Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Job Offer

Below are some questions to ask before accepting a job. I truly wish I had asked some of these in particular before I started my last job.

  1. Will I receive any Medical insurance benefits?
    1. If so, when does eligibility begin?
      1. True horror story: At my last job benefits didn’t start for 3 months. Thus, I had to pay COBRA for three months. Three months of COBRA was well over $6000 and swallowed up the difference between the salary I was initially offered and the salary I had negotiated.
    2. If so, is anyone covered besides me (spouse, dependents)?
      1. True horror story: At my last job no one was covered but me. Not a family-friendly policy, and I had never conceived of such a thing before I started working there.
    3. How much will it cost to cover everyone?
      1. You can ask them for the health benefits information*–premiums, copay, deductible, what’s covered, name of insurance company–before you accept the job. You can do some estimates on how much you’ll have to pay, to ensure you can afford to work there.
  2. Will I receive any vision benefits?
    1. If so, when does eligibility begin?
    2. If so, is anyone covered besides me (spouse, dependents)?
    3. How much will it cost to cover everyone?
  3. Will I receive any dental benefits?
    1. If so, when does eligibility begin?
    2. If so, is anyone covered besides me (spouse, dependents)
    3. How much will it cost to cover everyone?
  4. If spouse and dependents are not covered for medical, vision, or dental, but I am, can I pay to have them covered?
    1. If so, what is the cost?
      1. You should avoid this if possible, since it is likely to be damned expensive. But if you have no choice, you should at least know what you’re getting into.
  5. Is there a noncompete agreement I will be required to sign?
    1. If so, may I see it?
      1. Make sure that, if you quit or are fired, it’s not so all-inclusive that it prohibits you from getting a job in your field. Ask your prospective employer if you can amend it if it’s too heavy-handed (make the changes you’d like and ask if they will accept them)
  6. How much PTO (including sick time) will I receive?
    1. How is PTO given (accrued, or given as lump amount at beginning of year)?
      1. If accrued, how often is it accrued? Every month, every 6 months?
    2. When am I eligible to start taking PTO?
    3. Does the amount of PTO ever increase, and if so, on what schedule?
  7. What are the company holidays?
  8. What are the core office hours?
  9. What is the dress code?
  10. How long is the work day?
    1. Does that include lunch?
    2. What do people typically do for lunch?
  11. Is there a possibility of working from home?
    1. On an ad-hoc basis, e.g., to wait for a repair person or stay home with a sick child
    2. On a scheduled basis, potentially after a probation period
  12. What is the review process?
  13. Is there a 401k or 403b, and, if so, is there any matching?

Questions to ask yourself

  1. How will I commute to this job?
    1. Drive or take public transportation?
    2. How much will it cost (fare, gas, and tolls)?
    3. How long will it take?
    4. Where will I park?
    5. How much will parking cost?
    6. How long does it take to get from where I’ve parked to walk to the office?
    7. Can I manage this commute?
      1. Drive the drive. In the rain. On a Monday morning. When there is no spring break or summer or other reason for the traffic to be light. Keep it real.

*I always get these things confused, so I am including my personal understanding here in an attempt to be helpful. These are rough, non-professional, non-legally binding definitions that do not take precedence over anything at all.

Premium = the amount you pay out of your paycheck every pay period. This will stay constant throughout the year unless you add or remove a dependent, or possibly unless your salary changes. Unfortunately, the premium is NOT included in the deductible.

Deductible = An amount that you must pay before insurance will pay for anything. For example, if you have a high-deductible plan and your deductible is $6000, you will pay astronomically high prices for everything, such as $235 for a prescription drug, until you have shelled out $6000. After that the drug will be $15 or whatever.  Sadly, putting off medical care because of the deductible is pointless. It won’t go away on its own.

Copay = The amount you pay for prescriptions and medical care. These payments ARE included in your deductible; or rather, they ARE your deductible (that is, they are the only way to pay off the deductible). They will vary depending on whether you have paid off your deductible as in the $235/$15 example above; also, sometimes the costs of drugs changes. The amount also varies depending on whether services are covered and whether doctors or facilities are in-network.


A Big Thank-You to My Ex-employer

There is a company where I want to work (I’ll call it Company E). Maybe I should say “wanted,” since Company E has lost all its cache lately. But in the recent past, I coveted a job there.

I have an unemployed, job-hunting friend (I’ll call her B) who has the same job title as me. She has more experience, but I have plenty. We’re both qualified; however, I have, or used to have, what she did not: a relationship with a recruiter who gets jobs at E.

Just before I was fired, but not long before, I was actively job hunting because of the horrible commute, mentioned excessively in previous posts. I contacted my recruiter pal just in case; and lo and behold, a shiny new position had opened at E.

Perhaps foolishly, I mentioned this to B, and she asked me to send her resume to the recruiter. I agreed to do this, even though a little voice was saying “Are you nuts? Why introduce competition? How stupid will you feel if she gets the job and you don’t?” Another voice, however, said “Don’t be greedy. Maybe you won’t get the job and would never have gotten it–why deprive her? We each only need one job.”

We each got to the phone screen phase, and mine went well. B’s phone screen, apparently, went better: she was called for an in-person interview at E and I wasn’t. I felt a little sad, but not devastated. I wished her luck.

Part of the reason I was being so magnanimous is that, since being fired, I’ve had to trust the universe a lot more than I usually do. Things suddenly spiraled out of control so thoroughly when I was given the axe, that I had to acknowledge that control is an illusion. And I also have realized that while it makes sense to work at finding a job, it doesn’t make sense to worry about it. To my amazement, the past week and a half have been relatively worry free. I can’t exactly say that I have faith that I’ll get a job, but more that I haven’t been spending as much time thinking about it as I would have expected. Sure, I’ve had a few moments of panic. But in general I’ve been feeling more relaxed and happy than I can remember feeling in many years. So strange!

When B asked for that favor, I realized how much she wanted that job. It’s not like she’s been lacking for interviews and leads. It’s a little humbling, I think, to ask for a big favor. Essentially, she was asking me potentially to sacrifice something that I wanted so that she could have it. Refusing would have felt wrong.

Not long after my unsuccessful phone screen, a different job I had been working on suddenly heated up like crazy. The HR person started emailing and calling. I had an in-person interview that went well, and that job suddenly started to seem like what I’ve been seeking for years. There is a very high chance that I will be offered that job tomorrow morning.

I feel optimistic but also surprisingly calm. I’d be delighted to get the job; but if I don’t, well, I’ll keep trying and life will continue.

What I’m trying to say is that somehow, being fired has turned out to be one of the best things that has happened to me. It has helped me enjoy life and accept what happens. Of course I haven’t suddenly become a different person, but the thoughts and attitudes that have inhabited my mind since I walked out that door are generally much different, and much better, than what’s usually in there. Go figure.

Employee Handbook

Hinting that anything is not perfect at any time is cause for termination.

All employees must work overtime every day, regardless of whether assigned work has been completed. Repeated failure to work more than 8 hours in a day is grounds for termination.

Employees must constantly type on their keyboards as fast as possible all day. Reviewing, pondering, planning, wondering, investigating, and the like are considered forms of shirking and will result in termination.

Writing a positive (5-star) review on Glassdoor is compulsory. Glassdoor reviews MUST highlight the FANTASTIC company culture. While the company is unable to verify the authorship of reviews, anyone suspected of writing an unfavorable review will be terminated.

Agreement with the CEO at all times is recommended, and any employee considered to be in violation of this policy will be terminated.

Any employee must go out to lunch with the CEO if the CEO requests it. Please note that the cost of lunches is not reimbursed. The cost may range from $12 to $14 and will take place at a mediocre restaurant. Employees are reminded that mandatory lunches with the CEO are included in the FANTASTIC company culture. Inadequate lunch participation is highly frowned upon and is likely to lead to termination.

Employees must join all applicable Slack channels and respond to posts with the appropriate animated emoji as soon as possible. Once an emoji has received seven upvotes, it is recommended that the next most appropriate animated emoji be chosen. For example, if seven people have already used the dancing panda, the next employee to respond to a post should select the dancing dinosaur. Misuse of emojis will result in termination.

Should you have any questions regarding these policies, it is recommended that you keep them to yourself. There is no one to ask, first of all; and second of all, the fact that you have questions is a strong indicator that you are not a good fit. In fact, it is recommended that you pack up your belongings and exit the premises now. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Freedom, Sweet Freedom (Sort of)

I was fired yesterday.

Here’s how it went down: I arrived at work at 7:15, as usual. I start(ed) at 7:30 officially, but usually arrived early. Usually, one of the developers, I’ll call him H, was there early as well and we usually chatted.

H is one of the notably successful employees at the T. company. He is well-liked and does a good job. He’s young and understands all of the hipness flowing through the Slack channels. He’s a go-to person for lots of things. He embodies the company spirit: helpful, friendly, talented. Truth be told, though I liked him (and how could one not?), I always suspected that he had been assigned to observe and report on me.

After our morning chat (we touched on HQ trivia, Bitcoin, the weather, a colleague who gets by on little sleep, the fact that there are no holidays coming up for awhile, and other things) we sat down at our respective desks, and began working.

At nine or so, other folks started trickling in and there was a lot of grunting of “good morning,” hanging up of coats, and settling in.

I should mention it’s one big room, with no dividers of any kind; just desks side-by-side in rows. Start-up style.

My boss came in. He did or didn’t say anything. Probably, he didn’t. I didn’t notice. I face away from him and I was hard at work. But after awhile, he was walking toward me and he said, with no kindness in his voice, “[my name], can you come with me?” This could have been a brief discussion of one thing or another, but he walked past the small conference rooms where that would have happened and instead led me to the office manager’s office. She was there, standing, looking grim. “Sit down,” he commanded. I sat.

“We’re terminating your employment, effective immediately. It’s due to your performance. You didn’t make enough progress on the C project,” he said. My heart started pounding and my head was stuffed with cotton. I even want to say that a rushing sound filled my ears. Maybe it did. “I understand,” I said. I fumbled through a few questions. Is there any severance pay? No. Did he want me to go through unfinished work with him? “That’s ok,” he declined, pitying. He said I could go get my stuff, and stayed behind as I stumbled off. My main concern at that point was to get the hell out of there as fast as possible, without falling or shrieking or having some type of awkward mishap.

The thing is, I knew. I had actually packed a few empty plastic bags the day before in case I had to pack up my stuff. No one looked up as I opened my desk drawers and stacked my boxes of tea, my cheap-ass 5ive Below mouse with no batteries, my other miscellaneous junk on the desk. I packed everything into the bags, aware that as I trudged out with my tote bag, handbag, and two plastic sacks filled with crap, I would look exactly like a vagrant being kicked off the premises.

The studious quiet of my nearby ex-coworkers indicated that, even if they hadn’t known beforehand, they knew now. I removed the building-access keyfob from my keychain and said in a low voice to L, who sat closest, “I’m leaving this here” as I placed it on the desk. Forgot to remove the desk key from my keychain. Oh well.

And then I drove home.

Part of me thought, “Hallelujah, I never have to make this stinking commute again.” Another part thought, “WTF?? I’m unemployed? How can that be?” This train of thought led to visions failure to pay bills and mortgage, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and shame. I tried hard instead to convince myself that I’d get a job soon (I have no reason not to take contract positions now!) and all would be well. It would all work out!

Looking back, I have to wonder if I got myself fired on purpose. It was Wednesday that I got fired, and on Monday I had held a meeting with the CEO and a few other people in which essentially I deliberately and blatantly said, “I’m incompetent, I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m too stupid and naiive even to try to hide it.” I assume that after that meeting, the CEO made the determination to axe me. I was allowed to work on Tuesday as they got he W4 forms ready, and was fired as soon as things were in place on Wednesday.

I hated the commute, as I have mentioned. I also never felt that I fit in; I felt like a zoo animal that unaccountably had some skills and whom they had hired as an experiment. People there talked to me, because that’s what they do, yet there always seemed to be a tentative, curious air to their demeanor.

Anyone paying attention would have noted the following:

  • Though I only came in late one time, and in fact all the other times came in early, I began arriving later and later as the days went by.
  • My appearance started to deteriorate; I gained weight, my clothes were sloppy, and I looked entirely unprofessional. It’s a casual office. You can wear what you want. But some people look good and I looked like I wasn’t trying.
  • I started eating more and more. I would work at my desk while munching bags of snacks. It’s OK to eat at your desk. Yet eating more and gaining weight often, often means that someone is unhappy. And it means, the work wasn’t enough to keep me content. I needed extra to palliate myself.
  • I stopped having any sparkle. I was resigned. I lost hope that I’d be able to make a difference. That’s not to say that I didn’t do my work; I absolutely did. But they wanted my spirit, and I didn’t give it to them.
  • I didn’t go out to lunch with them. Well, I couldn’t make myself! The restaurants in the area are overpriced and mediocre! Plus I normally only took a half-hour lunch so that I could leave before the rush-hour traffic. I genuinely didn’t feel I could afford to eat out at the places they frequent more than once in awhile. And, the vegan food choices are pretty minimal. But they all go out almost every day. How they afford it, how they stand it, I don’t know.
  • Leaving punctually at the end of each day itself was a major offence. People do not watch the clock or rush out at a given time there. The ironic thing is, frequently I was very engaged in my work and would happily have stayed longer if it hadn’t meant my commute would be doubled. I never worked at home, either, again not because I was opposed to the idea but rather because, after the harrowing drive home, I was exhausted.

I frequently fantasized about not working there, and not having to drive there, and not having to worry about the C project. I couldn’t bring myself to quit, and probably that’s a good thing because you can’t get unemployment if you quit. So I made them fire me.

I only hope it doesn’t keep me from getting a job. I’m determined to do better next time, in terms of not talking myself into taking something that’s not right for me. On the other hand, now I have less freedom to be picky. Oy!

It Never Turns Out the Way You Think It Will

I started my new job about a month ago. I was apprehensive about making a change after so many years at my last job. Would it take me too long to learn their systems, processes, and culture? Would I be able to make friends, when my coworkers would be so much younger than me? Would I provide any value and deserve the salary I had negotiated?

After a month, I know the answers to the questions.

No, it wouldn’t take me too long to learn the stuff. I’m learning quickly enough. My boss seems happy with me, and I have lots of ideas. In fact I’m incredibly busy.

The work is fun, too. I enjoy it much more than the work at my last place.

My coworkers are friendly, helpful, motivated, engaged, and smart. The company is small enough that they are still able to tightly control this. Being nice is a major requirement for the job. Little did I know, when asked at the interview what my biggest pet peeve was, that my answer of “People being rude” could not have been improved upon. Every morning when I arrive, the one person who starts earlier than me comes over to chat. He’s a real sweetheart. I always have to send him away after awhile so that I can actually do some work. There are one or two other folks whom I’ve gotten to know better and who could turn into friends in time.

Great! You say. So are you finally happy now? Will you shut up about job-hunting already?

Sadly, even tragically, no. There are some problems after all.

Problem #1, ranked highest because it bothers me greatly on a twice-daily basis, is the fucking commute. My brain isn’t too old to learn Jira, Confluence, Slack, Hubspot, or the company’s own application. But it turns out that my eyes are too old to handle the glare of oncoming traffic in the dark. I leave in the dark and come home in the dark, because if I leave later in the morning it takes longer and the sun sets on my ride home. I know that’s a function of the time of year, but at the moment it’s unbearable.

The journey itself is long. I can’t see because it’s dark and because of the glare, so it’s also scary.  There’s construction and long stretches with no shoulder. It’s also too long for my Chevy Volt; I use up the battery on the way to work, so I’m guzzling gas and I hate that. When I get home, since I don’t have a fast charger, the battery doesn’t fully charge overnight. I can’t afford a fast charger because of

Problem #2. I am hurtling toward poverty, somehow. It’s not just the braces I paid for in full upfront because it was cheaper that way. It’s not missing out on two weeks of income. It’s not having to pay COBRA for four people at a rate of $2200 per month for three months (and thereafter having to pay FULL price for the company’s insurance for three people). It’s not having to pay $21 a day in highway tolls. It’s not having residual debt from the last family trip and paying too much for kids’ activities, and not having bought Christmas presents yet. It’s all of those things. I don’t even know how I suddenly became this poor this fast.

So, I need to start looking again. If I can just find a job that pays health insurance for the entire family, and coverage starts very soon after being hired, and that pays a decent wage, I think I will be OK. It’s the COBRA that’s the biggest killer. That’s why they call it COBRA, duh.

But you hated your last job so much, you say. And you like this one. Can’t you just blah blah blah? No, I can’t. Podcasts will not change the fact that I don’t want to be driving for three hours a day.

Also; I did hate my last job, but part of what was happening was a gradual deterioration of conditions over a long period of time. A continuous series of disappointments and insults, bad decisions from on high, and irritating situations that chafed me too much after years of enduring them. A new job may in fact have all of the same problems, but it would have to be truly horrible for me to hate it in a short period of time. The fact is, I am pretty tolerant and adaptable. I know how to make it work, when it comes to some things. I will survive. There’s some truth to the idea that something can be better just because it’s different.

It is a terrible shame, and I feel profoundly sad when I think about how disappointed those people would be if I quit. But I don’t owe them anything other than to work hard while I’m there (and follow the company policies, etc.). They certainly wouldn’t hesitate to fire me if they had a reason. I sincerely feel I’m heading toward financial ruin or a nervous breakdown, or both.

I get up too early and get home too frazzled. I don’t have enough downtime. Whatever, I don’t have to justify my actions.

One more thing! The car is leased and I will violate my lease terms at this rate of driving more than 60 miles a day. So I’ll have to renegotiate I guess, which will mean it’s more expensive. Bleagh.



Livin’ Was Easy

My last day of work was Wednesday, November 1. The week preceding was a blur of lunches, happy hours, and hallway conversations about being shocked to hear I was leaving, questions about where I was going, and pledges to miss me. It all felt sadder than I was expecting.

The last day itself was crazy; I had planned to actually do some work, but could not due to the stream of phone calls, emails, IMs, and visitors. My face hurt from smiling. The president surprised me by appearing in my office and giving me a big hug. He asked more meaningful questions than the HR person at the exit interview. I eventually finished the last few tasks and carried the last load of belongings to the last appointment, which was with my soon-to-be-ex supervisor. I had foolishly purchased a dozen vegan doughnuts at the final lunch, at the new vegan doughnut place. Vegan doughnuts are hard to come by! I might not be in that area for a long time! But they packed them in a pizza box and carrying it was awkward, in combination with the miscellaneous other items.

But eventually, there I was; I had left the building. I couldn’t help but feel a minor wave of panic. Had I made a huge mistake? Would I regret this forever? The Glands’ song Livin’ Was Easy started playing in my mind — I think that song is about a rehab center, but I’m not completely sure — but suddenly it seemed to apply to me.

Sadly, but predictably, I couldn’t feel joy in leaving because I’m not completely sure what I’m doing next. Yes, there is a company that is fully expecting me to show up on the 13th to start work. But there is another company that also might want me to show up, and I am waiting to hear whether the “might” turns into “does.” And if they do, I have to turn down the first company, which feels so bad.

I can tell you what will happen: I will send my regrets email and never hear from them ever again. They won’t send an email saying “Thanks for letting us know.” They will be silent. They will owe and give me nothing, so that whenever I think if them I will feel a twinge.

I should be out of my misery — at least the not-knowing-what-I’m-doing part — some time tomorrow, is the good news.

Obsessive Comparison

I cannot help obsessing about the potential decision ahead of me–between Job A and Job B.

Job A.

  • Might be a lot of fun!
  • I’d be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, markedly so compared to my current position.
  • Might be an actual financial struggle, after the lower salary and paying out of pocket for kids’ and spouse’s medical insurance. It adds up to about $10,000 per year. That’s a lot of cash! Combine that with the lower salary and I’m already down $17K. I wasn’t making the change for financial reasons, but UGH!
  • Likely to be a borderline-unbearable commute
  • Might be a way to get in on the ground floor of a company that will shoot to the top of its class (it seems to be doing great and is gaining momentum)
  • They like me! They really, really like me. This is important because my supervisors at my soon-to-be-ex job have seemed insultingly indifferent for the past few years.  My colleagues are appreciative, but they’re not the ones giving out raises and promotions.
  • Contributions to 401K are small. Compared to current job, it’s another $10K less per year, so now we’re up to $27K less!
  • Plus commute is much more expensive in addition to longer, possibly $4K per year due to tolls and not even counting gas, so now a $31K per year loss.
  • I think I can handle the lower income, but it certainly wasn’t my goal to have to.

Job B.

  • I might not get hired permanently! Then how stupid would I feel? Really, really stupid.
  • I might hate the work! It might be more bureaucracy and unwillingness to do things better, or even think honestly about doing things better, than my current job.
  • It’s a perfectly fine commute. Negligibly farther than my current commute, but, IF I were hired permanently, it would end up being cheaper because they’d pay for parking.
  • IF I were hired permanently, health insurance would be amply covered for me AND my family.
  • If I were hired permanently, salary would increase from current job.
  • While waiting to be hired, I’d be paid a high hourly rate that would cover COBRA, no problem.

I’m also thinking…I am not planning on working another 20 years. It will be 10 more at the lowest possible end of the scale and 15 more at the highest, I hope. So though Job A might end up being more lucrative in the long run, I might not want to stick around for the long run. It would take a couple of years to catch up to where I am now assuming pretty good raises. But we’ve now already cut into the remaining work years. I’m feeling a little old for this adventure. Of course, I accepted it with no Job B in sight, but now that there is a potential alternative…

Plus I am thinking…At my current job, I had a sort of persona. I would say I was pragmatic and inventive, but I wasn’t necessarily cheerful or optimistic. I can’t say I was much of a leader. I have been thinking that, with either Job A or B, I would change my persona. I think it’s much easier to change in a new milieu than in the current situation. But, in order to get ahead, I’d have to be very optimistic, very can-do, very encouraging. I would have to carefully avoid snark. That would be the path toward ascension, I would think.

At Job B, I don’t know yet what persona would be best, but I would obviously be working to figure that out and become it ASAP. I would be whatever would most increase my chances of getting that permanent position and of being valued and rewarded until I retired.

Why did I not do this at my current job, you ask? It has to do in large part with being forced to do things, and being in a powerless position. There was a reorganization and I was plucked from one department and dropped into another with no warning. My title was changed even though I voiced opposition. Bosses changed, policies changed, bad decisions were made. If you start a job and bad decisions are already in place, I think that’s quite different from seeing one after another bad decision unfold. Over the years, many things worsened.

Going into a new job, I have lost a lot of idealism and gained some wisdom. I am really not interested in starting my own business at this point; and thus, I am subject to the judgment of others. At my current job, the poor judgment became overwhelming and that’s why I am here now, with three days left.

Going into a new job, I would have an entirely different attitude. I’d love to be idealistic again, but it hurts when idealism is abandoned for profit or anything less noble. I’m not saying I’ll be cynical, but I’m not as naiive.

Job B interview is on Tuesday and of course all this pondering may be for naught.