I had a dream this morning.
I dreamt that I was in a small office with a former employer of mine. The office was bare except for a row of three desks, three chairs, and one computer. I was on one side of the row; my former boss was on the other side. He was explaining to me that his former business had gone belly-up shortly after I had chosen to leave. The reason I was summoned to his current office was to make a proposal: he will offer me $300/month, for one year, if I perform one task. At this time, an assistant materializes out of nowhere and lays out a pair of undies. Hideous, green, lace panties that appeared to shimmer in the stark light. I was to wear it everyday in order to test the quality of it. I asked if there was another pair to alternate with this one. No. The assistant places a contract on the desk. I would not be allowed to wear any other underwear but this pair. I’m now holding the underwear in my hand, inspecting the condition and the tag, to figure what material it was made out of. All it said was Made In Noneofyourbusiness. My boss is casually reminding me that I have not found a job yet, and that if I had any sense or conscience for what I did to his former business, that I should sign the contract. The green panties revolving in my hands was a kaleidoscope of aqua, turquoise, teal, peacock…
I woke up, had a bowl of cereal, and am now writing this post.
It is true that my former boss no longer operates the business I used to work at. It now seems to be a skeleton of what it used to be. Am I conceited enough to believe that my absence was to blame? A little bit.
What strikes me about the dream is that I was actually considering the job offer. I don’t feel desperate enough – in real life – to take on low-paying, unhygienic and sexually humiliating work. I do think that being unemployed is a departure from the confidence and security one feels when he or she does have a job, and I have found myself – in real life – considering job positions I normally never would just to have a job again.
I recently received a job offer. On paper, it was a slight step backwards in terms of the level of responsibility I used to have in my former job. It would also be a huge difference of pay in the wrong direction. I found myself justifying my desire for the job by making excuses: I know I can do this job because I’ve held a similar job like it before; it is a smaller business in a different industry so their monetary offer is based on what they can afford; I haven’t received any other job offers and I don’t want to regret not taking this one.
In my internal struggle, I recalled a book I had read called The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap by Susan Pinker*. I remembered reading about how women have a tendency to not want to negotiate employment contracts, or higher pay, for fear of losing the job. This fear (and the employer’s knowledge of this fear) often helps to maintain the gender gap in salaries. Even if that woman ends up successfully asking for a raise in later years, because she accepted the initial contract that offered less, she will still find herself paid less than her male peers.
Upon remembering this, I tried my hand – for the first time – at negotiating an offer. My potential employer wanted to meet with me the next day to go over details. I decided to bounce my thoughts off of a friend to get her opinion. She reminded me that if the job doesn’t feel right then I shouldn’t accept the offer. Why negotiate for a job you don’t really want in the first place?
Since I love to over-analyze things to death I turned to Google. I love Google. I googled “how do you know when to accept a job offer?”. I clicked on a Harvard Business Review blog post titled Accept the Job Offer? Or Walk Away? While the author provided some good reasoning, it was actually a reply to the blog post that grabbed me. This person, named Sharon, suggested asking yourself three questions when deciding to accept a job or not:
1) Will the job teach you something you want to learn?
2) Will you be exposed to industry professionals who may be helpful to you later?
3) How will future employers / graduate schools view this experience?
After reading this, and realizing that my answer to all three questions was No, I decided not to take the job.
My job search continues.
I am one of those people who believes that dreams have meaning. It’s like your conscience saying “Since you clearly aren’t getting it while you’re awake, let me hit you over the head with it now while you’re sleeping”.
What I’m going to take away from this dream is:
- Acknowledge that I have deep-seeded desperation and figure out how to challenge it without needing to consider jobs that I know I aren’t right for me.
- When I receive a job offer, don’t be a girl about it (yes, I cringed just typing that). Have confidence in my position and decide to either decline or make a counter-offer.
- It’s probably time to buy some new underwear.