This wasn’t just any job. It was one in which my whole body resonated. The kind of job I’d always imagined, but never thought existed. It brought together heart and profit, passion and ambition, talent and hard work. For six weeks, I had been interviewing — first, for two weeks in the typical way, through conversations on Skype; and then for four weeks as a contractor while we worked together to make sure it was a good fit.
We both acknowledged that it was. They flew me out to the home office, and then to another job site. I worked hard, and was commended for my contributions. I loved the people I met and worked with, and knew that I would grow and learn with them. For their part, my future employer went as far as to add me to the senior leadership team email list before the offer was made. That’s how sure we both were.
And then the offer came in at $10K less than the starting range promoted in their listing, and $20K less than my target.
I was thrown off my game. I thanked them for the offer, and said I needed to think about it. This was met with surprise, and I was asked if I had any questions about the offer. I hesitated, and then said that I was wondering why the range was lower than we had been discussing. The human resources person, who was officially making the offer, denied that there was a posted range, and asked me what I had been seeking. A wiser person would have closed the conversation and taken time to consider how to respond, but I was not that person, not in that moment.
I answered honestly. It was a number that was $20K higher than her offer.
The conversation grew notably tense and confusing then. It didn’t help that I was speaking with someone I’d barely interacted with until then, and with whom I had not had any salary conversations (in addition to the recruiter’s posting which stated the salary, I had been asked about my salary needs, and had reiterated that range in two conversations during initial interviews. Neither of those interviewers were on the offer call, and the human resources person had no knowledge of this content.) I asked for time to think about it (at the start of the conversation, the human resources person had optimistically offered that I could begin that day), while she said she would go back to the team to see if there was room to move. We agreed to circle back within two days, and she sent me the offer in writing.
Before the end of the day, I had been scolded by the person who had brought me on as a contractor. My response about the salary had “raised red flags” and given her “cold feet.” I was characterized as bitter. (This, from someone who wrote to me after my email thanking her for the initial interview that this was “the most perceptive email thank you she had ever received.”) I apologized, and tried to explain that I was confused by the disparity in the ranges. She pointed out, correctly, that while I had stated my range to her, she had never actually said that was what they would pay. I couldn’t argue with that.
Despite this clear breakdown, I still wanted the job. Even at $20K lower than my target, it was a great opportunity doing something that I excel at and at which I would learn. I discussed it with my husband, and made the case for accepting it. He understood my reasons, even though it meant having to make up that income in other ways.
I finally met with the human resources manager and the hiring supervisor two days after the initial offer. I had written to them both in the interim, thanking them for the offer and apologizing for my confusion. I was expecting this conversation to be one where I would accept the offer, and my prospective supervisor and I would talk about the onboarding and a few other things.
Before I could get to any of that, the human resources person let me know that based on our conversation the other day, and their need to have someone in this role who really wanted to be there, they thought it was best that we part ways.
The offer was rescinded.
I was stunned. I didn’t know how we could have gone from bringing me onto the team before the offer was even made, to swiftly determining that I was not the right fit, after making an offer to which I raised questions.
Of course, I had no choice but to accept it. I could be gracious about it, or not, and I chose to be gracious. I hope I succeeded.
But in the days since then I have been grieving. The work was exciting, to be sure, and I had made connections with this team after working with them for six weeks. That ended abruptly, and after I had been announced to the team, so I can only imagine how this reversal was explained.
Even more than that, though, is the confusion about what went wrong. Was I so out of line to point out the disparity? For reference, I went back to the initial email from the recruiter. The salary was named in the first line of the email. I followed up with him after this to let him know how the process went, and I asked him about it. Did he take a liberty? Was he not supposed to disclose the range? He checked the job order and confirmed that the range was accurate (“…and higher,” he said).
So here I am, one week post-offer, and five days post-rescind, having to tolerate the complete not-knowing of what went wrong. In the falling apart, I am having to learn again how little we control.
This experience pushed buttons of shame and fear for me. Something I wanted was swiftly taken away from me after I did something I thought was right. The “if onlys” are starting: If only I’d said a cheerful “Thank you!” and ended the call then. If only I had just accepted it as is. If only I had asked about the salary range in those first conversations, rather than assuming that their silence (and the recruiter’s posting) was a tacit agreement.
I feel ashamed for not being enough for them now, after they were so excited about me. Shame says “You must have done something really bad, girl, for them to turn you out like that.”
Shame and fear are deeply rooted in our systems. My system, anyhow. I know enough now to know that when things get really hairy, and the deepest stuff starts coming up, it’s because it needs to. This was a freak event from start to finish. A whirlwind romance that came out of nowhere, and was over before it started it. Before it left, it dredged up something that apparently needed to be dredged up for me: the shame of not being good enough. In this falling apart, the shame is getting to see the light of day. And little survives when we turn the light of day (our love, our consciousness) on it.
Byron Katie has a saying that I am fond of these days: Our job is unconditional love. The job of everyone else in our life is to push our buttons.
I’m going to take this for the gift that it is: the chance to have my buttons pushed, so I can see and clear out something more. As another friend says, The universe is always acting in my favor. This — this falling apart — has illuminated something that needed air and light. For that, I say yes, and thank you.