Have you ever had what seemed like a great opportunity on it’s face, but something in your gut was gnawing at you and twisting you up inside? I’ve been contemplating just such a move for a couple weeks now, and the truth of the situation finally became apparent yesterday.
As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I am a chiropractor stuck in a job not at all related to chiropractic. I work in a hospital lab, which was what I did before my graduate degree. I took the job in 2007 while I was waiting to take my national boards in 2008. I needed the money, so I decided that it made sense to do the lab thing for 2 years, save money, and then open my own practice.
Well, that was obviously 7 years ago, and so much bad shit has happened in that interval that I’m beginning to wonder if I was someone truly offensive in a previous life, like Hitler, or Justin Bieber. Is this the payback? Hmmm.
Also, I have what I like to call the “zero boundaries personality”. Once I get stuck doing something for a period of time, it becomes a habit. Even if it’s miserable, like, I don’t know, sliding down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol, I continue to do it, year in and year out. Familiar misery is always better than the cold, dark alley at the corner of Risk and Change, right?
Now, what I just said kind of even blows my mind. If I get into a really horrible, life-threatening new situation, like cancer, I’m a trooper. I will step out into the unknown, guns blazing, and win a medal for bravery every time. But give me something terrifying like changing jobs, I’m a bowl of gutless jello. Can’t do it; wouldn’t be prudent. I want to kick myself in the ass sometimes.
So, I’ve been talking to a very successful established chiropractor about the possibility of joining his practice as an associate. It was kind of amusing, actually, because I turned him down initially and he pursued me. It felt almost scandalous, like being wooed by a potential lover.
He took me to lunch twice, he brought me to his office and let me use his shiny machines. He said he was so excited about us working together and potentially selling his practice to me when he retires in 10 years. I admit it. I was basking in the attention.
However, I was also curious as to why he was so enthused about little old me. After all, I have next to zero real-world business experience, and my tiny home office wouldn’t really even be called a “practice” in most circles. The IRS laughs every year when I send in my business tax forms.
But, I am smart and I have a pretty good personality, so I thought maybe I had charmed him into thinking we would be great together. Also, his wife just finished treatment for stage 4 ovarian cancer, so I think he could relate to me.
It was all moving like a train on rails until we started talking money. I made the mistake of telling him what I earn part time at the lab, and he quickly jumped all over that as a full time base salary for our arrangement. He said I had the potential to earn a bonus as well, but when I pressed him on the amount, it was still going to be about $15,000 less than what I could make now.
I really agonized over this decision for days and days, to the point where I couldn’t eat and felt knots in my stomach much of the time. I had to weigh the vast amount of knowledge I could get from him against a substantial pay cut, at least the first year.
Meanwhile, once the salary figure was on the table, the chiropractor went from a “no hurry” attitude to a bum’s rush. He was e-mailing daily about taking new photos for the office to include me, doing training courses, etc. It’s as if he thought he had already hired me.
I couldn’t decide, so I found an associate who had worked for him previously and called him. He was very gracious in telling me that his experience with this man wasn’t “super positive”. He said that the chiropractor was extremely “profit-driven” and that I would be a source of income for him. He felt that he had gone into the arrangement expecting one thing and that it had turned out to be something very different. He couldn’t make the money he felt he deserved there.
Not being one to judge immediately, I decided to write a long e-mail to the chiropractor outlining some of my concerns. It was honest but respectful. I told him that I would love to find a long-term opportunity and that I felt he had a lot to teach me, but that I couldn’t justify the move at that salary without more opportunity for bonuses. I also wanted to get some basic answers, like how many patients I would be expected to see, what my marketing obligations would be, what kind of hours would be required, etc. I hit send and waited.
I didn’t hear anything until the next night at almost 10 pm. I then got an e-mail with the subject line “Thanks for your interest!”. Not a good start. He told me that he had enjoyed getting to know me and that I was a delightful person, but he felt that it wasn’t the right time to work together. He signed, “Dr. R*****”, when all the previous correspondence had ended with just his first name.
I was really surprised. I expected a counter-offer, a sit-down meeting, something, since he had already offered me the job. But the curtain was removed, and the great and powerful Oz was revealed. He had only been interested in me because he thought I would work for nothing, apparently. That kind of stings. I hate to think about it, but I really hope he didn’t see the cancer thing as a vulnerability, thinking that it would make me more likely to accept his offer.
So, I’m back to the drawing board, looking for the next big opportunity. I did find something positive in this whole experience, though. There was a time not too long ago that I would have caved and just said “Ok, sure, I’ll be glad to work for that. And, please, let me wash your car and take your kids to school.” I valued myself enough to question what didn’t seem right, even if it meant not getting the job. And that is a very good sign.