Doing hard things, part 3: the plot thickens

In case you missed it, I asked for a raise and a title change in January.

When I left off with part two of the Job Saga over a month ago, I’d been doing a lot of waiting to hear back about my raise/title change request. While I’m still largely in waiting purgatory, things have certainly happened since then.

I hadn’t yet applied for the internal position when I wrote that post, but I changed that a few days later. And was granted an interview.

Phone screen

Except “interview” actually meant phone screen, just an awkward in-person one. Thanks, HR, that would’ve been nice to know going in!

Anyway, I answered their five phone screen questions, we chatted about what the hell is going on with my position (hahaha everyone including me would like to know!), and I left the interview feeling more conflicted than ever.

This does sound like it would be a nice change of pace for me, but it’s pretty much confirmed it would be a lateral move, so I’d be doing it solely for the title change. I still haven’t decided whether I’d be willing to commit to what is almost certainly more time than I’m spending at work now (and got a wishy-washy answer when I sent a follow-up email asking about the amount of overtime/hours outside of normal business hours this position works), even if the work is way more interesting than what I’m currently doing. So the internal debate continues.

A seemingly-inescapable administrative hell

The second half of the interview was a check-in with HR, who pretty much reinforced my (and that of the head of the department I’m interviewing with) suspicion that a raise is not gonna happen if I get this job. She asked if there were reasons I wouldn’t take this job if I were offered it, and I brought up the opportunity cost of taking it: by leaving my current position, I’d be giving up the opportunity to get a more fulfilling role in my department when the reorganization shakes out.

She told me no one knows what’ll happen with my job (hey, I’ve been hearing that for over a year! This is so fun!!!) especially since some of that depends on who we hire as the new department head; after all, I’m in theory that person’s administrative assistant, never mind that the job I was hired for hasn’t existed for over a year and that my role has expanded in the meantime. But she doesn’t foresee that I’d move into a position that’s not largely administrative. It just might be more free-floating administrative work across the department instead of being one person’s assistant.

That’s not encouraging in the slightest, especially since I have spent a year of my life holding on to this hope that I’d be able to get a say in what I want to do in the newly-reorganized department.

So yeah, it’s not a surprise that when HR says taking the other internal position would probably give me more options in the future and room to grow. I’ll likely need to actually use my brain at work once in a while if I get that other position!


I also asked if that would be an appropriate time to bring up my request, since I’d heard exactly zero about it. Turns out there was an explanation for the fact that I’m still waiting: when HR told our director about my request, he said it wasn’t something he could think about right then. In his defense, that was before we had serious two-day long interviews with each of the candidates we’re considering to replace my boss, so I can understand that he’s had a lot on his plate lately.

But also that’s not an excuse. It’s okay, I’m totally fine with just waiting around forever! It’s just my paycheck and career we’re talking about, certainly no need to make a decision about that or anything! ?‍♀️

HR said she’d bug him again soon (presumably after the interviews for our new department head) because I’m one of about four people he needs to think about. Also a raise is probably out of the question, but possibly not a bonus as a way to shut me up about not getting a raise.

But the thing about high-level interviews is that they require second rounds, which would also take up a lot of our director’s time and attention. I have no idea when this mythical future in which our director is suddenly not too busy to think about changing my title would happen—especially since as of yesterday we have calendar holds for round two of those interviews in the near future—but I bet it’s not anytime soon. So yet again I continue to wait.

Moving on to the next round?

I thought everything went well during my first round interview, but I knew that second-round interviews were happening last week and I didn’t get scheduled for one.

On one hand, maybe I possibly fucked up the first round (was it the being pushy about getting some damn answers from HR about why I haven’t heard anything about the raise I’m probably not getting?) and took myself out of the running somehow? Okay, fine. On the other hand, maybe for some unfathomable reason, the second round interviews were only for the external candidates? That didn’t make sense either.

I was trying to convince myself that I didn’t care either way in an attempt not to ruminate about not having a second interview scheduled when I got a call out of the blue last week.

Plot twist

Remember this cryptic tweet from last week?

Yeah, the call was a recruiter cold-calling me to ask if I had time to talk about possible opportunities. My knee-jerk reaction with these things is to say no (also I HATE talking on the phone), but honestly, at this point why not? So I said yes (it also helped that I was the only one in my office that day so it wasn’t awkward trying to have this conversation with coworkers around).

(“I found your profile on LinkedIn and wanted to go over your background to see if that was still accurate because I know some people don’t update theirs frequently.” Cue me trying desperately not to laugh because YEP, I think I last logged on to LinkedIn maybe a year ago at the most recent? It’s like the Facebook of the business world, which makes it worse than Facebook.)

We talked and he told me about two possible opportunities, asked if I was interested in talking more about them, and asked if I could come in to discuss things further. This was Thursday afternoon and I scheduled a meeting with him for Friday afternoon.

Long story short, the opportunities that he mentioned to me on the phone weren’t going to be right for me. But I had a conversation on Friday that changed how I’m probably going to be approaching things in the near future.

Strategy change?

I met with another recruiter who was handling one of the two positions I’d initially heard about. He talked with me to get a better sense of what I’m looking for and YOU GUYS. When he asked where I see myself in a few years, I said “working for myself.” It’s not the absolute truth of “my ultimate plan is to never need to work a day in my life again” but it’s a step in the right direction, and certainly more true than spouting some off-the-cuff bullshit about how I want to grow in my career and climb the corporate ladder. Even back before I’d heard about financial independence I never did have a great answer for that question and I’m delighted I’ve now got a slightly better (and more truthful) one.

Apparently what I said was an indication that the jobs I’d previously heard about weren’t going to work, but then he told me he thinks I’d be the perfect fit at a different company he’s working with. I don’t know what company or what type of job, but he seemed pretty damn sure this would be a good thing. The problem there is that they’re looking for 5 years of experience and I’ve got more or less 3.5; if they were looking for a slightly more junior position, he’d have them interview me right away. But he said he’d call them and ask if they were willing to relax that and meet with someone who’d be perfect for the organization and is willing to learn.

If that happens, great. But if not, I got some very interesting advice.

Stay put

He said that with one more year with my current employer (I’m approaching two years now), I’d then have enough experience to be extremely marketable. It would show I’m not like those millennials (yes, I’m paraphrasing) and can commit to a place of employment for longer than a year. Again, I just have to laugh at all of this. My extreme lack of commitment to my job and employer is why I’m blogging anonymously!

In some ways this is bullshit because I’m not getting any kind of substantial raise until I get the hell out of my current place of employment and frankly I don’t want to spend another year getting underpaid because “it’s not in the budget” to pay people what they should be around here. And to that end I’ve told the recruiters that I’m not interested in discussing anything where the number I gave them for salary requirements isn’t the starting number, which would be a significant raise for me. But I do see the point about sticking it out with one place.

Skip the apply-to-every-job strategy

His second piece of advice was to not go ahead and send my resume out to a billion companies and to stick with my recruiter instead. They’re a small recruiting firm and don’t take on many clients or people they’re finding jobs for, which means everything with them is more personalized. So stay at my current place of employment for the meantime, and wait for my recruiter to reach out to me with opportunities that would be a good option for me.

I’m all too happy to listen to that advice. The applying for any and all jobs approach hasn’t worked the best for me in the past (remember that awful two months of unemployment I had in the last part of 2014?) and I hadn’t started that process yet because the thought of even doing so is exhausting.

The call with the company I’d supposedly be perfect for to ask if they were willing to budge enough on the experience part to give me an interview was supposedly taking place yesterday; I haven’t heard either way on that yet. But regardless of what happens there, I’m certainly happy to stop my half-hearted attempts to convince myself to finally start looking for jobs elsewhere.

And one more thing

Oh, and also right before I left work on Friday to meet with the recruiter, I got an email from HR about setting up a time this week for another interview for the internal position. So that’s happening in a few days.

When it rains, it pours. I’m absolutely loving having so many options now when a few short weeks ago it felt like I didn’t have any. So stay tuned next time for what happens on both the internal and external job fronts!

9 Replies to “Doing hard things, part 3: the plot thickens”

  1. I can totally relate to this, weighing way too many pros and cons to make sense of finding the right (even if it may not be the best) next job. I’m so glad there are at least some options! Good luck making the choice!
    And yes, talking on the phone is absolutely horrible. Especially during the work day when you are talking about leaving your employer!

  2. The serious upside to blogging anonymously is how detailed and specific you can be about this job process. No matter what happens, this will have been a great learning experience I think. And fingers crossed for that possibly awesome job! I’m still holding out for you finding a job you do actually love.

  3. Hi Erin, good to hear the update, sounds like some progress at least.

    Sounds like you have lots of options coming out now.

    Here’s a question, what is the real end game? What sort of self employed role do you see yourself in?

    PS – I see no difference between 3.5 and 5 years experience!

  4. Ah good luck! Make sure to keep pressing your recruiter for updates… remember that he has a vested interest in you not sending out your resume on your own, as he will only make money if you sign on with one of the companies he works through. He knows this, and does not want to lose you so just something to think about ?

    The waiting game stinks but options are always good!

  5. I’m getting whiplash keeping up with all the jobs, HR people and recruiters, but I LIVE for these updates, Erin.

    As someone who’s kind of bounced around with job, recruiters have been CRITICAL in getting jobs. I usually was brought in as a temp, then hired permanently later. This was the best: I didn’t have to interview or look for a job myself, which are the worst parts of job hunting. However, I’d be cautious about the recruiter saying you should stick with him. He/she has an incentive if you stick with him (commission), but it can be better for you to sign up for multiple agencies. Some are better than others, and I find lots just promise you jobs, but nothing ever materializes.

    Also, the five years experience thing is total BS. Lots of ppl do their jobs for a long time and are really bad at them! It’s about achievements, not years!

  6. “When he asked where I see myself in a few years, I said “working for myself.”

    You were professional there and diplomatic. You could, of course, have said “having FU money and FIRE’d!!”, but that might not have been the wisest thing. I bet it was on the tip of your tongue 🙂

  7. Glad to hear your job search is heating up! I agree with the other commenters that you should reach out to other recruiting agencies. Your recruiter has a strong incentive to not have you looking around outside their job postings and may be giving you advice that is good for them but not good for you.

    Also, 3.5 years shouldn’t be an impediment for a posting that “requires” 5 years. Those qualifications noting # of years are considered rough guidelines for experience. “5 years” really means “somewhere around mid-level experience” and with 3.5 years at your job you have that (just make sure those achievements come out on your resume). Just another reason, maybe, to reach out to other recruiters.

  8. You go girl! It is a bit of a double edged sword, having all kinds of options. It is so cool that when asked what you want to do, “Working for myself” just came out. Clearly, that is where your heart and future goals lay, and I applaud you for being honest and pursuing it. Also for sticking to your minimums, definitely don’t back down and demand what you’re worth!

    I must say, for myself, at my last job I had a recruiter reach out to try to get me the job I currently have. I applied through their firm, but also directly to the position. Both ways came through with an interview, and when I asked the people talking with me, they said “oh hands down go through us, the recruiter will get you in as a contract position, which puts you 6 months behind in vacation accrual and vesting”. So I ignored all the recruiters calls going forward and completed the process on my own, and got hired permanent immediately. Best decision ever. Just something to think about. 🙂

  9. Just spent part of a sick day binge reading your blog. You have a great voice for blogging!

    Some thoughts:
    *As others have said, please don’t follow the recruiter’s advice to only apply through them
    *You’re also right that blind resumes rarely work. I’d update your LinkedIn ASAP, especially since you’ve been doing lots of work that doesn’t match your title. Connect to as many people you know as you can. And start doing some informational interviews to get more comfortable with talking on the phone and explore what other companies are like in a low risk way.
    *I’d think more seriously about the other internal job. If you get the offer it may be the leverage you need for a title bump in your current department. But I wouldn’t mention the hours again—I’m a little worried you’re too honest with HR. A lateral move is not a bad thing at this stage of your career, especially with the improved title. You’ll learn new skills, show the dedication to one company the recruiter mentioned and better position yourself to make a move elsewhere in a year (which is the most likely way you’ll get a big pay jump and speed up your journey). Also, to an external company it may not look like a lateral move and would likely appear to be a promotion, depending on title.
    *Moving laterally will also give you a really good story when job hunting next. It shows you took initiative to continue learning and improving your skills…more than a year in an administrative role where you’re not actually assisting one person could start to raise questions about your drive and ambition (which you clearly have) with future employers
    *And for another networking suggestion, have you tried emailing Ms. Frugalwoods? As a woman blogging about personal finance you have an easy connection, and she spent her career in the nonprofit space. She’d probably have some great suggestions (maybe apply to be one of her case studies?)

    Good luck!!

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