplace with a horrible manager, Mr. FIREDup felt that pain more recently and definitely advocated for me to consider the feedback carefully.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: