October 28, 2009

New job pt 3: deal or no deal?

For those joining us this late in the game, allow me to recap:

  • Two companies, both alike in dignity (and their desire to get their hands on me).

  • Two phone interviews.

  • Two face to face interviews.

  • Two offers.

  • One very long day.

Imagine: It’s now Wednesday 21st October, and at this point the first company have been waiting since Monday. The defence contractor has only just sorted their offer out, so I’ve got both of them sitting in front of me. I’ve lost a lot of sleep, at least another few follicles of hair but still I have to make a decision.

At this point things are neck-a-neck between the two companies. It all largely comes down to what job do I want to do. So what are my choices?

  • Graduate Systems Engineer. A fairly rare opportunity to join a defence contractor working on a high profile project, on various MOD sites. The role would have me fast tracked into project management within a few years if I was any good at it.

  • Software Engineer. An equally rare opportunity to join a growing company in a burgeoning industry (wind energy), who’s growth has outstripped their own resources so who (in their own words) “need more hands on deck”.

Both posts would have me involved at every level of the project - the former because that’s specifically the role, the latter because after the initial problem (testing) has been solved, there’s still a bunch more things to tackle.

So, both posts provide similar opportunities for advancement and getting involved, with the limit being defined largely by my own capabilities and not related to the companies themselves.

I’ll save the blow-by-blow, but the rest of the day was spent fielding the same question (“So, how’s it going? Made a decision yet?”) from both agencies, and both reiterating that if I wanted to talk to someone, or had further questions, they could sort that out …

Okay, I thought, let’s try this. Yes, I said, get someone on the phone for me to quiz.

So that’s what I did.

First off, I spoke to the wind energy company - at the time I was comparing the positions based on practicality vs management. I didn’t want to cut off managerial prospects, but I wasn’t sure I wanted it now, either. They reassured me that I wasn’t getting pigeonholed, but I still wasn’t sure what exactly I’d be doing with the defence contractor.

During my face-to-face with the wind energy people, I got a tour of the site and got to sit down and see the actual operation that they wanted help with. I got them to describe and detail how the systems work and where I fit.

My stroke of genius was to ask “Could you walk me through how my first week would be set out, after all the administrivia is taken care of?”.

With only 90 minutes to spend with the defence contractor, I never really got around to asking that question or getting them to detail what I was really going to do with them. Fantastically, they phoned and I got that opportunity after the fact.

Getting this information was crucial, since I could now really compare the roles.

It was still a hard decision to make, but based on the now oft-repeated statement (all day I said this) - “I have to consider which missed opportunity I would regret the least” - and partly my gut, I had to go with wind energy.

Phoning the agents to let them know was hard, especially the let down. The key to the let down for me was to ensure that this was the right decision and be able to justify it. Honestly is still the best policy, and as unfair of me as it was, I did pull the “doesn’t feel right for me at this time” statement. Tricky to disagree with personal feelings. Still, it’s rather like me with sales - I wanted to say yes to both, which clearly wouldn’t work!

I took the time to call the defence contractor myself to explain my decision, and a couple of days later to phone the agent I turned down, to compliment her and commend her to her manager. While it may seem a little bit guilt-driven, maintaining the relationship with the agency and agent is good practice. Politeness and showing any consideration goes a long way in a society that has a lot of entitlement issues, and I can phone them up next week if it doesn’t work out and start the job hunting process over again.

In the end, it paid to talk it out. Friends, relatives, loved ones, strangers. Just say it out loud. Voicing ideas and opinions is the fastest way to test the waters, and try the justifications out; see how they sit.

I once heard that until you can visualise yourself succeeding at a task, you won’t succeed. I couldn’t see myself working for the defence contractor, and the wind energy company felt comfortable; I could see my succeeding there and helping the company grow.

Is this the right decision to make? Maybe, maybe not, I won’t know until I’ve started the job and really got into it. It definitely wasn’t the wrong decision, however, and joining the defence contractor now would have been the wrong move for me. In my gut, this at least I know.

Thus ends this particular tale, but a huge thank you to both agents at Astute Technical and SERL for finding me the positions, and to Az who actually had to put up with being on the phone most of Wednesday when we should’ve been jamming.

Time to start packing …

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