The Tale of “1-click Apply”

Learning about newbie investing isn’t the only thing I’ve been crash-coursing myself on.

I just crash-coursed an entire career!

It’s ok; it was the result of a hit on a “1-click apply” job listing, so all’s fair.

I have a running list of jobs I’ve applied for ever since we closed our restaurants*: a series of word docs titled by month/year, for several years. That’s a LOT of cover letter rewrites. But, you know those “1-click apply” jobs? The ones that maybe wouldn’t be top of the list, but hey, “1-click” is like eating one gummy bear after another, you lose track.

To my surprise, I got an in-person interview off one of those “1-click applies.” I almost didn’t go; it paid less. The pros: maybe I could talk up the salary, and it was only 5 minutes from home! The cons: less pay, college grad type communications assistant position, and…had I actually applied for that? (l’d lost track of my “1-click apply” binge.)

I went. You see, prior to this, I had made a rule for myself: go on any interview I get. Either for the practice or the “you never know factor.”

In the small, 2-storey end unit of a tidy, industrial-area strip-building, was their office space, above a glass-walled conference room and very small showroom. It was just one guy and his one employee, whose claim to importance was that he was hired to photoshop various backgrounds behind the product. (That’s all I got.) 

The interview was going well, when suddenly it cranked up a steep-sloping, winding roller coaster track to the sky. “Can I show you something?” he asked.

I was then included in a VIP showing of his most precious product, something very new, very expensive, and very realistically attractive to a certain set of high-income consumers. I can’t say what, but in reality, everyone has these items, I doubt you can find a home built in the US without them; it’s not a toilet. The adjoining warehouse was stacked with inventory. The product was quite beautiful in design, truly.

Back in the quiet conference room, he said that he thought I’d be better in a different position. He offered me Director of…well he didn’t specify, but the work Marketing was sprinkled in the conversation. I kind of wanted to look behind me to see who he was talking to. Who, me? I couldn’t resist glancing at my 2015 Prius outside. Did he not see me arrive in that?

As I drove the five minutes home, which was more like eight due to 5pm traffic, I imagined he was going to come to his senses and retract his vague offer. I also felt that with my background, I could do the job. I can write, I can build a team, I can operate, and I thrive in on-the-fly situations.

I emailed him to say I was interested, and basically asking him to clarify. He wanted to talk again by phone that Friday.

I had three days to crash-course my way to Director of Marketing. I had access to academic databases, I had google and on my side. I read, I printed, I threw myself into hypothetical situations. I thought deeply on how I would get started, like, what would I actually put on my to-do list and how would I maintain credibility with a potential team?

“Waterfall” v “agile” strategy? Marketing Plan? Got it. Grad school be damned (although, that’s what I’ve wanted to do for years)! I wrote a 3-page presentation on what I would do and memorized it.

I also realized that this knowledge was what an MBA education would provide; however, if I got this title and succeeded, would I even need one?

Our phone call went well. Red Flag Alert: He made the offer of a different title: Director of Communications, because he had just hired a recent college grad to be Director of Marketing. (Yes, there were many red flags, so don’t @ me.) I was fine with that, as I figured a recent college grad would move on soon, and also, I could crash-course some knowledge from them. I also asked about his previous marketing plan, but he didn’t know what a marketing plan was. (Red Flag? IDK) I told him what creating a marketing plan could do for him, and what we could do to increase his profile among retailers and professionals. (FREE LABOR!)

Next, I would have to complete several batteries of very invasive, personal data-mining, “don’t-answer-what-you-feel-but-what-you-know-the-best-response-is” on-line assessments from a company that uses a primate as its namesake. This included the infamously biased 16-point personality test. Completely bogus. Before taking these tests, I crash-coursed what the head of Communications would do, of course!

To my chagrin, I was given Project Manager position assessments. I did NOT CRASH-COURSE that! Didn’t see that coming. (At least I know what my next crash course will be.) But why? Why did he pick that? I feel he probably let the assessment provider choose the tests. Red Flag. At least I aced the ol’ Excel test.

So technically, I was the Director of something I could actually do. This was unbelievable. Then came the offer: $42K per year, 5 days of vacay, 0 sick days, and a draconian cell phone policy that came right off someone else’s website from 2001 – as in no personal devices, and all family emergencies would get filtered through the owner. What am I…15 years old?

$42K. Friends, not only is that less that what I make, that wouldn’t even pay for an Orange County resident’s mortgage and car insurance. Wait, that’s before taxes! Even worse. (Heh, heh, that reminds me – Did I ever mention I owe the IRS $12K?)

I sat on this for several days and chatted with an HR friend, a few older professionals, friends. 

I made a counter-offer. I mentioned that the average salary in the OC for that position is $96K, and I’d take it for $65. I asked about increasing vacay ( I currently get 10 days plus 10 sick days). I respectfully declined to agree to the personal devices policy. I did a weird thing, since I thought this was going nowhwere anyway, I proposed Option 2, in which I work remotely for him concurrent with my other job for three months, at which time we reassess, but I cannot accept a position for less than what I make. I threw in there that my current job will allow me tuition remission for my kid who is applying there.

Ten days later, he actually responded! I wasn’t expecting to hear from him again, and I’d already decided that the job searching is so frustrating. Getting me nowhere. I had begun to talk with admissions counselors about an MBA program. In that ten-day space, I had gone from, “Should I take this job with a dozen red flags just for the TITLE?” to “F*&K this all, I should work on growing my side business, hunker down with this job for a minute and get my MBA.”

His counter-counter-offer was $55K. That’s it. He didn’t address anything else.

I told him I needed a few days.

Here’s what helped me.

I attended a class in an MBA program as a guest, and the golden prize from the professor which I took home was this: “If it’s not in the offer letter, you’re going to find it impossible to try to add later.” 

A trusted professor/lawyer/friend had this to say about the job-offer guy who mysteriously let his business lay fallow for several YEARS, “We know it won’t be his fault when success isn’t immediate, I wonder who he will blame?

A reliable friend who works in HR and has a Masters in that field: “…Trust your gut on this one. There are plenty of other companies out there.” And in response the guy’s behavior (this post only scratches the surface), “I get the sense he will be demanding and encroach on your time…You may have to set boundaries with this guy!

Now. I’ve sort of ghosted him, not on purpose. I did let him know my choices were working for him or getting an MBA. (I haven’t even figured out how to pay my portion of that yet, haha.) I have not gotten back to him since.

What would y’all do? Take the crummy job offer with a great title to leverage into a future great job? Or not, because of so many other red flags, and work on an MBA?

But I’m still at square one. I need to increase my income. For obvious “must-do-better” reasons to extremely personal and desperate reasons, I have to improve my life.


*A little boring backstory: I made a choice between going for my Master’s degree and opening up a restaurant many, many years ago. Partnered in four restaurants, co-operated one of them for 14 years. It was the last one of the four to close. Aside from seeking a job as a restaurant manager (Not doing that, unless it’s my own place), I’m left with few translatable skills. Lots of soft skills. Lots.

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