After almost a year and many canceled lunch dates, I finally made it to see my childhood best friend’s office. He showed me around and introduced me to his colleagues, and then we walked out onto the rush of Boylston Street to a place he likes to go for lunch.
Once we’d placed our order at the cafe and found a seat, I said how great his office seemed, what a nice place to work. He leaned over the table and looked shiftily around the room. Then, he whisper-confided to me: “I’m leaving, though. I got a job offer somewhere else.”
I was so pleased; here was a friend who had bounced around quite a bit between major cities, eventually leaving his first career in hospitality within five years of college graduation and going back to graduate school. He was an intelligent person with an Ivy League education and great job recommendations, and it had always been my feeling that he could get work anywhere he wanted, so I wasn’t sure why it had so far been hard to find the right match.
But he didn’t just have one new job offer, he also had an interview, at an even more desirable company, the following week. I could tell he was stressed.
“I don’t know if I want a brand new job unless it’s this really good one,” he said. “I almost feel like I should wait for the perfect offer.”
We chatted over the pros and cons for a bit: moving expenses, making new friends, living in a new place. “Wait,” I said, “what about the money? Does this new job pay more?”
He nodded, “Yeah, a little bit,” he admitted. “Like twenty-five percent.”
“TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT!” I shouted at him, my eyes going all buggy. “Well, you have to take it, then. I mean, even if you get the second job, the one at the better place, in the meantime you have to take this one. You can’t turn down a job offer that has a twenty-five percent pay increase.”
“Well, look, I don’t make a ton as it is,” he said, almost sheepishly, as I had apparently transformed into a batty, money-grubbing beast before his eyes.
I don’t even care what he thought. I am so tired of watching friends who are worth a great deal of money, who have unique skillsets, boundless good judgment, and outstanding resumes discount themselves and their skills as worthless. We caught this bad habit a while back, when we graduated into the Recession, thinking we aren’t worth it. And that kind of low self-esteem leaves us unable to achieve the standard landmarks of first-world adulthood. It leaves us out of the system. Already the next generation is coming up quickly, ready to pounce on our missed opportunities; I can feel it, they’re going to be so ready to say yes to everything.
My advice was this: “You have to treat these two job offers as completely separate. You have to take the first one, and you still have to treat the next one—the one you really want—as though it’s foregone that you will get the job, and then you will deal with the awkward delivery of the news when the time comes.”
He still felt unsure. We asked the Google machine, to mixed results, some who said it was better to be honest and reveal-all, and some who were in line with my opinion on the matter.
I look at it like this: I don’t care what you make, increasing your pay by 25%, while moving to a place with a lower cost of living, is going to dramatically change your life. Of course, if you have a family, you have greater responsibilities to consider. But you do not have to increase your lifestyle to match your earnings. If you have the control to maintain the standard you live at now, you are going to feel incredibly wealthy when your savings grow fatter, your financial goals are met far more quickly, and you can afford to splurge on a certain few coveted items or lifestyle changes, like a couple of extra dinners out each month. You are worth the money.
I don’t know if I would always have given my friend this kind of advice. Out of college, I worked all these strange little jobs for $8.50 an hour, saying that I was paying my dues, that I needed experience, that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. We had this tendency, eight years ago, to just be grateful to have employment, and none of us were willing to risk it by rocking the boat.
But I start to see self-worth and financial-worth as irrevocably intertwined. You are worth it. Just because you work for a non-profit, or because you want to do something meaningful, doesn’t mean that you forfeit the price that people should pay for your skillset. God knows you paid a hell of a lot for it.
Several years ago, I applied to work at a coffee shop inside of a bookstore. I was living in a place for just a few months, and I thought this would be a fun skill to learn (I spend so much money on coffee, anyway, that in addition to getting paid, I’d be pocketing the $80-90 a month that is usually dedicated solely to coffee consumption).
The bro who hired me flicked his hair back during the interview. “I want to hire you because I like hiring people who have a lot of college. It’s like, if you can make it through college, you have stuck with something for a long time.” I nodded at his sage words. “And you have a lot of college.”
Yet another overeducated barista, I had a master’s degree.
Still, I know this bro was right. We claim to value education so highly that its price tag is absolutely astronomical compared to other developed countries. Yet the holders of such degrees can’t always make the connection between what they have accomplished and what it should be worth, monetarily, on the job market.
To you I say, be just a little more selfish, even if it feels ruthless. If you worked for a degree and paid for it (more likely, are still paying for it), take that money and run.