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Competing Offers -- Need Advice

In a nutshell, I'm being presented with competing employment offers under strange circumstances, and I'm hoping that some people who watch this board with consulting experience can provide some advice / perspective on the situation.

I'm currently working under a 6-month contract for a very large financial services firm through a staffing agency.  I was brought in in great haste to save management's bacon because a project had fallen far behind schedule, and they needed to have it brought back in line.  In the interim, I've played a major role in getting the project back on track, and my manager has indicated that she wants to keep me on past my current contract.

It is in this context that I have been offered a full-time position with a communications firm (one that I had interviewed with prior to taking my current position), to start when my current contract expires.

My dilemma is that the second party has required that I provide them with an answer by early next week, but I want to give my current employer an opportunity to put their cards on the table as well.  I laid out the situation for my current manager, and she said that she would try to get budget approval for either a contract extension or a full time position for me next week, but that the time limitation could pose a problem.  I am sympathetic, as it seems unfair for this communications firm to give me such a short timeframe for deciding on their (verbal) offer when they took their time to get back to me after our interview.

A final little twist -- I noticed on one of the major job boards last night a posting for the position with the communications firm.  I know they need to cover their ass in case I don't take their offer, but I smell a rat: what if I take the communications firm's offer, decline an extension to my existing position, and then the comm. firm finds someone to undercut what they've offered me?  At that point, I'd be SOL, or so it seems.

So, how do I play this?  I would prefer to stay where I am now (better pay/benefits, and I'd like to stay in one spot for more than 3-6 months for a while, as I've been jumping around doing short-term stuff for over three years now).  However, I don't know how much I should trust my current manager -- she's very nice, and seems trustworthy, but she's got plenty of balls in the air, and (from what I can gather) a boss with semi-tight purse strings above her.  Either way, I obviously want to ensure that I have a position waiting for me after this 6-month gig is over.


P.S. My apologies to those who would kill for ONE job offer, nevermind two.  My friends think I'm nuts for thinking I have a problem here, but it seems that if I play this wrong, I'll be out of luck when my contract expires.

Pulled In Two Directions
Saturday, November 16, 2002

Simple, tell your manager that you want to stay, but that in the current environment, her promise to try and get budget approval is not worth the paper its written on.

Sounds like your current employers are not putting all the cards on the table... They should either say we want you to stay, in this position (another contract vs fulltime employee) for this sort of money, beginning this date.

If you can get the current employer to commit in writing to something then you are home and dry. If not, then you might want to accept the other offer... check out whether there is a get-out-of-jail clause in the contracts though.

If the potential employer can still axe you after you accept but before you start, I would negotiate some financial penalities (or incentive not to kill the offer).

If you really want to hold out for the current job, you could ask the new employee for a couple more days 'to go through the contracts' or something. Fairly standard procedure. Given the expense of going through the recruitment process again, they will probably cut you a bit of slack.

In the meantime, remember the proverb "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush!"

Saturday, November 16, 2002

On the one hand, the place you're at has something invested in you, and if they *really* want you to stick around, it'd be best if they offer to bring you on as a W-2 employee.  If they can't make up their minds -- or if they really want to but can't get the budget approval for it (and BTW, they're probably paying the same or more more for you as a consultant with the staffing agency's markup), that's a pretty good indicator of what working for them would be like.  Lots of red tape, for the duration of your time there.  If you can deal with that, though, stay.

On the other hand, with the communications firm, you're holding the cards.  You've *got a job already*, one that it sounds like you like and that's going somewhere.  By contrast, you don't know how you'll fit in at the new place.  And unless I missed something, they took over six months to decide to make you an offer, and now they want a reply in less than a week.  That sounds pretty dysfunctional to me.

All else being equal, if you want to stick around somewhere for longer than 3-6 months, it seems like where you are is a good place to start -- since you've already been there for 6!  If the comm firm wants to sweeten the deal, that's entirely up to them, but I'd be more inclined to stay.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

If your current employer is committed to you, they will offer you whatever they need to keep you. If they don't, they're screwing with you, so dump them and take the new job.

Trust me, contractors get screwed.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

In my opinion a week is not too short a time to get something approved, but then again I haven't worked at every company...

Consider this too, maybe your wiley manager wants to wait until the second offer is gone, and then low-ball you this has been done to me before, and may happen to you.

Wile E. Coyote
Saturday, November 16, 2002

Oh, and one other thing, next time make the manager feel good. Do something like this ... Well, I am only a contractor here, and they are willing to give me make me a permenanent with <Insert title +salary +  markup (don't scare them off here, but this is what you will "give up" to stay)>, then let the manager talk you into staying at the salary you want, you'll get what you wan't, the manager will believe they have great "Interpersonal" skills, and everyone will be happy

Wile E. Coyote
Saturday, November 16, 2002

Also, you have the upper hand in negotiation. Usually you don't. Usually the company does. If your current employer wants you to stay and makes an offer, insist on a long fixed term contract with no penalty clauses for termination.

This makes the existing position equivalent to the other position, for you. Thus, you ask for a 12 month contract and, if you are terminated early, the company must pay out your contract. Easy.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

I would never suggest this, but in this env, they can find another person easily. (Or so I've read). 

Accept both jobs, and push back the start date on offer #2.    If current employer gets the offer letter, great accept, and tell firm #2, that an emergency came up at client #1, and you have to extend, and you can't leave them, hanging, but please reconsider me for the future.  If current job doesn't come up with an offer, then go start at firm #2.

You keep both birds in hand, and look like a nice guy in the process.  Sorry, but sometimes you gotta look out for yourself also!

Good luck.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

What rates are you getting now a days?

Sunday, November 17, 2002

If you like your current job, keep it. Contractors frequently take home more pay than permanents anyway.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Tell them you can't get an answer to them that quickly because you're waiting on other parties (are you married? got a girlfriend? - you can always blame another party if it comes to relocation?). If they're a respectable company they'll give you some time to think. And, seriously, if your current company really wants you they should be able to get an offer on the table in time.

Mr Jack
Monday, November 18, 2002

if your current company really wants you they should be able to get an offer on the table in time.

I agree.

In some large companies, the paperwork trail may be so bad that a good manager who really wants you can't get you hired. 

Now, if the company is bad but the division is good, sometimes I might recommend working there anyway.  But if the company is bad and the division's manager isn't effective at battling the beurocrats, you've got a problem. 

If the other company is nimble  & strong, go for nimble and strong. If they both have similar problems, talk to some recent hires at the other company.  If they can get approval to buy things, permission to do new and interesting things, if the company has a quick reaction time, etc, go for the new company.

If the company fails all those tests, then company 1 & 2 sound pretty similar, and you'll have to look for a different way to tell them apart. Find it, and judge on that.  :-)


Matt H.
Monday, November 18, 2002

Get both parties to give you an official in writing job offer letter. Let me repeat, get it in writing. Evaluate only what is written down. Anything else is useless fluff.
This also works to delay the comm firm. They will not send out a letter unless managers and HR have seen it. That will take at least an extra week.

Doug Withau
Monday, November 18, 2002

Oh, and post a reply when it sorts itself out.  I'm curious.  (=

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

I'll definitely post a summary of how things work out once they've worked out :-).  I've managed to get the communications firm to slow down a bit, which is giving my current manager a little leeway to work the bureaucracy here in a more reasonable timeframe.  To complicate things even more though, a THIRD firm that I talked with only casually about a position prior to my current contract just got back in touch with me, seeing if I am still available.

Sheesh.  When it rains, it pours.

Pulled In Two Directions
Tuesday, November 19, 2002


Well, everything's been mostly straightened out.  Short story is that I took a contract extension over the full-time offer from the communications firm.  My reasons:

1. The comm. firm solidified my impression (and that of at least one other poster on this thread) that they're dysfunctional.  I won't go into details, but they tried to apply some pitiful pressure tactics to try to get me to jump to them quickly.  Folks who use those sorts of tactics aren't people I want to be involved with.

2. My current employer sweetened the deal slightly, and boosted by rate by about 2%.  Not huge, but it was a nice gesture, indicative of their intentions.

3. My boss, in exchange for not being able to get the contract extension until next week, summarily fired one piece of dead wood that has been dragging the whole team down since before I started here.  It's a small team (5 people now, including me), and this action was even better than a contract in writing as far as I'm concerned -- if they needed me before, they really need me now that we're one smaller.

4. I want to have my cake and eat it too.  I like the absurd pay rate I'm getting as a contractor, but I want to stay in one place for some moderate amount of time (~18 months would be good).  It looks like I'll be able to do that here.

So, that's that.  Hope you've all found this interesting/entertaining.  And thank you to those who offered advice; it helped to frame my thinking very nicely.

Pulled In Two Directions
Friday, November 22, 2002

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