Sunday, April 5, 2015


Recently, I got to exercise the unique privilege of turning down a job offer.

Last month, I passed the AALAS (American Association for Laboratory Animal Science) LATg (Laboratory Animal Technologist) certification test, which is the highest level of certification in my field.  I've worked my job for two years now, and it's clear that I'm a big fish in a small pond.

 And I have the awards to prove it.

I rareely feel stimulated mentally.  My job includes husbandry, breeding, feeding, ensuring proper light, temperature, humidity, clean bedding, and so forth, plus record-keeping and minor procedures like trimming nails, teeth, give antibiotics, et cetera. It's a good job but it's frankly a little boring; I'm over-qualified and I'd like to move on to something more challenging.

So I applied to a laboratory that's part of the same institution I already work for. The job was a step up; it would be more research-based and require more work with tissue collection, dosing, et cetera, in addition to my usual health monitoring. The interview went incredibly, but I had some doubts, because it was mentioned that I would have to work Saturday and three evenings a week. Also, although the work was interesting, it involved a lot of animal modification. I generally do chronic studies and behavioural studies with very low mortality counts; this lab studies liver cirrhosis, so most of the animals are expected to die. I understand the necessity of this type of work, but I'm a bleeding heart and I love the animals, and animal death really bothers me.  I couldn't imagine losing several animals a day, every single day.  (Although the surgical demands on the job and the tissue-harvesting aspect appeals to me quite a bit.  I love dissections.)

Welp, I got a call about two days after the interview, and they told me my references gave me glowing reviews and they wanted to offer me the position. "Can you come in for a background check?" they asked.

I was confused because I'd been told that they would contact me next week, and that there would be a second interview.  They'd made it seem really competitive.

"What about the second interview?" I asked.

"There isn't one."

"Oh... well...  I really need more information before I can accept," I said.  "Could we schedule a sit-down meeting to discuss the terms of my employment?"

"...oh?" was the reply. As if it was unimaginable that I wanted to know how much they were going to pay me.

"How much would I be compensated?" I asked bluntly.

"$15.50 an hour," they said.

Fifteen-fifty an hour? Are you kidding me? I have a B.S. and over two years clinical experience, plus I'm a registered AALAS technologist. (The AALAS certifications are not cheap.)

 There are plenty of times to put on your shit-eating grin and nod and go with the flow.
But this was not one of those times.

The average college graduate in America gets $16.81 an hour out of school, according to CNN.  And that is a nation-wide average.  We live in Los Angeles. The cost of living here is not cheap.

Ask any hobo.

Side note: I already earn that much an hour.

There wasn't a polite way to say I felt insulted, so I said, "I'm sorry but I can't accept your offer. The compensation doesn't really make up for the hours."

The woman I was talking to, an administrator, said okay and hung up, but then I got a call from the lab's primary investigator (the big cheese, head honcho, et cetera) who asked why I hadn't accepted the offer. Was it the compensation or the hours? Well, both. I would need to be compensated quite a bit to sacrifice my Saturdays and evenings.

He said that he was willing to discuss compensation, but I had an idea already that if I said I would need at least $18 to even consider it, I would be laughed out of the field of animal research altogether.   (This is a grant-funded study and the money is fixed.)

So I said that I didn't think he could offer me enough to make up for the hours, and he said, "Well we were very clear about the hours. You really shouldn't be applying to this job if the hours don't work for you."

I felt an intense feeling of guilt and irritation; I already have a hard time saying no, and fuck him, they didn't tell me the hours until the interview, so how would I have known not to apply in the first place? But I gritted my teeth and said, "Well, I really appreciate the offer and thank you for your time. I hope you find a more appropriate candidate." And he said good-bye and hung up. (I got the impression he put the phone down rather hard.)

He threatened to find me, and to hire me.

Only two days later, I got a text from the guy who was rude to me.

"Hi, Julie, this is Dr. X," it said. "I'm still interested in recruiting you. Can we discuss this? Call me on my cell, (number), thanks."

I was blown away. This guy was a jerk and now he's crawling back. Look, buddy, if you want a workhorse, you can't shop bargain bin. That's just common sense.  You get what you pay for.  Don't expect to get a star employee for chump change.

I double-checked his job posting and discovered that he had listed compensation as $16.50 - $22.50 an hour. Oh really? And I got offered $15.50? Give me a break!

I text him back: "Thanks for your interest, Dr. X. Unfortunately, based on your initial offer, I don't think this is the career opportunity I've been looking for, and I have several other offers on the table right now. I don't want to take up any more of your time. I hope you find a suitable candidate for your lab. Thanks again, Julie."

It feels so validating to have this guy come crawling back, and it really bolstered my confidence. Also, it makes me feel good to have the privilege of turning down a job offer. Only a couple years ago I lived in abject poverty, and $15.50 an hour would have seemed like a million bucks. So I'm very conscious of just how lucky I am to be in a position to say "shove it" to that offer.

The same week all this went down, a supervisor's position opened up at my current job.  I applied, was interviewed, and was put on the short list.  Ultimately it came down to me and one other candidate, and by all accounts it was a very, very close decision.  The other candidate got it, but she has seniority over me, so I can't say I'm bitter.  Besides, you could say I'm next in line, in a way.  And I presented myself well during the interview, and my boss said everyone was very impressed by my manner of speech and the way I presented myself.  So that at least counts for something.  As usual, my annual performance review came back as "above average, and commendable."

I was given some more awards.

In personal matters, things are going both well and poorly.  I'm extremely depressed and overwhelmingly anxious about the upcoming wedding.  However, I finally called Andrew's mother and spoke to her about some of the things she's said about me behind my back, and she was fairly apologetic and unexpectedly kind to me.  We sorted our problems out in the sense that I consider us as starting over with a clean slate, and we've since had a couple of phone calls and exchanged a few e-mails.  I don't know if we'll ever see eye-to-eye on some things, but we at least get along, and for Andrew's benefit, that's enough for now.

I've begrudgingly upgraded her from "Disney villain" to "secondary protagonist" or "Disney hero in a poorly constructed sequel where Mandy Moore turns into a bear at the end."

I'll be happy when this month is over.  I'm struggling very hard against the feelings of sadness and anxiety, but I feel confident at least about my job and about most of my interpersonal relationships.

Post-blog note: Andrew and I went horseback riding on Valentine's Day.  Pictures to come.

Here's one to tide you over, also available on Andrew's more frequently updated but frankly much less interesting blog,  Naw, I'm kidding, it's okay.  Go check it out.