The Best Job I Never Took

When I was graduating college in 1996, I was armed with a business degree and a good deal of knowledge about computers.  Jobs were pretty plentiful at the time, so I was hoping I wouldn’t have a problem finding a job.

I knew the starting salary range that I would likely hit having seen many of the jobs out there that had come through campus interviews during our last semester.  I figured something in the $25-30k range was what I was to expect.

So, when you hear that I got a job offer for $35k for a job where I sailed through the interview process, you probably figure I took it, right?


And you probably think I’d lost my mind when I told you that I took a job for $27k, right?


So, why did I turn this job down and why do I carry no regrets about doing so, even fifteen years later?

Two reasons:

  1. They offered me a job doing something that I had no experience in doing
  2. They wanted me to commit to doing this for two years.

See, the job offer I got was to be a programmer.  Although I was great with computers, knowing pretty much everything there was to know about troubleshooting, setting one up, etc., I’d never done a single bit of programming in my life.  Our college offered a couple classes, which I never took.

So, right there I knew that I didn’t have a passion for it.  Could I have developed a passion?  Maybe.  And, if the second stipulation hadn’t been in place, I very well might have tried it.

They knew that I didn’t have any programming experience.  They were fine with that.  Programmers at that time were in short supply compared to the demand.  But, they were willing to teach me.  The first month or two of my employment would be classes that would teach me some of the programming skills that they’d expect me to master.

In return for paying for those classes and for paying me for time that I would be not earning any money, they required a two year commitment.  If I left before that two years, I’d have to pay them back for the training classes that they would provide.

It was too big of a risk and I turned the job down.

Now, I never tried to do any programming, even after that.  I suspect that I wouldn’t have been very good at it.  The closest I equated programming was high school geometry.  In geometry, one of the things I hated more than anything was writing out ‘proofs’, where you had ‘the answer’ and were supposed to show how you got there.  I could do most of the proofs, but was very inefficient at them.  I would take fifteen steps to prove something that most people could do in five or six steps.  I suspect that my programming skills would have been the same.  I applaud those who are great programmers, I just don’t think I would have been one of them.

The job I took allowed me to utilize and build upon my knowledge of how computers themselves work, and even though the job I took paid less, I loved it.  I loved the people I worked with, I loved the skills and experiences I gained.  I loved that it was a stepping stone to higher paying jobs down the road.

Had I been focused only on the money, I would have taken that job in a heartbeat.

Now, this was a job that I wasn’t qualified for that I didn’t take.  In future posts, I’ll tell you about two other times when I received offers on a position that I didn’t have experience with and how they worked out.

Have you ever taken a lower paying job offer over one that paid more?  If so, what drove you to that decision?

8 thoughts on “The Best Job I Never Took”

  1. Too often, people only think of one thing when deciding whether to accept a job offer — the money. Realistically, many other aspects need to be considered, such as location, benefits, hours, and, like you said, enjoyment of the job & your familiarity with the tasks. Great article!

  2. i hated my last job so much I was interviewing for jobs where I knew I would make less. Sometimes your sanity is more important than you bank account.

    Sometimes ; )

  3. Yep! I turned down a job with a higher salary for one that offered a lower salary…but greater room for development.

    The lower salaried job was in the industry I wanted to work in and the role opened opportunities for much higher salaried roles down the line. Sometimes it's worth thinking longer term.

  4. Man beagle, as a sometimes programmer, I can tell you that it is AWESOME.
    But thats an interesting story – I have one similar that I may write about, though I still am a little burned up about it because it worked a bit differently than yours.

  5. Loved your story. I actually accepted the job offer when I did not have any experience in it. Turned out to be just fine. The potential was there though. But took me a very long time to learn. A lot of sleepless nights too!

  6. @Pam – Yes, it was tempting because of the money but I had to go with my gut.

    @Newlyweds – I agree 100%. Good luck on your search.

    @Harri – Sometimes the opportunities down the line are just as important as the one in front of you.

    @Jeff – To each their own! Look forward to hearing your story!

    @Aloysa – Sometimes lack of experience is just fine, other times it can be a nightmare. I have upcoming posts planned about both!

  7. In 2002, after I got fired from my first real job after finishing grad school, I had to choose between a temp-to-hire job doing institutional research making around $35K+ or a social worker job making $28K. I took the social worker job. I took that job because a) it was permanent and b) it had health insurance.

    I had no experience as a social worker at all but even at the age of 25, I knew that health insurance was important. So I went with that. I can't say it was a good decision almost 10 years later but at the time, it was what I had to do.

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