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Why I Turned Down an Offer for My Dream Job

2013 November 25

Please Don't GoLast week, I turned down what could have been my dream job. Or, rather, what would have been my dream job a couple years ago, but was now almost my dream job, but not quite the more I started to think about it.

I will explain (then tell you what it means to you; skip to the last section if you’re a skimmer ’cause it’s a lesson you need to hear):

The Gig

Through an acquaintance (networking and word of mouth work, kids), I was introduced to someone looking for an Editor-in-Chief for a well-visited blog. The site was undergoing some renovations, and they wanted someone who could come in and basically oversee the transformation: creating an editorial calendar, recruiting new contributors, cracking down on quality level, brainstorming traffic-driving strategies, and then running the thing from that point forward.

Basically, everything I’m currently doing for Career Attraction and Brazen Life, which is work I love to pieces.

In other words, my ideal job.

Except for one thing: they wanted the position to be full-time.

This is where Me of Two Years Ago (or possibly even six months ago) would have jumped at the position, sans questions or hesitation. It’s also where Me of Today realized just how unfit I am for any sort of “traditional” employment, even the remote kind.

They were hoping to find someone who’d be willing to move to their across-the-country location, but they realized the state of current working affairs and were open to considering remote work. Oh, and they were also offering all sorts of lovely things like healthcare (which we’ve been paying for out-of-pocket for the past six months) and a 401K (which I never had even in my office job). All signs pointed to “Cordelia, take this job.”

Expect for my gut.

The Issue

Coming from a strictly logical, monetarily driven standpoint, it would have been stupid of me to pass on an opportunity like this.

No longer would I have to juggle multiple projects and clients or worry about budgeting for irregular monthly incomes. No longer would I have to worry when my husband’s COBRA coverage would run out or when the state’s site would become functional enough for me to get an idea what my alternate options were.

But I’ve never been one to look at my life’s work from a strictly logical, monetarily driven standpoint. And the more I tried to convince myself why it would be dumb to say “Thanks, but no,” the more it became clear it was the only thing I could say.

I’d told the company upfront that I had a number of current commitments and was hoping to find something that would let me keep them. The Editor-in-Chief position was a new one, and they were feeling out how they wanted to run it, so at least in the exploratory stages, part-time didn’t seem off the table. (I wouldn’t have applied if it was.)

That said, the more we talked, the more it became clear that what they really wanted was, in fact, a full-time staff member, and the conversation ended on the note of, “If you were to go full-time, what amount would you need to ask for?”

What tempted me to even consider this as an option was the fact that, given the responsibilities of the job, going market rates, and my current level of experience, I was justified in asking for a salary that would equal what I’m currently bringing in by juggling multiples projects and clients. I’d be earning as much as I did at my day job when I was full-time. All I had to do was say yes, and I’d be making ends meet, plus benefits, doing work I knew I enjoy doing.

But I couldn’t say yes, try as might to get myself there.

The Sticking Points

Here’s what it ultimately came down to:

1. I’ve worked way too damn hard over the past 3 years to build up this little business, only to ditch it just as it’s picking up steam.

Literally seconds before this particular phone interview, I’d finished another call in which I secured a fantastic new client I was excited to start working for. I was in the process of negotiating a higher rate with another client. I’m currently planning a super-secret (and super-awesome) new site for a third client that will be launching in 2014, which I’ll be helming. I’d already started letting go of a couple lower-paying gigs to make room for these new ventures.

My little biz, after six months, is already transitioning to its next phase. And I did not side-hustle for two and a half years to drop it just as it’s getting hot.

2. If I wanted that salary amount plus benefits, I could have stayed at my day job.

If the only thing really tempting me to ditch everything I’d built up was the voice in the back of my head telling me a nice salary and paid health insurance trump personal happiness, I would have been better off just staying at the day job. Or finding another 9-5 that would give me the same perks.

But it’s never been about the money. Money helps, and I’d like as much of it as possible, please and thank you — but the whole point of this years’ long and still continuing journey always has been, and always will be, about creating a life I’m happy in.

And all the other voices in my head that were quietly screaming “This is a bad idea, you don’t want this, you already don’t like it” told me I wouldn’t be happy doing any job full-time at the expense of all the other opportunities I’d been cultivating up to this point.

3. I am too much of an entrepreneur.

A while back, one of my friends asked me if there’d ever be a scenario in which I’d go back to the 9-5. After some thought, I answered her, quite honestly, that there wasn’t. That even if I got a job doing something writing-related, like working for a newspaper or magazine, I’d still wind up loathing it because I can’t do the traditional “work” thing. It’s not in my DNA.

I am unemployable, as far as standard jobs go. I’d quit within weeks.

Yes, this gig I was considering would be remote, so I could still do it in my PJs and set my own hours, but I’d still be someone’s full-time employee. I’d work for them, and them alone, unless I wanted to do some of my own stuff in the hours I had left over. I wouldn’t be in control of 40 hours of my week; they’d already be set for me.

Everything about this made my stomach sink.

4. “Security,” for a self-starter, does not equal “a steady paycheck.”

I love how Farnoosh Brock worded it in a recent post for Career Attraction. Outlining the signs that you might be an entrepreneur, she wrote:

You See a Job as a Risk, Not a Source of Security

You consider having a traditional job to be the ultimate risk because your security is completely out of your control. Someone else could decide your faith tomorrow based on some numbers, and that thought scares you to death. You are fiscally conservative, but not in the sense that you want a steady paycheck from someone else — rather, you want to take your income into your own hands.

While I’d of course rock this new job as much as I possibly could, and hopefully they’d like me for that, the thought of one employer holding all my income cards shared the shit out of me. What if their strategy changed in a few months, or their budget? And even if things kept on keeping on, I’d still have the bulk of my time committed to them, with no potential to scale it.

Working for myself, I not only manage my time; I manage how much I can get for that time. From the time I started side hustling to now, I’ve been able to steadily increase how much my hours are worth by maximizing my efficiency and strategically raising my rates. That growth potential would halt the instant I took a full-time job. My income, like my hours, would be set in stone by someone else, unless they decided to change their mind.

5. I simply would not be happy.

That sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I tried to talk myself into why this gig would be the smart thing to do meant that it wasn’t. Plain and simple. Sometimes the choice is easy to make in the end, even when it takes some time to get there.

So, what does all this mean for you?

Quitting Something Doesn’t Mean It’s Bad

When you’re clearing certain things from your life, not everything you have to let go, turn down, or get rid of will be obviously (or inherently) bad. Clearly you should toss things that are, like smoking or letting toxic people bring you down. But sometimes saying no to something just means it’s not right for you at that point in your life.

That guy you need to break up with is lovely, and you like spending time with him, but he’s clearly not your be-all-end-all, and it’s not fair to either of you to keep investing time as if he is.

That career you’ve thought you wanted since you were a kid isn’t what you dreamed it would be, so even though you’ve put all your time and energy into achieving it, the best thing you can do is acknowledge that and learn how to change course.

Those projects you have to drop are interesting, and the clients are lovely, but they’re not giving you the ROI you need as you grow your business into something bigger. You hate doing it, but it needs to be done.

These things, in and of themselves, could be a part of your life, and they wouldn’t do you any outright harm. But they will keep you from being able to do things that are even bigger and better.

And you deserve bigger and better. You deserve nothing but the biggest and the best, to be exact. So even if something isn’t inherently “bad,” going after it can still mean settling. It’s like buying a sugar cookie when you’re head-over-heels for triple chocolate, because the bakery you’re at is out of triple chocolate.

Will you hate eating the sugar cookie? Of course not; it’s a cookie, and cookies are yummy. But will you love it? Will it make your day? No. So even though it’s yummy enough, it won’t really satisfy you, not deep down.

And that, dear readers, is not enough, I don’t care what anyone else tells you or even what you’re telling yourself.

If you’re craving something else, freakin’ go for it. Find another bakery. Run to the store. Learn how to make the cookies yourself.

Do. Not. Settle. Even for things that are decent enough.

Insist on your purpose in life. It’s the only thing you were put here to do. Everything else is just filler.


Image:  Gideon

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  • amandaabella

    Rock on! The same thing happened to me, but like you’ve so amazingly pointed out, I felt like I would have been giving up my freedom and the business I’ve worked so hard to build. That point about security is also spot on (I even talked about it in my forthcoming book)

    Besides, we’ve both built an asset for ourselves and have created our work lives the way we wanted to. Once you’ve done that it’s kind of hard to walk away from it in order to make someone else more money.

    • Cordelia

      Amen, sister! (Can’t wait to read the book!!)

  • Heidi Thompson

    Good for you – I’m proud of you for staying true to yourself! I too am unemployablle. Happily unemployable :) I love that you quoted Farnoosh Brock’s post. That is SO true for me. I’m from Detroit originally and I’ve heard about people who have their retirement funds at stake due to the financial situation in the city government and I can’t help but respond with “Why the hell would you put your future livelihood in someone else’s hands?!” In my opinion, that is nothing short of batshit crazy. I think people like to delude themselves and pretend that their employers truly care about them and their lives over anything else. I know people who say this stuff and I look at them like they are insane…because they are! If you can rely on yourself, that is the best security you’ll ever have :)

    • Cordelia

      SO true. Now that I’m out of the 9-5 trap, I look back on it and am terrified at the thought that my livelihood was dependent on someone else’s budget/agenda. Not only did they control my hours and my energy; they controlled how much I could make, what benefits I got, and whether I could feed and house my family. Thankfully, my employers treated me well and I felt appreciated, but for so many other people, they’re just a cog in a system that can be cut the instant they’re no longer seen as “valuable” to the bottom line. *Shudder.*

      P.S. “Happily Unemployable.” I think I have the title for my next ebook! (You know, after the one I’ve currently not yet written is written.)

      • Heidi Thompson

        Happy Unemployable sounds like a great ebook – do it! It sounds like a manifesto for people like you and I.

        • Cordelia

          Already made note of it. (You shall get a hat tip for the idea.) :)

      • Karen J

        “…after the one I’ve currently not yet written is written” ~

        Hmmm… Maybe.

        Just maybe, “Happily Unemployable” wants to be written first? Or even, at the same time? … just a thought… ;)

  • Razwana


    Long term thinking – you got it down, Kelly !

    • Cordelia

      Thanks, Raz. :) Once you make the shift to entrepreneur-mind, it’s hard to see anything the same way again.

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    This may surprise your readers (and maybe even you), but even your Mom agrees with you. You’ve worked way to hard to build your OWN business – no way would you be happy kowtowing to someone else’s needs. As you said, you could go back to your old job if that’s what you would be willing to settle for. (And you are setting a good example for me by sticking to your guns.)
    PS: I love your cookie analogy, but now I’m hungry, damn you.

    • Cordelia

      It surprises me a little, but not too much. You’ve been following this journey long enough that I know you “get” it. (Sorry about the cookies.) :)

  • Michelle

    I definitely think you made the right decision. I have come across some awesome jobs that I would love, but like you said, they wanted someone full-time and I just can’t do that!

    • Cordelia

      Woot for both of us, Michelle! Stay true to your happiness.

  • Jillian Reading

    :) Happy for you and happy to read this post! Keep up the good work lady!

    • Cordelia

      Thank you! (And thank you for the thought-provoking question you posed, referenced-but-unnamed friend.) :)

  • Steffi

    I have been following you for months now and I have enjoyed all your posts! I must say though this post really spoke to me and I just had to thank you for your honesty. I was reminded that I, myself, am starting to settle again after months of hustling for what I want (decently enough). Thank you for reminding me to not settle for anything less than what I really want (personal life included)! Keep fighting!

    • Cordelia

      You too, Steffi! Believe me, I know how easy it can be to start settling, even while doing what you love. Comfort and seeming-security are always a temptation, especially when you work as hard as a hustler does, but in the end it’s what will make you truly happy that’s all that matters. Keep on aiming high!

  • Erin Kurup

    Thank you for laying all of this out! It’s so helpful to watch someone reason through a decision like yours. I’ve faced plenty where the details differed, but the two sides arguing felt similar to what you describe. For me, it’s often a “should” battle: what I “should” do vs. what I feel deep down is right. The first path used to be my knee-jerk reaction…and then I’d wonder why nothing felt like it was working for me. Now I’m at the point where I feel the tension and can usually label it, but still fight with the “should”s like crazy. So thanks for the reassurance…and go you for sticking to what felt right to you!!

    • Cordelia

      Fighting the shoulds is definitely one of the toughest things in the world. But, deep down, the only thing you *really* “should” do is follow your own path. Good for you for realizing that!

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  • JenniferChowdhury

    I just found your blog and and have been happily devouring for it for the past twenty minutes! I’m in the process of setting up my freelance business so I can quit my day job and every once in a while I peruse Mediabistro or and stumble onto jobs that would’ve been my dream gig a few years ago. It feels bittersweet to pass on them, but I also remind myself that I have a plan in place that will make me much happier once I follow through on it til the end.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Cordelia

      You’re very welcome! I was in the same place when I first started my journey to leave my day job. I kept kicking myself for my wasted college years and for the fact that I was so late to getting back to the writing I always wanted to do. But you know what? You’re on the right track now, and that’s all that matters. Any sidetrack, you’ll realize, ultimately had a purpose and taught you everything you need to succeed now. So keep pushing forward! I can tell you from experience that it is totally doable. :)