Careers 🎩 Got a job offer, but put in a TOUGH situation; what should I do?

NovicePlanner

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I'm a recent grad with 1.5 years of private planning experience. Everything was great until my manager left and my new manager was neglectful and I had little to no work from him. And because of billable hours, I'm on the verge of being terminated. I wanted to transition to public sector planning to work as a Planning Tech/Planner I/Assistant Planner and so this was my new goal.

I've been aggressively applying since March and have been turned down after 5 interviews (2 final interviews) and 12 places have turned me down immediately without one. As of today, I have about 6 applications submitted awaiting first round feedback, waiting to hear back decisions for 2 places, and have 1 interview scheduled next week.

As you can see, I'm open to relocation (within 400 miles) and I learned that these positions seem to be highly coveted and competitive.

This place, however, is about 700 miles out and in a small City. This was the "least" desirable place I sent my application out to. Mainly in part due to the higher cost of living but lower pay. I understand entry level planners don't get paid squash, but all of the places I've applied to so far (20+ applications) are at least $65K-70K+ with comparable living costs. This place is 40K to start but a healthy increase after 1 year, albeit still below 50K)

I'm extremely happy to have gotten this offer, especially having been feeling very worthless with rejections and having to continue working in a toxic workplace. Despite having private planning experience, I believe having 0 public planning experience has made it harder to stand out.

They want to hear back from me preferably by next Monday (4 days from now), while I'm still awaiting to hear back from 2 places ($76K starting pay) and have an interview next Wednesday ($55K starting, but close to home so I can live rent-free with my parents).

They prefer I start in 2.5 weeks, but can probably extend a little bit if I need the time. Its 700 miles out and I still have to work for another 2 weeks, I think I'll need A LOT more time..

Pros
  • I want to take the offer now because I can quit my job now without waiting to get fired (soon) and having to explain that to future employers.
  • I can take this job and have public planning experience (however long I can make it work) and have this experience on my resume and easier to get future Planner I jobs.
Cons
  • The pay is immensely low (28% lower than my current pay and more importantly 35-45% lower elsewhere with places I'm interviewing)
    • I have student loans and have been helping pay my parents medical bills and housing bills
      • Doing some number crunching, I can't afford rent and would have to live out of my vehicle (I've done in the past while in school).
  • Because of low pay, my living situation and "quality of life" would be not great as opposed to getting laid off and collect unemployment while continuing to keep my fingers crossed one of these places will take me.
Alternative but likely option? Frankly the one I'm worried about the most.
  • I take the job, stop applying BUT wait to hear back from the 6 places I submitted, 2 places I'm waiting results (one said up to 2 months before I hear back) and finish interviewing, then take quit this new job IF one does gets offered to me.
    • This one stings the most, because I feel like a **** and I'm scared I'd get put on a blacklist...BUT I also don't want to not take the job then get rejected everywhere else, back to square one.
  • Because government jobs take so long to await results, I feel like I can squeeze out even the probationary period of this current job offer and perhaps use that as "actual relevant job experience" while interviewing and waiting to hear back and maybe mention for future interviews? Or would the short term job duration hurt me?

I apologize for the long read. Again, I'm happy for this job offer, but I knew this one would be the most complicated and funny how life works sometime.

Should I call back and tell them I'm still waiting to hear back from 2 places and have another interview?
 
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terraplnr

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First, let me express my frustration that the city devalues planning so little that they decide to pay so little. It should not even cross your mind as an option that you'd have to live out of your car. :( Frankly, based on the low salary, it's probably not a fantastic work environment, either.

With that said, it might help to look at this offer as an "internship" to gain experience (a temporary experience to build your resume). My recommendation is to accept the position, pause paying on your student loans for now if you can, push back the start date as much as you can, try to find a shared living situation to save on rent, and don't stop applying to jobs that do meet your financial and professional criteria (even after you start working at this new job). You won't be blacklisted if you tell prospective/future employers that you were making so little and had to find a new job to actually be able to afford to live, and also wanted to be back closer to family. It would just burn a bridge at the place you would be leaving, but with the low salary, it's not a viable long-term job there, anyway.

I'm not a hiring manager (I'm a Senior Planner) but I don't think that prospective employers would fault you for taking a job, any job and then moving up as soon as you got the chance.

Alternatively, it's not the end of the world to get laid off from a private planning firm due to "lack of work." It happens, especially during times of economic upheaval like right now. So, if that happens, just do what you can to keep your resume fresh while you are on unemployment - seek extra credentials, volunteer, etc.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

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I say take whatever comes your way. The housing question I cannot really speak to as I don't have experience such as what you face. It if is doable with that sort of living condition and you are able, then why not. Perhaps some housing options will show up while doing so. If you want to continue in the public sector, this gets you through the door which is the biggest hurdle. I took my first FT job 24 years ago 800 miles form my then home (and newly married) in a state with the lowest entry-level planner pay in the nation. We moved back 9 months later.
 

NovicePlanner

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Have you negotiated the pay?
The hiring manager seemed firm on the lowest pay within the advertised range, and then started explaining the whole pay grade progression following my probationary period, after 1 year...etc. I thought for government jobs there usually aren't any room for negotiation? At least for me I have zero public sector planning experience, would I have any leverage at all?
 

NovicePlanner

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I say take whatever comes your way. The housing question I cannot really speak to as I don't have experience such as what you face. It if is doable with that sort of living condition and you are able, then why not. Perhaps some housing options will show up while doing so. If you want to continue in the public sector, this gets you through the door which is the biggest hurdle. I took my first FT job 24 years ago 800 miles form my then home (and newly married) in a state with the lowest entry-level planner pay in the nation. We moved back 9 months later.
While having some private planning experience has gotten me opportunities for interviews, I agree and definitely am leaning towards getting the job just to get my "foot-in-the-door" for public planning experience that might get me better opportunities in the future.

My biggest concern is what if I accept the job, don't end up getting an offer within the next 1-2 months (with places I interviewed that only know about my current work with my private firm), and then when I have NEW interviews with different cities, would it look bad to say,

"I'm 2 months in with City X, and I'm looking for new opportunities because I can't survive on what they're paying me, BUT I have qualifying job description duties with local government."

Would that look bad to hiring managers as opposed to not taking the offer, getting terminated, collect what I can with unemployment and hope that one of these interviews will take me with my standalone private consulting experience?

Literally every other place I've applied to is offering a sustainable wage even at its minimum. It's bittersweet that this one I'd expected it to be like an interview practice due to its lower pay (and I actually didn't even prep for this one), but ended up getting the job while rejected from other places or still waiting to hear back.

I just feel like I'm either left with taking a gamble that one of these interviews I'm waiting to hear back from will take me, and if they don't then I'll feel like a fool not taking the one in question...or take this position and either quit as soon as I hear back from my other interviews (weeks to a month), burn some bridges in the process or end up putting myself in an awkward position when interviewing with new places but already trying to jump ship with this one because of unsustainable wage?

Hearing that you moved back 9 months later does bring some comfort. I always thought the "formality" is to be there for at least a year, or is that "old school" thinking with people job-hopping every year?
 

NovicePlanner

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First, let me express my frustration that the city devalues planning so little that they decide to pay so little. It should not even cross your mind as an option that you'd have to live out of your car. :( Frankly, based on the low salary, it's probably not a fantastic work environment, either.

With that said, it might help to look at this offer as an "internship" to gain experience (a temporary experience to build your resume). My recommendation is to accept the position, pause paying on your student loans for now if you can, push back the start date as much as you can, try to find a shared living situation to save on rent, and don't stop applying to jobs that do meet your financial and professional criteria (even after you start working at this new job). You won't be blacklisted if you tell prospective/future employers that you were making so little and had to find a new job to actually be able to afford to live, and also wanted to be back closer to family. It would just burn a bridge at the place you would be leaving, but with the low salary, it's not a viable long-term job there, anyway.

I'm not a hiring manager (I'm a Senior Planner) but I don't think that prospective employers would fault you for taking a job, any job and then moving up as soon as you got the chance.

Alternatively, it's not the end of the world to get laid off from a private planning firm due to "lack of work." It happens, especially during times of economic upheaval like right now. So, if that happens, just do what you can to keep your resume fresh while you are on unemployment - seek extra credentials, volunteer, etc.
Thank you for that new insight on viewing it as an "internship". I definitely have not thought of it that way and it does bring some comfort like I would be sacrificing pay for valuable foot-in-the-door experience. With my current panel interviews, I've had to really highlight how my private firm experience can translate to public ones...

One thought I had about housing was that I'm a bit reluctant to find one if they tie you in for 6-months~1 year leases, especially if I'm in the middle of interview process with other Cities or waiting to hear back final results.
Which does put me in a bind with having to live in my vehicle and join a gym to take showers if I do take the job and hope that I get a better offer within the next month or two.

Literally everywhere else I've applied to have a sustainable living wage even at its minimum. I'm not greedy at all and it's very unfortunate this one is the lowest offered and I applied it more-so as interview practice (govt job panel interviews are so different...emotionless... and much more intimidating).

It also brings me comfort to know about not feeling too ashamed about being fired in my position. I've been wanting to quit since the start of the year with my new manager, and the stress of losing my job has brought me has driven me crazy and now want to get fired ASAP so I could collect unemployment and take a mental health break while I interview and continue to apply. Although I'm a relatively recent grad, I've been working full-time since I started college nonstop, even during the summer to pay tuition.

I think its rough I'm left with either taking the job and having to "suffer" outside of work indefinitely until I get another offer and having to burn bridges OR end up being stuck for longer if no offers come through in the next month or two.

OR deny the offer, finish "getting fired", collect unemployment and hope I don't regret my decision if I end up getting no offers and being indefinitely unemployed. I currently live at home with my parents while working remote, so I've been able to save a lot of money that has been used toward family expenses.

Sigh! I haven't even had the chance to "celebrate" this offer, I've been so stressed! It baffles me I really should be more happy.
 

Faust_Motel

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I'd probably take it. If I was hiring for a position where I am now and had somebody I was interviewing who was early in their career and 2 months into their current position, I might ask them in the interview what was up- If they told me they couldn't afford to live on what they were being paid, that would be answer enough for me. I've been there. I wouldn't worry about needing to show a lot of "loyalty" on your resume at this point.

So, for the place that's offering you a job, I'd do some homework- is it a good place to work? Will your boss be a good mentor? Will you get to work on anything interesting? What's the workplace environment? What are the politics? If those things are positive, I'd take it. If it's a place with high turnover, bad articles in the news over the last 5 years, then maybe no, wait it out.

There's often not a lot of room for negotiation, just given how tight budgets are and how rigid municipal pay grades and such can be. It never hurts to ask.
 

MD Planner

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I would not take the job. Think about it. It's 700 miles away from where you are. It's a large pay cut with a higher cost of living. You (I'm assuming) don't know anyone there. So now you're in a place far from home with little money to actually do anything. That sounds like a recipe for depression to me.

First, I would be direct with my employer and see what's happening. Maybe the other shoe won't drop. But find out. Not knowing is the worst. Even if you do get fired, you can generally still collect unemployment. That should hopefully tide you over until you get another job. You may have to take some service jobs to make ends meet for a while. Maybe even more than one. I've been there. You can do it. But keep your dream of being a planner alive. Stay involved with local projects, volunteer etc. I just don't think your current offer is going to allow you to be happy.

P.S. Also, think about this: You're asking a bunch of strangers what you should do about the offer. This is a big move, it's not a new job down the street. I think you've already answered your own question, you just haven't realized it yet.
 
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WSU MUP Student

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I'm with MD Planner here in that I wouldn't accept the offer. I would also be brutally honest with the hiring manager at that community as to why you cannot accept it (low salary, high cost of living, lack of suitable housing situation) and have some data ready as to what you think a planner with your education and experience should be paid in that community in case the conversation does keep going.

Some communities have more wiggle room in the starting salary than people realize. They may not be able to start you at the year 2 pay level or something like that, but they may be able to reclassify the position which would shift the entire pay scale.

If you do take the job but continue interviewing and/or moving on after only a few weeks or couple of months, I don't think it will be a dealbreaker to other hiring managers, especially at this early stage of your career.

One other note: You mention that you have student loans. If your loans are federal student loans, you should have been able to enter forbearance beginning March 13, 2020 and currently scheduled to last through September of this year. If you have made any payments after March 13th but were eligible for forbearance, you can request a refund of those payments from the Department of Education without any penalties.
 

nrschmid

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Don't take the offer. I had a parallel (not identical experience) earlier in my planning career and it was a huge mistake.

I relocated over 500 miles from home for a job offer. I was 28 years old and out of work for 5 months during the Great Recession. The pay was higher than yours (with paid overtime for a salaried consulting gig) and they were swamped with work. I was underemployed for 3 years up until that point. There was a lure of making good money doing a lot of cool planning projects in a different city. I was NOT impulsive in my decision, I waited for several days and did a lot of thinking/research before I accepted their offer and relocated. The work dried up in a year and I was in a much smaller metro area with no friends and no support system. There were also no other planning jobs in that city at the time. I saw the writing the wall weeks before my termination, reached out to friends in Texas ahead of time, and relocated 2 weeks after I lost that job. The rest is history.

I'm 40 now and have lived in 4 different metro areas in the past 12 years. When you relocate for ANY job where you don't know anybody and you have little or no family support system in that new city, you are having to CREATE that [outside] life yourself. It's not an easy task, and it's not something that I enjoyed doing when I was younger. It also can take 2-3 years to build up a circle of friends from scratch. The employer just needs an able-bodied worker, local or not. He/she will find someone eventually for that role and they will lay you off when they are done with you (whether you moved there or not).

Ask yourself what are YOU giving up in exchange for a job? I'm also gay by the way, and I gave up ANY chances of meeting decent, normal, like-minded gay men in that smaller city to focus on my career. I was fine doing that at 28 years. I am NOT going to do at 40. I "might" do another move to a different city at some point, but definitely not for a single letter of offer. I want to move on MY timeline when it is right for me and preferably when I know a few people. Money isn't the central issue anymore (thank goodness) when I turn down interviews for planning jobs in other cities. I had some great experiences doing awesome work in several states at the expense of building a huge network of friends and support in maybe just one city. If I had to do it over again at 28, I would have kept interviewing at other jobs in bigger cities elsewhere.

Hope this helps-
 
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michaelskis

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Making a significant relocation like that demands that you are absolute in your decision. I have made a couple large distance jumps like that in my life and while I don't regret any of them, I have learned better on what to look for when relocating. I learned that the details of the city and region are far more significant than just the details of the job.

Personally, unless you are super fired up to live in that community or in a nearby community, don't take the job.
 
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glutton

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Echoing @nrschmid and @michaelskis, I job and city hopped a lot in my 20s. While I learned a lot and don't regret it at all, it gets exhausting after a while. Now that I'm entering my 30s, married, and a homeowner and not sure how many more times we can just pack up and move to a new community. It takes a long time to reestablish yourself.
 

MacheteJames

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Killer post above by nrschmid. I also want to say that planning, as a profession, just does not lend itself well to itinerancy and big cross country moves. It is REALLY hard to relocate to a new city once you're past a certain point in your career because of how place-based this industry is and how long it takes to see your efforts bear fruit. Like nrschmid, I'm nearly 40 and have done such relocations twice - once from a small city to a very big city 200 miles away during my twenties, and again, more recently, from that same very big city to a small city 300 miles away. Each time you make the jump, you must re-learn the local milieu, the codes, the players, the culture, the invisible trip wires - there's just so much. Every jurisdiction is its own little sui generis world. The first time around 15ish years ago, it was high adventure and the most amazing time of my life. The more recent move with family in tow was a lot tougher and more draining in some ways; while it was the right decision, your energy levels really do change as you start to hit middle age. Not sure I could such a move again at this point.
 

HomerJ

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All good advice here, and honestly reading through the OP and replies I am a bit torn myself. I'll echo MD that I think the most critical thing to do at this point is to try and have a clear minded reality-check on the status between you and your current employer. If things really are as bad as you are thinking, then perhaps taking the offer in front of you is the best approach to avoiding unemployment. If things aren't necessarily so dire or there are things you can do which you believe will buy more time, then perhaps you can tolerate waiting a little longer for the right offer. Also, landing 5 interviews and 2 final interviews since March isn't bad, so I assume if you keep at it other offers and opportunities will come.

FWIW, I made a 500+ mile move early in my career, and less then a year later moved 800+ miles even further from home. I do believe in hindsight the moves were good for my career and helped build my Resume, but in both instances the COL was low enough that I could get by just fine. Those moves were brutal for reasons others have listed, and I really can't see how I would have been able to make it work while living out of my car. I think if I were in the same position, I would keep plugging ahead and wait for the right offer.
 

kjel

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I'd lean towards rejecting the offer for many of the reasons cited. IF the small community was nearer to a larger metro area where you could see yourself living for several years that had other opportunities, I'd consider it a little bit more.

Really though, if you have to live in your car and/or there are few housing opportunities that aren't affordable based on the salary offer and you currently stably housed....I'd give it a pass. You can also quit your current gig before being terminated, there's all kinds of work out there paying $15/hour with minimal long term commitment that will allow you to focus on landing that permanent job leading to better long term opportunities. No money is ever worth eating a shit sandwich every day.

FWIW, I had made the decision to leave my prior employer which paid very close to 6 figures because my manager was awful and it was generally a soul crushing experience. I was going to quit even if I didn't have something lined up. My current job literally fell into my lap at that same time. I've been here 3+ years now and couldn't be happier.
 
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NovicePlanner

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Hi All,

Thought I'd provide an update for everyone. I am extremely thankful for this community and all of the suggestions and experiences shared by many here. I do not know many planners otherwise and all of you have provided helpful advice.

After careful consideration, I decided to decline the offer. It was extremely tough and I actually did not hear back from them afterwards. As for my other interviews, I was rejected by the 2 places I was waiting to hear back from. I felt at this time that I made the wrong decision and should've taken the offer. The one interview I had left me with a sense of urgency and fear. I felt like I had so much on the line. This place was only 35 miles from my house. It wasn't the best interview but I came out feeling like I did my best.

I was formally let go by my firm last Monday, and on Wednesday, I was informed that I got the position! I'm so glad I took the risk and marched forward. I have 3 weeks before I start, and now the next problem is worrying about what I can study/brush up on before I start!

Thank you all again.

NP
 

dw914er

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Sometimes the right thing happens, but can be a little stressful along the way. Best of luck!
 

Hink

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No risk, no reward. Great to hear things ended up working out for you!
 

kjel

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Hi All,

Thought I'd provide an update for everyone. I am extremely thankful for this community and all of the suggestions and experiences shared by many here. I do not know many planners otherwise and all of you have provided helpful advice.

After careful consideration, I decided to decline the offer. It was extremely tough and I actually did not hear back from them afterwards. As for my other interviews, I was rejected by the 2 places I was waiting to hear back from. I felt at this time that I made the wrong decision and should've taken the offer. The one interview I had left me with a sense of urgency and fear. I felt like I had so much on the line. This place was only 35 miles from my house. It wasn't the best interview but I came out feeling like I did my best.

I was formally let go by my firm last Monday, and on Wednesday, I was informed that I got the position! I'm so glad I took the risk and marched forward. I have 3 weeks before I start, and now the next problem is worrying about what I can study/brush up on before I start!

Thank you all again.

NP
Excellent news. Wishing you all the best. Please do come back and let us know how you're doing.
 
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