Tuesday, December 24, 2013

job offer

Let's say you've been offered work at a firm that will pay you more than twice what you're making right now. It's a rather corporate place, which means you'll be losing all the wonderful perks that come with teaching at a Korean university, such as 4-month vacations and a 12-hour-per-week teaching schedule (only 4 days a week). It also means you'll be subjected to constant deadline pressure, and since the job involves being creative, you'll always have to be "on." No bad-hair days allowed.

You've worked in the corporate world before, and have found it confining, stultifying, and possibly conducive to insanity. Spending eight hours a day in a cubicle, mired in a morass of office politics (not that your current job is free of office politics, mind you), isn't an appetizing proposition. It's the antithesis of teaching. In the corporate world, you get only ten work days of vacation, plus national holidays, per the standard corporate package. Not enough time for a lengthy trip around Europe or the States.

But there are two things about this job offer that make it compelling. First, there's the pay. Compared to the sort of meager salary you've been used to receiving for most of your life, a salary that, up to now, hasn't allowed you to do much more than live in barely minimal comfort for a first-worlder, this quantum leap to a whole new income bracket—almost $60,000 a year—opens up a universe of possibilities, rapid debt repayment foremost among them. You've been looking for a golden solution to your income woes, and now, with this job offer, it's as if Heaven itself has come down and said, "Dude. You'd be an idiot not to accept this position." Second, there's the creativity that this job requires. Unlike your previous stints in the corporate world, you wouldn't be engaged in boring bullshit like data entry, memo-writing, pointless online research, or admin-related gopher work. You'd be part of a team of motivated individuals in the education industry, banging out material—stories and essays—that will be consumed by young students. This wouldn't be the same humdrum, cubicle-bound routine that you remember.

As for deadline pressure: you've written for deadlines before, and even when you're not being paid to write, you write all the damn time, and you're not bad at it. The gentleman offering you this job made clear that he recognizes your talent and wants to pay you to do what you do well. Not many people in this sad world have the chance to work at a job where they do something they like doing.

But a little serpent of fear and pessimism has wound itself around your amygdala, and it whispers that, while you might be doing something you like for now, you'll come to hate it later. All those deadlines... all that corporatism... the whole formulaic, assembly-line aspect of putting a book together... eventually, it'll become too much for you, and you'll go nuts, because no matter how much you're being paid and no matter how creative you get to be, you're still just a prole in a cubicle, one of Doug Coupland's corporate serfs inside a veal-fattening pen.*

Even as the amygdala-serpent is whispering, though, the angel swimming around inside your cerebral cortex is reassuring you that, if it's insanity you're worried about, you don't have to stay with this job until you're old and gray. Just work at it for a few years, the angel chirps. See how it goes. You never know—you might actually like this sort of work.

So as you ponder this job offer and the trajectory of your life, you realize you're nearing fifty and have little to show for all your effort up to now. You're deep in debt, you're still single (which may be a blessing: when debt saddles a marriage, it's not going to be a happy marriage), you still haven't written the Great American Novel, and your options are inexorably narrowing. Of all the things that worry you most right now, it's the debt that consumes your consciousness. You don't like being beholden to anyone, whether it be a friend or a faceless corporate entity. You want to get rid of this monster on your back, and with no other viable options coming your way, it really does seem stupid not to accept this job offer.

It comes down to a stark choice, then: money or sanity. In reality, the choice isn't so clear-cut: money would alleviate your debt, which could potentially work wonders on your sanity. You'd no longer have to labor under that cloud of insecurity. But there's the confining cubicle thing, and the stultifying corporate thing, and that's not going away just because you're quickly paying down your debt.

So you promise yourself that you'll chew this over, that you'll contact the gentleman who made the kind offer and pepper him with questions about the specifics of the job. Then, after a lot more serious cogitation, you'll make your decision. May it be a wise one.

*Coupland, a Canadian, wrote the now semi-classic Generation X, a story about people in my age group.



John said...

As the angel in your head put it, it is not like accepting this position precludes you from doing something else later if you find the work intolerable.

The only real downside I see is the loss of time off. It's hard to put a price tag on freedom. But as Kristofferson said, "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Nothing ain't worth nothing, but it's free."

I've always looked at making decisions like this in this way: I'd rather do something and regret it later than I would regretting not trying and wondering what would have happened if I had. As one sage put it--feel the fear and do it anyway.

Good luck!

Curtis S. said...

Debt is the Devil. Sacrifice your soul until the beast is defeated, then retreat.

Bratfink said...

It's not the things we do we regret the most; it's the things we didn't do.

Justin said...

Cocaine. Hookers.