Why I Turned Down A Perfect Job

Earlier this year I was called up for an interview for a job that I had actually applied for over a year ago.  They had an opening and the project manager wanted to interview me. I found out before the interview that I had been recommended by a friend who I worked with previously on other jobs.  This job fit well with my background and my CAPM certificate also made me a great candidate for it. Ultimately I turned down the job, despite all of the good things about it. Why did I turn down a perfect job?

What I Do Now:

Currently I work for 3 different employers throughout the year.  My primary job is working nuclear plant refueling outages at my local power plant on the ice condenser project.  When there is not an outage going on at home I travel for another company working on steam generators.  Since outages are typically only in the spring and the fall, I work about 24 weeks a year.  For the last two years I have also worked in the winter for another 12 weeks as a night supervisor for the buildings and grounds crew at my local power plant.  In total I make between $55,000 and $65,000 a year depending on various factors, while working roughly 36 weeks out of the year, meaning I have about 16 weeks a year off of work, which is most of the summer.

The goal that the majority of contract workers I know have is to get an “in-house” job working full time at the plant.  Most of the people who are able to make this transition go into either plant operations or into security.  Although this job is still working for a contract group, it would be a full time year round job, which is great for budgeting purposes.

What This Position Would Be:

This position would be working all year long in an office setting. I would work a normal 7:00 – 3:30 schedule for most of the year.  Throughout the year I would end up making a little less than what I make now, but I wouldn’t have to travel at all and I wouldn’t have to work nights in the winter.  The really big upside to this job is that if I received a promotion, which would take probably around 1 year, my pay would almost double, putting me at around $100K per year.

I also would be working directly for one of my friends who I used to work with years ago.  I have worked with him on ice projects and on a scaffold crew almost 10 years ago.  I’ve always looked up to this guy since I started in the nuclear business. He is one of the hardest working people I have ever met, he does an excellent job of managing his career, and is a great dad who puts family first.  When we were working on a scaffold crew back in 2007 we were given the opportunity to work 13 days straight giving us some extra OT hours. Typically we have to have 1 day off a week, but because of what was going on in the plant we were approved to keep working. That night was Halloween.   He looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Dude, they could pay me $100 an hour and I still wouldn’t be here tomorrow, that’s family stuff, it’s way more important than this.”  That’s certainly the type of person you would want to work for.

The interview I had with his boss also went really well, the guy was very friendly and approachable, and I think I would have enjoyed working for him.  I think both of these guys would have done everything in their power to help me move forward in my career. The day after the interview I received a call from the staffing company with a job offer.

While I was deliberating whether of not to take the position I got a call from the staffing agent, letting me know that they had approved a 16% increase in pay for me.  I really wanted to jump at this, but in the end I turned the job down.

The Positive’s About This Job:

  • 1. Working directly for a friend who I enjoy working with.
  • 2. A decent amount of job security, at least for 2-3 years.
  • 3. Potential For Career Advancement.
  • 4. Potential For large increase in pay.
  • 5. Work in the summer, and steady income in the summer.
  • 6.  Competitive starting pay.
  • 7. Something new:  I’ve been working Ice Condensers for 10 years and Steam Generators for 7 years, this would be a chance to do something different.

Why Did I Turn Down A Perfect Job?

1. We have never put our kids in daycare. Not one day.  11 years ago when Mrs. C. and I had nothing I remember taking a call at KFC while I was making 6 bucks an hour and turning down a $17 an hour job that would last about a month, I would easily have made $6,000 in a month versus the $800 at KFC.  I turned it down because Mrs. C. would have had to put Kid #1 in day care (and at the time she didn’t want me travelling at all). This would have been a way bigger incremental pay increase than the opportunity I have now.  Because we gained custody of our nephews when Mrs. C’s sister passed away we have two kids who would need to go into daycare.  The youngest won’t be going into school until the Fall of 2018.  Ultimately Mrs. C. would either have to quit her job, or we would have to pay for daycare, which would make her earnings almost a wash and someone else would be watching our kids.

2. I would have to work all year. I know this sounds lazy, but it is extremely hard to give up having 16 weeks off a year.  NOBODY gets 16 weeks off a year.  Once we hit a few more milestones I will have closer to the half the year off. (I may drop either the snow removal gig in the winter or travelling all together once the house is paid off and our retirement accounts hit a certain value).  This gives me way more time to work on projects around the house and to do things with the kids.

3. This job is scheduled to wrap up in 2018. There is the possibility that projects will continue over there and more jobs would come up, but as of now it looks like 2018 is the end, which means even if I did get the big raise a year into it, I would only have about 1 year of receiving that level of income.  At the same time, I would have lost my place with all 3 of my other employers.  I’m sure they would hire me back, but with Ice it would take a while to get back up to my spot and current rate. With the steam generator jobs I would drop down on the call list, which means I may have fewer total jobs, or none at all of the first couple seasons.

4. Opportunities With Ice: As it stands right now there are 5 people who run the ice project at a level above me. 3 of them are full time for the utility and 2 are full time with the contract group I work for.  All of these 5 people are over 50 and at any point it would not be surprising if any one of them retired.  My counterpart on nights runs a business outside of this project and as time goes on it looks increasingly likely that he will stop working in ice.  I think it is very possible in the not too distant future if I stay with Ice I will move up in the organization.

5. This job would mess up our health insurance.  Because Obamacare is perhaps one of the worst constructed government programs in the history of the U.S. There was a large disensentive to taking this job.  If an employer offers insurance that is “affordable” for a single worker, then the employee must take the insurance they offer, OR he can stay with a plan through the marketplace, but will NOT receive any subsidies.  This company offers an extremely low cost plan for an individual, but the family plans are outrageous.  It would actually be cheaper for me to stay with the plan from the health care exchange and not receive the tax subsidy.  Due to our household size and AGI, our monthly subsidy is $320.  This amounts to a $2 an hour pay cut, but since it is after tax money what we are talking about is closer to a $2.50 per hour pay cut.

6. The nature of this job is also a factor. I really enjoy making a plan and leading a group in the plant to accomplish a task and make something physically happen.  This role is very different from that.  I would mostly be a coordinator and spend the vast majority of my time planning, analyzing, and communicating with other work groups and subject matter experts, rather than being in the field. Although I am capable of this I don’t think I would be as happy with it.

 Bottom Line:

I know some people will think I’m crazy for turning down this job, In a way I do to.  This was certainly one of the most difficult decisions I have made in my life.  If all the kids were older and I could leave them at home by themselves, or if Mrs. C. didn’t work at all, I think this job very easily could have won out.

Have you ever turned down a job that seemed perfect?

John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John is the author of the book For My Children's Children: A Practical Guide For Building Generational Wealth.

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