So after I got back from Chicago on Monday night, I was scheduled to fly out of Houston for Newark Tuesday morning for three interviews over two days. Due to flight delays and the timing of it all, I only got 2.5 hours of sleep that night. I was exhausted. But I looked good in my fancy suit, so there’s that.
I arrived in Newark, got my rental car, and drove to Morristown, NJ where I was scheduled to have interviews, kind of all day. 3 of the 5 hours I was there were spent in interviews.
The way the company is structured is like this: STORES < DISTRICTS < REGIONS < AREAS < HEADQUARTERS.
As of December, I was in the stores. In this internship I’ve been working for the South Area (a big jump). These two jobs in Morristown were for Northeast Area. One was for data product lifecycle management, the other in accessory lifecycle management.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS IS FOR BOTH PARTIES
Almost as soon as I got there, maybe before even, I knew this wasn’t the kind of team I wanted to work for. Until now, my area experience had been in the South, and I could already tell the Northeast is run in a very different way, and not for the better. I met with the first hiring manager, and all my red flags went up. I do not want to work for this guy.
I met the director. She told me the Northeast is in 4th place in everything, and then giggled. Maybe it’s because in the South, we’re usually 1st in everything, but the drive and focus I’ve grown accustomed to in leadership was in stark contrast to this woman’s blaze’ attitude. It was totally off-putting to me.
Then I met with the other hiring manager, but he was super new to the role, there would be a steep learning curve for both of us, and well, accessories are something I’ve never been passionate about, so while I think I nailed the interview, I crossed these two jobs off my mental job list.
I got back to the hotel with a massive headache due to the lack of caffeine and sleep. I asked for Aspirin at the front desk, had dinner at the restaurant that I could barely eat due to exhaustion, and went to bed around 8pm.
The next morning I awoke feeling wonderfully refreshed.
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE AT HEADQUARTERS
We’re in Basking Ridge, NJ and this campus is enormous. Bigger than some college campuses I’ve seen. 7 buildings, all of them super modern, huge windows, glass spiral staircases, wall sized touch screens and news tickers all over.
I was here to interview for a position as an Executive Relations Manager for Headquarters. Some people spend their entire careers trying to get from district to region to area, etc, and for me to have this chance at an HQ job, well, it’s an honor.
The woman who came to get me, by pure coincidence is now my current boss’ HQ counterpart, but used to be a manager in Exec Relations. So she’s intimately familiar with my current team, and the team I was interviewing for.
She showed me around, bought me coffee, set me up in an enormous office, with a huge window and a beautiful view. We chatted, I got on calls, I met with other coworkers I had only ever talked to on the phone, and an old friend from New Orleans who works there now, too. The day was like a dream. Then I finally met with the hiring manger, this guy, Grant. He took me on a longer tour of the facilities, showed me the enormous cafeteria, gym, dry cleaning, community workspaces, social media space, etc.
Then I had lunch with a friend, and she happened to mention that her cousin had just moved into a house that has a mother-in-law suite she was hoping to rent out. She told me if I got the job, she would talk to her cousin about renting it to me. I couldn’t believe my good luck. To work here, some people commute in from NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, spending hours on the train each way. This suite she was telling me about was less than 30 minutes from the office.
Then I had my interview. Grant told me I was one of his top candidates, and that this was really just a formality. This shouldn’t have been shocking to me, but it was still thrilling to hear. We had talked on the phone many times before, and did I have any questions for him? We talked more specifics about the role and the team, and that was it. I later met with his director, and she was great. It was immediately apparent she’s super smart and insightful. Yes, this is a team I want to be a part of.
As the day came to a close, Grant walked me out and told me to start looking for housing, and that he’d be in touch soon. I was on Cloud 9.
Back to work in Houston on Thursday. Friday morning I had a telepresence interview.
FOURTH BIG INTERVIEW IN AS MANY DAYS
This was for a spot on the South Area Go-To-Market team. I really wanted this one because the hiring manager is also the director of my internship program. I’ve come to know him over these 6 months, and he’s very well respected and smart. I want to keep learning from him. He seems to really like me, too.
This interview was via telepresence at 8am, and in case I haven’t mentioned this before, I am what I call “peanut butter brain” in the mornings. I’m unbearably slow thinking in the mornings, aka: not a morning person. But you know what? I totally nailed the interview. It was in front of a panel, the hiring manager Chad, his boss, his direct report, and his coworker. They loved me, it was apparent.
And so that was that. I went back to work. It was both the longest and shortest day, ever, and boy, was I glad it was Friday. I felt on top of the world.
MY FIRST OFFER AND MY FIRST REJECTION
Grant from HQ called to tell my boss he was about to contact me with an offer, and when can I start? She told him 7/6, and then she told me. How much of a raise can I expect? I asked her. “I’d think 10-15%” she told me. Until now I had thought of my raise in terms of dollars, not percentages.
Remember, I had decided I needed $20k raise, or at least $10k raise and $10k relo package. But I’ve been told relo packages are basically non-existent at this level, so I shouldn’t count on that.
Then Grant calls me. He tells me I’ve been his top candidate from the first time we talked, and that he’s thrilled to offer me the position and help me develop my career at HQ. He offers me a $4K increase. I freeze. Then he says he was able to get me a $7500 relo package. This is surprising. I thank him for the offer and tell him I’ll get back to him on Monday. I’m kind of shocked and pretty let down.
Then Chad calls me to say he’s chosen someone else for his spot, but that he knows I have a lot of other offers and he’s happy to help me with any of those. He tells me I interviewed very well, and even raised big picture philosophical points and questions far above my pay grade. His boss was super impressed. But he chose another girl from my same internship program. Again, I was shocked and let down. I thanked him and got off the phone.
A lot to think about.
At first, I was really disappointed about not getting Chad’s spot, but then I realized, in addition to needing to hire someone for his team, as the internship program manager, it’s also his job to make sure as many of us get placed as possible. Region positions are common, Area positions very good, and I think if I take this HQ job, I’d be the first person from his internship program to make it to HQ. I’d be his poster child. He knew I had other offers. He probably also knew this other girl didn’t. So it was a win-win for him. The other girl is fine and good and got placed, and he gets to brag that I got the HQ job.
I’m scared to do it, but I’m going to have to negotiate for more money for Grant’s job. I really want it, bottom line. But at the same time, the pay has to be livable. Michael and I ran some numbers. If this friend comes through with a reasonable price for the apartment, I can get by with $6K more than what he offered me (putting me at a total increase of $10k plus the relo.
I called Chad Friday evening to talk through the strategy. I read articles online like Bridget’s 3 Things That Don’t Matter When Negotiating Your Salary and How To Negotiate Your Salary among others. I think I’m ready. Monday morning (today, by the time you’re reading this) I’m going to call Grant and tell him I really think I’d be a great fit for his team, but in order for it to be livable, I need $6K more. Chad has assured me this isn’t unreasonable, and if Grant says no, he can get my director to talk to Grant’s director and tell them not to lose a great and talented addition to his team over such a small sum.
Okay, I can do this.
It’s all very humbling and stressful. I experienced such intense highs and lows Friday and all week, I can hardly describe it. I was proud of myself for keeping my cool and keeping it all together. Until last night. Michael and I were snuggled on the couch, and he pulled up Bob Ross Remixed. It’s so sweet and wise, I just cried, seriously. All the stress of the week came pouring out. And so I’ll leave it for you here. Wish me luck with my negotiations this morning.