Being Able to Walk Away from an Offer

Earlier in my career, I always felt lucky to just have a job. That was before the economy turned to crap and jobs were harder to find. I never thought about the long-term trajectory of the skills that I wanted to use and leverage during my career, or what brought me joy. My goal was simple: be employed, earn a lot of money, and move up the ladder.

Let’s just say that I went through a LOT of jobs during those years. I was an apply and interview queen. If a company was a well-known name and they wanted me, then I said yes. Always.

At some point in 2010 when the idea of starting my own business, becoming my own boss, started to become a real possibility, my attitude to saying yes to companies shifted, dramatically. I can’t pinpoint what happened exactly, but perhaps for the first time I realized my own value to a company… not the other way around.

It’s Ok to Walk Away

I still applied and interviewed at what would be considered, for many, dream companies. Think: Silicon Valley’s biggest names and “cool places” to work. I applied, interviewed, and was offered a few awesome roles.

But I said no to all of them.

I know, why continue interviewing if you are just going to turn the biggest names down? In my defense, that wasn’t my intent – I was truly interested in each and every company I applied and interviewed for. My approach to the interview process this time around was just different – I was focused on me and my career, instead of just saying YES to a cool offer.

For each role I walked away from, I wanted to know exactly why I wasn’t interested. Here was my list (one bullet per offer I said no to):

  • The team just felt… off; I wasn’t gelling with them and got a very strong feeling that one of my would-be colleagues was pissed she didn’t get the role.
  • I thought about what my work/life balance and stress level would be like in such a big and highly visible role, and realized that was my work path of the past – I didn’t want that moving forward.
  • There was just too much movement, change, and turmoil post-reorg to want to jump-in fully without having to fight the same battles I had to fight in my (then) current role.
  • The hiring manager was hours late to a call we had scheduled to coordinate last details. She didn’t call, didn’t write, or give me the common courtesy of being late. I didn’t want to deal with that type of manager.

In other words, I walked away from some big name companies because accepting a position there, at that time, wasn’t in my best interests.

Was it easy? Hell no – I second guessed every single one of those decisions. My friends and family never stopped giving me grief about it. It was the year of calling Melissa a moron – seriously, they weren’t thrilled. I mean “everyone” dreamed of working at each of those companies, and who the heck was I to say no to them?

But I did. And the world didn’t end. I didn’t end up homeless or destitute. I was still hirable. I still owned the skills that made me desirable to those companies. And I left things on such a good note with the companies, that in the intervening years, I have actually received calls from several of them seeing if I’ve changed my mind, or would be interested in something else there.

don’t just say yes to a job or opportunity because it is presented to you.

You always have a choice – and something else will come around if the offer on the table doesn’t feel right.

Money worries can get in the way of passing off an offer – I get it, believe me. But you always have options… instead of accepting a less than perfect position and being miserable in it for years to come, perhaps you can approach the opportunity with a Bridge Job mentality. Or see if there’s a contract position available – that way you can test out the job/company and they can do the same for you.

Regardless, don’t say yes just because you were offered something. Consider the position, your skills, potential for growth, your balance scale, and long-term goals, before blindly saying “I accept!”