I know that in the current economic climate the title of this post seems ludicrous, but I did it. The two job offers I note in my summary of job market success did not overlap. I had to turn down the first before I received the second. Obviously, I would have preferred to have the offers at the same time, but I felt at the time that I made the right decision based on the information I had, and I was happy to accept the second offer that I received. In order to make the following clearer, it may help to think of the four liberal arts schools where I interviewed in the order I visited them:
- School 1: Visited in week 1
- School 2: Visited in week 1 immediately after School 1
- School 3: Visited in week 3
- School 4: Visited in week 4
I received a job offer from School 1 on a Tuesday the week after I had completed back-to-back campus visits at Schools 1 and 2 (if you value your emotional stability, I would advise against back-to-back visits). The visit had gone well, the faculty were friendly, and I thought that I could be happy living in this area and working at School 1. The problem was School 1′s desired time frame. They wanted me to respond within a week but I had already scheduled interviews at Schools 3 and 4 and felt that it was unfair to me and those schools to cancel the visits. School 1 extended the deadline, but only by three days (to the end of week 3).
The new deadline meant that I would have to respond to School 1 on the day I completed my interview at School 3 (clearly before I would hear from them about an offer) and before my interview at School 4. If School 1 would have been my dream job, these timing issues may not have been a concern. Unfortunately, while I thought I could be happy there, the teaching load was a little higher than I desired. After discussing the issue with my advisor, he supported my belief that I should probably turn down School 1′s offer.
For me, the biggest issue was pressure. I felt like School 1 was putting an extreme amount of pressure on me to decide before I had finished my scheduled visits and I didn’t think that I would be happy with an acceptance in that situation – I figured that accepting an offer is supposed to make you excited, not angry. My advisor also pointed out that, given the teaching load, it would be hard to publish enough to get a different job in the future if things didn’t go as well as I anticipated.
I waited until the day of the deadline to call School 1 back, figuring that if I had heard by then that School 2 didn’t want me and if the School 3 interview was a disaster, I could still accept the offer. I didn’t hear from School 2 but the School 3 interview wasn’t a disaster and I still had the School 4 interview coming up, so I told School 1 (from the airport) that I was had to decline their offer because of the timeline they had given me. At that point, I had no idea if I would receive another offer, but I still felt like I made the right choice since it was my choice and accepting would not have been.
Another factor for me was that before visiting my order of preference was School 2, School 3, School 1, and School 4. This order was confirmed by my visits, though there were some aspects that made School 3 preferable to School 2. I received an offer from School 3 on Tuesday of week 4 while on my way to School 4. They wanted a decision by early the next week. Thursday morning I called School 2 and was told that they were “pretty unlikely” to offer me the position. That, coupled with the higher teaching load at School 4, sealed the deal for School 3 and I called them on Monday of week 5 to accept after negotiating via e-mail.
Other than having to turn down an acceptable offer, the strangest thing about this experience was that I felt incredibly pressured by School 1 when they actually gave me more time to decide than School 3. Because School 3′s visit was near the end of my interviews, however, I felt like I was in a much better place to make a decision. I’m not sure how I would have responded if the order was reversed, though I might have been more inclined to accept an early offer from School 3 because of the lower teaching load and better resources. In the end, I guess everything worked out for the best!
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