By last Tuesday, I’d gotten to the point where I knew I couldn’t keep up my tutoring job past the end of this month. So I decided to get serious about applying to temp jobs. I selected one agency and noticed in their online application that they wanted to know what your salary requirements were. I was clueless about what to put down, so I headed over to Craigslist to check out job postings and see what hourly rates were being offered.
At the top of the list was an ad for a part-time receptionist at an office that sounded like exactly the kind of place I wanted to work at, with almost exactly the number of hours I wanted to work. Hoping that this wasn’t actually too good to be true, I checked out the company’s website, then looked them up on LinkedIn. As I scrolled down the list of employees, I saw that I was only one connection removed from all of them. I searched a bit more and saw that I had one friend who knew everyone there, and another one who knew three or four.
So I emailed the first friend, who I’ll call Nehemiah, and told him about the job ad. I asked him how he knew all these people and what he could tell me about the place. He replied pretty quickly and said that he works in the same building and regularly consults for them. He said it was a really great place, and working there makes him really happy, and he invited me to come by for lunch sometime to meet people. I told him I was available tomorrow or the next day, and he wrote back to say that he’d talked to the people doing the hiring, told them about me, and they said they’d love to talk to me tomorrow over lunch.
So I woke up early the next morning, put the finishing touches on my resume, and headed over. I got a tour of the office, chatted with Nehemiah for awhile, and then over lunch talked with the hiring folks. It wasn’t even an interview, just a friendly, casual chat. After that, the manager sat down with me and offered me the job, and asked when was the soonest I could start. She’d never even asked for my resume or anything about my work history. All any of them really knew about me was that I was writing my dissertation at [sufficiently prestigious university], had spent a year at [other sufficiently prestigious university], and was friends with Nehemiah. And that was enough.
I had tutoring the next two days, so I wasn’t able to start until the following week, but that was no problem. It was also not a problem that I’m going to be gone for almost two weeks at Thanksgiving and almost three weeks over Christmas and New Year’s. They are flexible and there will be someone who can cover the front desk.
On my way home, and for the rest of the day, I felt giddily happy. I was getting a job at exactly the type of place I would choose to work at, with people who were friendly and intelligent, and the entire experience was not only painless but genuinely enjoyable.
My only nagging feeling was that I hadn’t tried to negotiate on the salary. It hadn’t even occurred to me at the time, since I was so surprised to be getting the offer so quickly, and was so disarmed by all the friendliness. But the number was a bit lower than what I’d thought I could get (based on all my extensive research). They acknowledged up front that the number was low, but they also threw in reimbursement of my transportation costs to/from work, and there is (free) lunch on-site every day.
I still felt, though, that I could have tried for a little more, and maybe they were even expecting me to do so. And, as it turned out, I got a second chance. I hadn’t signed anything yet; they were going to email the agreement to me. When it came later that evening, the manager reiterated the terms, calling it “our basic offer,” used the subjunctive throughout, and ended by saying that if I had any questions to please ask. So I took that as my opportunity to politely inquire as to whether there was any flexibility on the hourly rate. I felt really nervous about it, and when I didn’t hear back right away I was scared they might rescind the offer (even though they’d already taken down the posting on Craigslist). The manager wrote back to say that unfortunately they couldn’t go any higher, but that if things worked out they were very open to discussing a raise in the near future. So that was that, and I signed the agreement, and yesterday was my first day at my new job!
So while I think I might be able to make a bit more money per hour as a temp, I think this job offers some less tangible benefits that make it the better choice for me. First of all, it’s predictable: I know that I have a job indefinitely and that I will be working 8-5, MWF, and before too long I’ll know all the people there. All of this reliability erases the stress of a continually-changing workplace and ensures that I’ll have plenty of time to dedicate to my dissertation. Second, it’s enjoyable: the space itself is big and bright and has a cool design aesthetic. These things are important when they’re surrounding you for 27 hours/week. The job, at least so far, is not demanding, and I rather like the primary responsibilities of a receptionist: organizing, managing, directing. It’s on a very humble scale, sure, but they’re tasks that I do enjoy. Third, as previously mentioned, the people are smart and fun. I hope I don’t sound ageist, but they’re also all about my age, which I think makes it a lot easier to make friends. I don’t have many friends here, so even if they only ever become “work friends,” that’s a big improvement.
Finally, for those readers who are not having much luck in their job searches, I want to qualify all of this by saying that I live in a part of the country that has weathered the recession and economic crises pretty well. House prices never went down. Unemployment is lower than the national average. Businesses, at least in certain sectors, are growing and hiring. And that is clearly a huge factor in the ease with which I got this job. So I hope that none of this is in any way discouraging; just take it from a confirmed introvert who shudders at the very word that “networking” may not be as bad as it sounds!