Tell me what to do because I'm stupid!

I found out today that I am a commodity, a hot item, that I have value.

In a phone screen for one of the jobs I'm pursuing the screener told me that he, in essence, didn't have too many people with the requisite experience he was looking for and that my résumé had "jumped out" at him because of the skill-set I had listed. What an admission! A bit foolish on his part, I think.

A recruiter for another job has already made me an offer based on a single phone interview.

That speaks to me of desperation, almost. I wish I had known this a little earlier in the game. I feel like I could almost have written my own ticket, or at least negotiated something a bit better. But I'm not used to playing in such a role. Even so, what these two recruiters are offering is, compared to the situations I've been in the last several years, much better than what I'm used to. My research suggests I might have been able to do a tad better if I'd been more knowledgeable. So it goes. Now I know.

At this point I have different decisions to make and I find them difficult. There are two positions open, one in California and one an hour and a half down the road in Philadelphia.

a)   The one in California has already made me an offer and all I have to do is sign the contract and start next Monday.
b)   For the one in Philadelphia I still need to do one more face to face interview and that hasn't been scheduled yet.

a)   I would gross about $53k a year in CA, plus any travel expenses I incur once I'm there but wouldn't have any other benefits. They won't pay for my move.
b)   I suspect I would gross less in PA. We haven't negotiated that completely yet. They also won't pay for my move. However, there are typical benefits such as insurance, 401k, tuition reimbursement, plus certification in the vendor's software which is quite valuable.

a)   The contract is only for five months in CA but could be extended, plus the recruiter says he has other contracts coming up, which I do believe. Plus, with my added experience, I probably wouldn't have any trouble continuing in this particular field even if I couldn't re-negotiate with the same recruiter after this contract is over.
b)   The contract in PA, between the client and the recruiter is still being re-negotiated and both the recruiter and the screener admitted to the slight uncertainty of the situation.

a)   The CA job is a "bird in the hand". I have the job. I just have to show up.
b)   The PA job I'm still competing for. I don't yet have the job. It's a "bird in the bush." I wouldn't classify it as total vaporware, though.

In my opinion, the PA job is the better one because I think, overall, the compensation will be better, it's closer, and the training offered will make me much more valuable for future contracts. Also, when the contract is established with the client it will probably be longer term than the one in CA. But I haven't been hired and there are still client contract negotiations so there's that uncertainty. But if I continue to pursue it I effectively give up the solid CA job because, as I say, that starts in one week. Sure, I have the advantage. They clearly don't have a lot of people to choose from and that makes me valuable, but I can only push that so far and delay so long. Deep down, I think I'm a bit more qualified for the CA job.

The point of this long, rambling tripe is I need opinions and advice from people who are experienced in these matters.

ETA: There is a consensus in the comments and among other people I've spoken with. I'm going to pass on the CA job. If my skill-set is good enough to get two offers in 10 days it's good enough to get more. I'm going to pursue the Philly job and failing that, continue to look.

ETA: With expert advice, I re-negotiated the starting pay for the CA job up to a gross of 67k a year for one year. Also, the contract has been extended from five months to eight. Plus they're paying for my plane ticket out and travel expenses when I have to go between Sacramento and Emeryville. Still no benefits, though. Nevertheless, I took the job. California, here I come.
  • Current Mood: stupid
I don't know the contract market at all, so I can't offer help there.

My tendency would be to go with the health insurance, though. And moving costs are a bitch, even though they're tax deductible.

But good news to get so much work-love!
Is the contract job W2 or 1099? If it's 1099, *stay home*. You cannot live here on that kind of money, once tax and Social Security are taken out.

Where in California? Because you could buy a house in, say, Shickshinny, for about a tenth of what a comparable house costs in San Francisco. A wretched hovel in the worst slum where people die in gunfights every week will still run you $450-550K, if you want to buy. Most apartment rents are in the four figures.

Philly itself has a 4.5% wage tax (may be slightly different now). Good public transit. Horrible heat and humidity in summer. Rents high, but not quite Silicon Valley high. Outside Philadelphia it varies.

I'd love to have you here, but my God, $53K is barely a living wage here. You're being screwed senseless.
Re: Queries
They're both W2 contracts. I hear what you're saying about living expenses and I tend to agree that the pay is a bit low.

The bulk of the contract is in Sacramento and I would be looking to rent. The listings on craigslist there don't seem to be insane. I have to spend my first two weeks in Emeryville. The client says that if I were to decide to live in the Bay area and commute to Sacramento they would pay for it. I still have to get that on paper. But that's 4 hours a day out of my life.

I tend to agree that I might only expect to break even out there but I don't have anything else solid and the experience will allow me more negotiation room for the next contract.
Re: Queries
Sacramento is more reasonable, but then almost anywhere but Manhattan and Tokyo is more reasonable.

If you come to Emeryille, we should have supper!
Re: Queries
Certainly we should have supper because I will definitely be in Emeryville the first two weeks.

I just checked and it looks like the gross I'm offered, which is actually 53.8k, is around the median for Sacramento.

Still, I agree I'm getting rooked a bit on the compensation. But, I feel strongly that future contract negotiations would be much more in my favor with the experience gained. Plus I'd be away from here and back on the west coast.
Re: Queries
Boy, did that sound like a bunch of justifications for jumping at the first offer or what?

That's what fear and uncertainty will do to you.
Re: Queries
Upon further reflection I've decided that you're absolutely right. I'm going to pass on the CA job. I've had two offers in 10 days which means I'll be able to get further offers. Plus, I'm not at the end of my rope. I still have an income here from unemployment. So, we'll have to get supper some other time.

Re: Queries
So, one last question. If you had to base your decision on an hourly wage, the current offer being $28 per hour, what would your counter offer be?

(I should pay you a consulting fee)
Re: Queries
If you could forward me more job specifics (Windows or UNIX?, that kind of thing), my sourcs will help me come up with a figure. But you're looking at at least $4 more an hour.

Email: LJ username at
I would check for the average salary for the job in Philadelphia. You can search by job title (if it's something common) and get more of an idea of the range that way.

Can't say what I would do, but you might want to keep checking out costs of living. If you don't have benefits with the CA job, consider how much insurance will cost (if you're planning on taking any kind of precaution with healthcare).
*throws in two cents*
Check out a couple of cost of living calculators between the city in CA and the City in PA you'd be living in - I'm betting your dollar might go further in Pa.

Me? I'm a forward thinking kind of gal and tend to count the whole package when considering looking at a job - what will your health care cost if you have to do it on your own? Retirement is another matter - sometimes you do better on your own than with a traditional 401K depending on your tolerance for risk.

The ability of getting a highly dersirable skillset on the employers software count payoff or it may not - depending on the market saturation of it.

I wouldn't worry about the bird in the hand at this point - it sounds like you've got a skillset that is both impressive and in demand - that should allow you to get something even better than the CA job -

Well, I can't say much about CA, but Philly ....

53K will allow you to live, though not live the high life. I would not live in the city proper, as anywhere affordable to those not making 6 figures is not really anywhere you want to live. The suburbs outside the city can be reasonable, as long as you are not looking for 5 star accomadations. Cost of living is higher than it is upstate, but if your used to making ends meet, you can do that here on a salary like that.

just my 2 cents. But if it were me, I'd follow my gut. Good luck deciding :)
Upon reflection my gut now tells me to pursue the Philly job. Failing that, I still think I can do better than the current offer from CA.
I would in no way ever pass up a job offer in California.

Rechange your mind, mon.
Very well. I have changed my mind. I also renegotiated my contract up to $35 an hour. I start on Monday in Oakland and they're paying for my plane ticket out. After that I'll be working primarily out of Sacramento. The contract is currently until the end of the year.
Brilliant! Sensible, too.

1. You can enjoy California for a year!
2. Your resume will look even better!
3. You can always renegotiate later, or find another CA company that will offer benefits.

I am thrilled for you. Congratulations!