Given her lack of experience, a young graduate in search of a fresh start in a new industry had anticipated a challenging job search process. Still, she was completely caught off guard by the central dilemma she faced: juggling multiple job offers.
After clinching a traineeship, she was awaiting the end of a drawn-out interview process for a full-time role in order to make her decision. Is a bird in the hand really worth two in the bush? In this work diary, the young graduate illustrates the anxiety that arises from trying to buy time from one company while exploring an opportunity with another.
My alarm rang at 8.30am. I got out of bed to turn my laptop on before going back to sleep. Then I woke up every 10 minutes to move my mouse in order to maintain my “Available” status on Skype. This has been my morning routine for the past few weeks since I tendered my resignation. It’s finally the last week of my month-long notice period!
I got up for good at the sound of a Skype notification because it meant that someone was looking for me. As I groggily replied to my colleagues, images of the day I resigned popped into my head. I remembered how distraught and nervous I was. It felt like the most important day in the world then, and now three weeks have passed. The emotions I felt seemed insignificant compared to the uneasy apprehension that I felt now. I had quit my job before securing a replacement to explore other fields. After almost two months of interviews — I think I’d been to more than 10 — and mounting pressures at work, I was honestly exhausted.
While I got a traineeship offer on hand from Company A, I was still in the midst of interviews for a full-time role with Company B. I knew I was pushing the limits by stringing Company A along for almost two weeks, asking for extensions before responding to their offer, but it was a no-brainer that I ought to hold out for a full-time role. The final interview was scheduled tomorrow afternoon; I was promised the results of the application as well as a short call with the final boss. So I had asked for a final extension from Company A till Tuesday.
I was so nervous about the final interview. I wondered what it would be like and mulled over my chances of landing the job. Short calls with big bosses could be purely for formality’s sake, but then again you can never be too sure. Company B had hundreds of applicants and I could easily be replaced by someone else, especially since I have zero experience related to the role. I was honestly surprised I made it past all four rounds of interviews. I tried to reassure myself; maybe they liked me and saw my passion? But the truth was I wasn’t so sure. What did they possibly see in me to pick me over the other candidates? It all seemed too good to be true.
It was definitely too good to be true.
I received a call from my interviewer, telling me that there was a change in plans for the interview. She told me that instead of a short call on Tuesday, the interview was postponed to a date that would be determined later and it was now a physical meetup. My heart sank as I put down the phone. That meant that I would have to request for an extension from Company A yet again. I had already asked for extensions twice and I couldn’t drag it on any further. I was in a big dilemma on whether I should accept Company A while still pursuing Company B, or just ask for another extension and risk having them retract their offer. It felt really good to be “wanted” after applying for over a hundred jobs and having a 10% hit rate, but the offer put me in a tough spot because now I had to decide between a solid offer and a potential one.
I repeated my morning routine, although I woke up earlier today as I had some work to clear. Ever since my resignation, my workload became negligible as my teammates didn’t assign any tasks to me anymore. I could even sneak in a few episodes of Too Hot To Handle on Netflix during working hours — I love the freedom!
After my grogginess faded, the predicament I faced crept into my mind again. I had to make a decision today. Was Company B really worth waiting for? My heart said yes, but my mind couldn’t help but reiterate that Company B was merely a potential offer, that an offer wasn’t in the bag.
I put it off for as long as I could. But the guilt ate at me as I had already kept Company A waiting for almost two weeks. I finally gathered the courage to accept Company A’s offer. I drafted an email and prepared to sign the document.
It turned out that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The thought of accepting an offer that I may potentially renege on was extremely daunting. There was no technically no issue in doing that, but such an act would weigh on my conscience. I chickened out and tried to stall for more time by asking the HR lady about the contract terms. I awaited her reply with bated breath. She could retract her offer purely because I was taking so long, and I honestly couldn’t hold it against her. I probably would have done the same if I were in her shoes.
A few hours later, the HR lady called, asking about my concerns regarding the contract. She told me that the hiring manager was getting impatient and that they had paused their hiring process for me. This only deepened my guilt, and I came up with some crappy excuse saying I needed more time to settle administrative matters. The HR lady gave me a final extension till Thursday to accept their offer. I was extremely thankful yet unsettled; this was likely the last time I’d get an extension and I’d have to make a decision soon.
D-day! It was the day of the interview. I was extremely nervous the whole morning. Although I had been to over 10 interviews in the past month, they were all virtual and so I had the luxury of referring to notes on my computer.
I couldn’t get my mind off the interview, so I resorted to clearing some last-minute work requests to take my mind off it. It was the only time I was actually glad to receive some work during my notice period. At 5pm, I got dressed and left work early for the interview.
The interview left me feeling more frustrated than ever as they told me I still had one more round to go, which was to talk to the big boss (the initial interview set on Tuesday). It felt like I was taking one step forward and three steps back. The process was so lengthy, and having another offer at the back of my mind was making everything worse.
It was a good problem to have, I know. But it was nothing I expected — I had always thought the toughest part about a job search whilst venturing into a brand new field was to secure a job. Never had I thought that it would come to this.
The interview also left me feeling hesitant and nervous about what I was about to enter. The hiring managers were of different nationalities. I doubted my abilities as I had never worked with such a diverse team — from age to nationality — and the fact that the interviews had so many rounds meant that my colleagues were top-tier. Given my lack of experience, would I even be able to match up to expectations? Would I even like the job that I had bravely (??) left my finance life behind for? Doubts overcame me and I felt the worst I have been in weeks.
It was the day I would have to make the decision to accept/reject Company A. A part of me is still holding on to the glimmer of hope that Company B will grant me a miracle, and another part of me just can’t bring myself to reject Company A. I am giving myself the hard deadline of 4pm to reply to Company A; it was my responsibility to them.
Since tomorrow would be dedicated to clearance, today was my last day of labouring for my current company. I completed my last few tasks as well as the last minute requests that my colleagues sent my way. While I worked mechanically, I pondered over my job dilemma.
Alas, a miracle happened! I received a text from Company B’s hiring manager that the boss would be free the next day — the following slot was 11 days later — at 11.30am! The nerves came back.
I quickly replied to the HR lady of Company A. Rather lamely, I asked some questions about the contract. I was secretly hoping they would take a while to reply and grant me more time. They replied at around 4 to 5pm (close to the end of working hours), which gave me leeway to reply the next day.
It’s my last day of work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If not for the interview, I would have gone to work at 9am and completed my clearance so that I could have the rest of the day off. I decided to stay home to “work” until my interview was over before going to my office for clearance; the only requirement was to complete it by 5pm. My colleagues also took advantage of this arrangement and dropped me some calls to ask some last-minute questions. I hated that they didn’t really respect boundaries — it was one of the main reasons why I chose to leave.
The interview went pretty smoothly, and I was notified that I would get the result later that day or latest by next week. My heart sank (again) as it meant that I would have to delay my reply to Company A (AGAIN). This week was a rollercoaster of emotions and I just wanted to get my clearance done. I was practically skipping to work at the excitement of leaving this hell hole. Despite what I said about my colleagues, I felt a tinge of guilt and so I hung around for another hour or two so that they could ask me their final questions before I turned my laptop in. I was secretly hoping that nobody would call me but alas, they did.
My last call was at 3pm and when it finally ended, I returned my laptop. I felt so free, for the second time in two years (I had resigned from another hell hole earlier). I got my colleague to help me take a bunch of awkward photos for memory’s sake. Looking at the photos, I was amused by how little I felt for this company and so surprised by how little impact over a year of employment had made. I felt like I had learned nothing and wasted a year of my life. I could still clearly remember the first time I stepped into this place for my interview. Fast forward a year, I did nothing of significance and am already leaving — this job felt like a brief detour from where I wanted to be.
I got the call that very night telling me that I got the job at Company B!!!! I was with my friends at that moment and we all froze up as we saw the interviewer’s name flashing on my phone. We were outdoors then and I waved my friends away for some privacy as I picked up the call. They grinned behind their masks and gave me enthusiastic thumbs-ups from a distance away. My interviewer (now boss, ha!) told me that I passed the interview and that she would send me the contract that night or latest by Saturday. I probably sounded way too excited over the phone.
Once I put the phone down, I rushed to my friends and we squealed and jumped together in celebration. What a week it was! Now it was time to finally reject Company A and save their HR from probably one of their worst candidates to date. I felt horrible but also thankful that I could finally end both our miseries. I quickly drafted an email declining their offer, apologizing for the lengthy process and thanking them for the opportunity.
The HR replied within an hour saying “Thank you for your reply, and we are disappointed. We wish you all the best.” I winced at their reply but I was appreciative of the fact that they even bothered to reply me. The night ended with a nice dinner with my friends, and I was so happy! It was arranged to mark the end of my misery at my previous job, but we ended up celebrating my job offer too. How iconic — or some might say risky — was it to secure a job on the last day of my employment? I would like to think it’s fated. But knowing my history of bad luck, I’m not so sure. All that mattered was that I’m finally employed!!!!!!!
With the horrendous wait over, it was finally time to move on to the next phase of my life. I wish I didn’t have to experience this but I was just thankful that I held on to my principles by refusing to accept the offer. Thoughts of whether I made the right decision to choose one job over the other still continue to haunt me, but that’s a story for another time. All I hope for now is that this new job will allow me to learn something new, propelling me forward and onto the path that was meant for me. 😊
Feature image by Sherryl Cheong
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