Over the past few weeks, I have tried to chronicle my job search for readers. I hope these stories will help others implement some of the strategies I have outlined in previous posts into their job searches. The other day, I wrote about the final round interview stage and today I move on to Communication and Evaluation.
In the end, I was fortunate and received two offers. One offer was made prior to the final round at the other school who offered, and thus I needed to communicate with both schools concerning my timelines. During the offer stage, communication becomes crucial as you do not want to do anything that could hurt your standing with a potential employer. Remember, you could be working with these individuals in the future and thus it is important to remain on good terms with all parties.
The story I am sharing is my personal approach – others may have different approaches and I would encourage them to share their insights in the Comments section below. When I received the first offer, it was made over the phone and the hiring manager and I had a conversation. Be ready for a discussion with your potential boss. The telephone call centered on what questions I had, salary, start date, response timeline, etc. The most important part of the conversation was the questions I had for the potential supervisor. This conversation is one of your last chances to ask any question that is unanswered. This is not the time to hold back – better to ask difficult and tough questions now and go into a role with eyes wide open versus being shocked when you begin your new job and it is not what you had hoped for. Additionally, this is a time when both sides tend to let any facades down (as much as they will during the hiring process) because if you are the candidate of choice, the hiring manager wants provide you as much information (within reason) to help you make your decision.
Since I had received an offer, I contacted one additional school and removed myself from consideration (it was a distant third choice) and I informed the remaining school of my time/offer situation. The final school appreciated the update as it allowed them to adjust their timeline to better meet my timeline. If I did not mention the offer, I would not have received an answer from the final school before having to respond to the first school. Additionally, when one employer knows another employer wants you, it can increase your standing. The thought process often is – “If another company wants Kevin, he must be talented. We should look at him more carefully.”
When I told school #2 about my offer timeline with school #1, I did give myself a 24 cushion. I needed to respond to the offer by a Thursday afternoon and asked the other school for an update on my status by Wednesday afternoon. This cushion can allow one to evaluate offers or give a bit more time if the hiring manager could not meet my Wednesday deadline.
In short, I kept each party up to date with what on my progress. I decided to be very upfront about what I was thinking – I referred to this as “putting all my cards on the table” when I spoke with each hiring manager. Being calculating or strategic in my conversations was not in anyone’s best interests at that point – I preferred to go for the open book approach as I felt that would allow me to find the best fit for me. I was fortunate that I was interested in two very different opportunities and I was open with my questions and requests. In the end, the school I turned down reached out to me and thanked me for my transparency and for the fact that I did not drag out the process.
As I mentioned earlier, I was seriously considering two offers that were very different. One opportunity was a smaller version of the school I was already working for but as a director. The opportunity was attractive as I would have the ability to create a program from scratch and I believed there was a very high probability for a positive outcome as almost anything I did would be seen as an improvement over what was there prior. In short, I would be set up for success; I would be comfortable in the environment; and I could leave my mark. The drawback for that role was two-fold: the pay was not great and I was worried that I may be leaning to this opportunity because it was the “safe” choice.
The other role was at CMU (the school whose offer I eventually accepted) was much more of a challenge. I have a greater risk of failure but I will be challenged every day by the unique dynamics of the campus culture and the level of the program. There would be more pressure at CMU than the other school, but being successful there would count for more in my field than at the other school. For me, it came down to whether to take the safer route or the high risk/high reward option. And you know which one I took.
There were many considerations that really affected my choice. The CMU role has a broader scope and will require more meetings and travel…thus my time with my family will be affected. The other role was more regional and I had to consider if I would hit a ceiling in a few years and find myself in the same situation of having to move to another school. One position was taking over a well run program versus the opportunity to build a program (and the good and bad that comes with that).
At this time in my career, I decided to go for the “bigger pond” option. This is not the right fit for everyone, but it was for me and my family. I am three weeks into the job and I have been using terms like “drinking from a fire hose” everyday…and I love it. My days fly by. I am mentally challenged. I am excited about work and don’t see this changing anytime soon. A huge plus for CMU was the number of people I met with while on campus. This communicated they were serious about the hire and whomever they hired would have allies in all parts of campus.
My choices are not right for everyone. Others might say they would drop the travel and pressure for more time with the kids. Honestly, I might say that next year. For now, this has been the right move for me. Evaluating job offers is a unique prospect for each person. As the theme song from the television show “Diff’rent Strokes” tells us, “…what might be right for you, may not be right for some.” Make the decision that is right for you and don’t look back.
Next: Random Final Thoughts