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Why I turned down a great job offer.

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capn_midnight

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I recently received a very generous job offer from a rather prestigious company. I didn't even apply, they contacted me through LinkedIn. To say that I was honored to even receive a cold-contact from such a company is an understatement. "Flabbergasted" is a much more appropriate term.

The salary was great. There was an additional cash bonus of approximately "holy crap" dollars. There was also a stock grant of even more "are you freaking serious" dollars. The projects sounded right up my alley. And the managers sounded like good people. All around, it sounded great.

But I had to say no, for two specific reasons completely unrelated to compensation packages.

I'm an east-coast guy and they wanted me to move to the left coast.



My family is here and my wife's family is here. We specifically live in a place that is convenient for seeing our families on a regular basis. We had considered the possibility of moving, if the job presented a clear opportunity for significant career advancement. But we'd also like to have kids soon, and that's going to peg us even harder to only a few hours' drive from where the grandmas and grandpas live.

Also, I've spent the last two--almost three years working as a freelancer. The term "free-lance" comes from the great Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, referring to a sort of medieval mercenary, one whose "lance" was free of any sworn allegiance to any feudal lords. I've been incredibly productive during that time. The corporate desire to have people "on site" grows more and more alien to me every day. I know what work I'm capable of, and I think being self-directed and independent has markedly improved my output. To be asked to go to a specific place to do work in our now rather aged era of telecommuting feels like being asked to intentionally hobble myself for nothing more than someone else's convenience. I think the work is more important than that.

I'm not done with my current path.



I started freelancing for a reason. I was dissatisfied with my work-life relationship and I hoped I could one day create the sort of company that I have always wanted to work for. Freelancing is not an end to itself, but it is hopefully a means. The flexibility it affords is much closer to that ideal work life that I envisioned for myself than I've ever encountered before. I'm able now to work on my own R&D projects in addition to the freelancing with a focus and effort for which I had never had the adequate time while I was working as a 9-to-5 stiff. To take the job would be to give up on those plans, just as they are starting to show promise.

I take the mercenary notion of freelancing very seriously. I operate by my own ethic, one that places doing the right thing and doing the most important things above doing what I'm told. When a client hires me, they don't just buy my time, tapping on a keyboard at whatever they want. They buy my opinions and my taste regarding how work should be organized. Sometimes that can come across as defiance, but I do it out of respect for their needs as I see them, not as they are expressed in the heat of the moment.

Freelancing is a system that explicitly maintains that--at the end of the day--I own my own labor. It is the nature of corporate non-compete and non-disclosure agreements to capture and monopolize my labor as much as possible, for as little compensation as possible--indeed, why would a contractual agreement be necessary if the compensation were enough? And to make "my" company, I need to own my labor. While the NDA and Non-Competes weren't a major deciding factor in themselves to turning down the job, the prospect of what they meant for my personal projects certainly helped the decision along. It would essentially mean cancelling most of my projects. Their offer, while generous, was not quite that compelling.

I just couldn't do it.



Through out the interviewing process, I had this voice in the back of my head, chiding me, "it's a great job, you don't turn down such a good job." I'm sure working for this company would have been very rewarding. But I don't want a "job". I think I can do more. And I think I owe it to everyone involved to do so.
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That's a tough decision. Personally, I think you made the right one. I'm in the same boat, where I genuinely dislike the 9-5 corporate environment/hierarchy (I don't work in the tech industry, but I'm guessing they're mostly the same in most industries). I'll take a lot less pay, but much more flexibility and happiness any day. I think there are types of people who can flourish in that environment, but It's not for everyone. Additionally, I tend to dislike the compartmentalization of those environments, where you're given just a tiny repetitive task to do, day in day out, with little leeway on how you do things. A cog in the machine, if you will :P

 

Anyhow, cheers on choosing family and happiness over a larger paycheck :) 

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Yeah, and while the pay is good, it's wasn't significantly more than I could be making with consulting. I'm specifically part-time consulting right now so I can work on my side projects more. If I were full-time again (which would please my client quite a bit), I'd be netting just about the same amount. I already decided less pay was fine for doing the work I want to do, I'd like to have a chance to actually do it.

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