Crisis of confidence- should I accept job offer?

(29 Posts)
CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 10:29:34

This is probably going to end up quite long and rambly, so bear with me.

I have worked in a mid tier accountancy firm for the past year, having come over with the rest of the team from a public sector organisation where I completed most of my training contract. I qualified CPFA last winter.

I have never been sure that I wanted to stay in this type of job forever; I fell into it after uni as there was little else available without relocating, which I still don't want to do as DH relocated to here for me and is now in a very secure job which pays twice what I get. However I have the attitude that if I'm going to do anything, I want to be good at it.

I had been feeling a bit sort of lost at work as I haven't been enjoying it and have been questioning how good my output is compared to my peers, but we've been so busy it's just a case of getting on with it. After feeling particularly fed up one day recently, I updated my cv and put it online with the aim of applying for one or two jobs in different sectors just to see how my transferable skills were received. However it was immediately picked up by a recruiter who put me forward for some jobs with big 4 firms. I thought I may as well go along with this out of curiosity and a desire for interview practice- however one of them has now offered me a job.

At the same time and coincidentally, one of the managers I work for decided it would be a good time to tell me about some comments he overheard about my work in a meeting, although he couldn't remember the details or who said what. I was really upset at the thought that people have been unhappy with my work and not told me. I know he was only trying to help, but he kept going on about how I just needed to become more confident- I came away feeling I needed to change myself completely to get back in the team's good books. I also coincidentally had a target setting meeting with my line manager, who was also at this other meeting, but she said she couldn't remember any negative comments and she would have told me at the time. She did however point out that I have been appraised as 'good' whereas some of my peers have been classed as 'outstanding', again something I didn't know. I was under the impression that our appraisal system was so non specific it was difficult to get anything other than ' good' unless you were spectacularly awful or amazing.

Anyway by this point (last week) I was feeling massively demoralised and ready to just pack the whole thing in as I was obviously rubbish. However on the advice of a trusted colleague I spoke to one of our directors (who I had always been a bit wary of), and he said he was aware that some of his managers didn't think I was amazing (I can't remember his exact words- he was nice about it though) and has offered to mentor me, meeting up as often as I like to discuss what I'm doing and how to improve, and also to take me along to more senior client meetings etc to help boost my confidence. Apparently he's done it for other people before. This seems like a great opportunity but I can't help wondering why no one has offered to help before, if I'm thought of as under performing?

I had a chat with my dad as well (DH not super helpful in these matters, just keeps saying do whatever makes me happy!) who seemed quite angry at the way I've been treated and said if it was him he would leave and take the other offer. I just feel that if I do, I won't impress the other firm and they will soon realise they haven't got what they thought they were getting. I do also feel loyalty to my current team, even though I don't know which of them don't rate me!

I am also thinking I may pack this whole thing in if I can find another job I would enjoy more, although perhaps my lack of confidence will get in the way whatever I do. But if I did that, it wouldn't look great on my cv to change jobs within this industry only to leave it soon after.

Sorry that was so long! Any advice much appreciated. Hope I haven't outed myself...

17leftfeet Sun 27-Oct-13 10:35:30

Take the job offer

No one in your current job is being straight with you and if you are working with a team you can't trust then it's bound to dent your confidence

A fresh start will do you good

BoffinMum Sun 27-Oct-13 10:40:20

Listen to your dad. It sounds like your face doesn't fit rather than a capability issue. If you find a better niche you may find your career absolutely takes off.

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 11:50:05

Ok, that was quick! I guess since you both said 'go' so quickly, I must not be seeing the situation clearly. I am quite risk averse so making a move is a big deal for me!

Other issues to consider are the situation re. qualifying for maternity pay (we are considering starting a family in the next year or two) and the fact that there may be longer hours/ more travel with the big 4, although it's a regional office so won't be like London in that respect. The recruiter is arranging for me to meet an employee at my level for an informal chat, so hopefully will find out some more then.

Has anyone here moved to big 4 after qualifying elsewhere?

Also worrying that if I turn this offer down, I'll never be able to make the move later on if I change my mind.

I'm so bad at this stuff!

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 11:51:53

Also BoffinMum what makes you say it's a face fitting issue rather than me possibly being a bit rubbish?

17leftfeet Sun 27-Oct-13 12:42:34

I'd also say face not fitting issue because its all very generic criticism with no specific areas to improve other than confidence, yet it's poor management that is affecting your confidence

That's a very damaging environment to be in -you sound like you have a good opportunity to get out

You say you are looking at ttc in the next 1-2 years, you still can -mat leave kicks in after 12 months

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 13:18:00

I know there have been one or two instances where I felt I didn't finish work quickly enough (although the manager didn't say anything)- but to be honest part of that is because I don't feel I can ask questions too often in case I look like I don't know what I'm doing. Which is stupid- actually one of the things manager 1 said to me was that I ask in the wrong way, which may be true but has made me feel like just not speaking ever in case I say the wrong thing!

The more I think about this, the more I feel I have fallen into some kind of child role at work, which makes me feel I can't possibly expect to be taken seriously either there or elsewhere. Maybe I need counselling rather than a new job!

I know I'm not looking forward to going into work tomorrow, as I just feel really uncomfortable after last week.

redcaryellowcar Sun 27-Oct-13 13:34:46

it sounds like your confidence has been knocked, its hard to then know who to trust as you start to believe the negative comments more than the positive! I think if you decide to stay take up the offer if mentoring and have a clear chat with your line manager about setting goals which you can measure well, even if he or she doesn't review them with you, although I would push fir this make sure you are checking tour progress against them and tell him or her how you are getting along, think if yourself as your best pr machine, you probably also need to ignore the negative comments until your confidence is rebuilt.
if you like the idea of a new job, go for it, a fresh start may be exactly what you need and I can't imagine they would have interviewed you and then offered you a job they weren't confident you could do.

yummumto3girls Sun 27-Oct-13 14:07:20

I think it was unprofessional to tell you that colleagues are graded outstanding and you are good. If you aren't good at your job then surely you would have been graded unsatisfactory rather than good. Like others have said if they want you to be outstanding you need some very clear objectives to achieve so you know exactly what you need to change. The opportunity of a senior person mentoring you sounds like a good idea but maybe starting fresh somewhere else will break the cycle of your unhappiness. At the end of the day if you don't enjoy your job your not going to excel in it, so maybe a change might be good. Only you know how you feel.

BoffinMum Sun 27-Oct-13 17:06:18

OP it's because they are so bloody vague about everything. If there is a specific thing you do wrong at work people usually tell you straight out, not faff about with woolly comments and insinuations. Dump them and find a better team to spend your day with.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Sun 27-Oct-13 19:31:58

Sorry to hear your confidence has taken a bashing.

From what you have said your current employers have been very unhelpful. Lots of woolly feedback doesn't help anyone. I am angry on your behalf re your manager's decision to share some negative comments that he cannot remember nor who said it about your work - what manager handbook has he been reading? Basil Fawlty's!!! What exactly was the point of that.

I agree they shouldn't also be sharing what others (even if not identified) have been given in their appraisals.

I too thought 'fit' when I read your OP. You are doing ok but feel you might be able to do better, they aren't really able to say what is wrong....fit. Don't take this personally, it is just you aren't suited to them and vice versa. I have seen it a lot when I was employed.

You have also overlooked - in your OP at least - that the Big 4 feel you are good enough as they have offered you a job! Even if you think they are going to "find you out" etc.

If I were you I'd take the job and either find yourself a mentor (probably not at the new org, maybe someone in accounting circles?) or if you can afford it pay for some business coaching yourself (ie like what the Director was offering to do) to help you through the first few months. Just knowing you have a safe space to discuss this sort of thing might make you feel more confident. CFPA might have a suppliers list? If not I have used a couple of generic coaches, one was a psychotherapist & coach which worked well. She is based in London, but might travel or skype/call if getting to London is an issue. I can PM her details. You are probably talking hundreds for a few sessions but I think it would be worth it. You need to nip this in the bud now.

Working for one for the big 4 has to be good for your CV too which is all good if you want to continue your career post family etc.

I hate to say it, but sweeping generalisation coming up if you were a man you might be likely to say "Well, if they don't appreciate me, I am going to join Big 4 and show them" etc. Not that I'd feel any different to you in your position etc. Just saying...

Good luck with the decision.

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 19:33:14

Thanks BoffinMum - strangely that comment makes me feel lots better! smile

OneHandFlapping Sun 27-Oct-13 19:47:42

A big 4 firm on your CV just HAS to be a good long term career move.

Plus it will be a fresh start. Sometimes it's hard to overcome negative opinions in a place, and they can become self-fulfilling. It happened to me too, at the start of my career (incidentally with a big 4 firm), but my career went stellar in industry after I left.

Go for it.

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 19:49:28

Ooh, cross posted with MrsMargotLeadbetter (fab username!) - that is all very useful. I am kind of thinking 'well I'll just go and show them' but yep I guess my spin on it is 'but what if it backfires!'.

I think I have major trouble imagining myself in any kind of senior position and I need to get over that. I would love eventually to be a manger myself and be able to really do a good job of bringing on people in my position.

It would be great if you could pm details of your recommended coach- I am based far far north of London, but it is possible for me to get down there occasionally, although not for work. It would be useful even to help me understand the kind of service you're talking about. It would be lovely to be able to talk to someone who understands the issues as I feel quite alone with everything sometimes- my family don't even understand what I do really.

The interview I had wasn't what I was expecting at all to be honest - they didn't ask me any competency based questions or anything; they almost talked more than I did in fact. It seemed to all be on personality- the recruiter did say they thought I would be a good fit for their team. I've only ever worked with my current team so it's hard to imagine what it would be like elsewhere as I have no comparisons to make.

I hope I'm making some sort of sense as my head feels all over the place right now!

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 19:56:44

OneHandFlapping, how did you go about making the move into industry? That's something I might be interested in in the future, and I was thinking this could be a good stepping stone. I would love to know more about your experiences in general if you're willing to go into more detail? Perhaps you could PM me if you don't want to say more here.

Also if I did make the move, how could I go about negotiating on salary? That's something I've never done before. I've been offered a package just marginally better that what I'm currently on, but I don't know how that compares to other people at my level in the firm.

EBearhug Sun 27-Oct-13 20:23:25

A couple of years ago, a useless manager with whom I raised some issues about the way I was being managed (or not being managed) said he'd received a string of complaints about me. I asked to know why I hadn't been told about this before, so I could take action about it, and I asked about specifics, because there's no point making more effort on my time management, if people have actually been complaining about me being rude on the phone or something. He couldn't tell me, so I said that if I don't know where I'm failing, I can't really know what I can do to improve things. (He is a bullying arse anyway, and I suspect it was mostly made up.) You can only improve if you get feedback on the areas you need to improve on, and you need specific examples. How are you asking in the wrong way? What can you do to make sure your questions are received better? Just telling you you ask in the wrong way is undermining without giving you anything to work with.

Whatever you decide to do, I would raise it with my manager that any complaints (or praise) should be dealt with straight away, so you can start improving things immediately. When it comes to your review, it shouldn't really be a surprise, because anything good or bad should have already been raised, at the time. If that's not how it's happening, you're not being managed well.

If you've got a job offer, then I would take it. But I would also tell the director (once you've given in your resignation), and say thank you for his offer, and if you hadn't already had this offer, you would have accepted. Mentoring offers don't come along often (and I have heard many people say that outside of a formal mentoring scheme, they will only offer it to people who approach them, not just anyone, so that's probably why it hasn't come up before,) and if you were staying, I'd say definitely, definitely take it. But you're in a comparatively small field, if you stick with the big 4, and people talk, so if you've got people onside, keep them there - you don't know when it might be useful in future. Use LinkedIn and network, network, network - get to know people who can help you (and you never know who can help you) and ask people for advice - keep asking for help.

Also, if you get an exit interview, then tell them that the poor management and inadequate feedback is one of your reasons for going. You may not have been performing brilliantly, but it doesn't sound like you're getting much support to improve.

TheDoctrineOfAnyFucker Sun 27-Oct-13 20:27:28

Take the new job!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Sun 27-Oct-13 21:29:05

It could backfire or it could be the best decision of your life. You need to avoid sitting in a room with an ineffectual manager in a years' time saying "I have some feedback, I am afraid I cannot remember the details or who said it, but I'd like you to improve"....That isn't the path to a long and happy career. If he was alone then maybe it could be turned around with a different manager, but it sounds like that is the way it is there...

As Ebear says you need to start cultivating your network if you don't already. I worked for an org where the CEO was a prolific networker and it really showed me that it isn't what you know - what he achieved through his network was amazing. LinkedIn is great for keeping all the contacts you meet in one place.

You will be a good manager as you have lots of experience what sh*t management looks like!

I'll pm her details. Basically I went to her as I was given the most negative person I have ever come across to manage and I just didn't know how to handle it. I am fairly optimistic and this employee and her ways knocked me for 6.

Luckily my company were willing to support me. I went for 4 (I think) sessions 6 weeks apart. At the first session I devised some objectives about what I wanted to achieve and then I generally talked about whatever was top of mind in relation to my employee. I generally left with actions.

As an eg of something she suggested that helped massively was how I sat in meetings with the employee. I would immediately get defensive, tense up and cross my arms. The coach suggested I sat in a more relaxed way and it did help me stay more relaxed. She also suggested I throw questions back to the employee. Not particularly relevant egs but to give you an idea of the sort of help you can receive. In your case you could talk about the anxieties you have re the new job and ways to cope with them etc.

The employee was encouraged into having some coaching too with somebody else. It was the best money the co spent though as she decided to leave and do an MA!! Apparently she is very happy now smile

With business coaching there does appear to be an element of the coach saying to you 'What do you think?' a lot, but where else do you get 1.5 hours to talk through issues?

Anyway, good luck with the decision.

Allthebees Sun 27-Oct-13 21:49:10

Slightly off topic but my advice would be to get as high as you possibly can, and as well paid as possible before you have children.

Look at the longer term view. You sound ambitious and having children doesn't have to stop that but whilst you're in a position to put your career IMO you should maximise your potential. Doesn't really sound like that at your current place.

Big 4 might not appear to be conducive to family life, but some divisions are happy to consider PT working and can be family friendly. But you don't need to worry about that right now.

How would you have felt if you hadn't have got this job? You were obviously semi-hoping to leave by sprucing up your cv.

What are you like in new situations? It does sound like your confidence has taken a beating so I can see why you'd be hesitant to take in a new role whilst feeling this way.

Remember nothing is forever too - if it doesn't work out you can do something else.

If I were you I'd jump at it. I found out I was pregnant surprise! the same week I was waiting for a big 4 job offer (the partner had verbally offered just waiting on paperwork). I turned down the job and was gutted to do so. I know it was the right thing family-wise but professionally I'm still gutted and know that my career has definitely been stunted by having children.

blueshoes Sun 27-Oct-13 22:11:23

Agree with allthebees about getting as high up as you can before dcs. Gives you more options when the children finally arrive.

Also, take the new job. No brainer. Once you get pigeonholed, it is very hard to shake off that image in your manager's eyes. Fresh start new beginnings are so much more exciting and ultimately motivating.

CaptainWentworth Sun 27-Oct-13 22:13:50

Thanks so much for all the advice everyone- it's really helpful. I think I also have a pm which I'll read in a sec.

Re the children thing, I'm 30 now which is perhaps a bit older than the info I have given so far might suggest. I know that's still youngish to ttc but friends have had problems and its made me realise that it might take a while if we do try, and we don't particularly want to be older parents. My mum was late thirties when she had me and my parents weren't able to have another child. I know that shouldn't affect me too much now but it's at the back of my mind.

It's funny that someone above said I sound ambitious- I've always thought I wasn't!

IsobelEliza Sun 27-Oct-13 22:23:10

Sounds to me like maybe as you appear to lack confidence in yourself, your colleagues assumed you were right and that you weren't as good at your job as you actually are. That would explain why no one could identify any particular criticisms. I don't know how you overcome this problem though unfortunately.

OneHandFlapping Mon 28-Oct-13 07:53:22

CaptainWentworth, there is a well established career path into industry. For myself it was bit non-standard as I went from the Accountancy firm to the Consultancy firm, and then into IT.

There are plenty of FD/FCs who started their careers in the big 4.

Allthebees Tue 29-Oct-13 22:54:09

Did you get any further with your decision captain?

CaptainWentworth Wed 30-Oct-13 10:19:36

Hi everyone- sorry I haven't been back to update. I spent the weekend going backwards and forwards in my head and changed my mind countless times about what to do. The recruiter arranged for me to meet someone else at my level in the company, and we had a chat over a coffee last night after work.

This made me realise that the job is basically the same as I'm doing now, and the training and opportunities aren't so different from where I am now- main benefits are I possibly would be able to get promoted to manager more quickly, and the reputational benefits of working for a big name. However it sort of punctured the impression that I had of it being massively more glamorous or something! She had the same stresses as I do, more time away from home (circa 12 weeks a year), and can't take time off in winter (busy season - ours is in summer) which is a big deal for me as I adore skiing. I do think the office sounds like a great place to work and if the rest of the team are like her I would get on with them well.

I also had a fairly positive start to the week at work as there were some positive comments from the person I'm currently working for about what I'm doing at the moment, and some good feedback from a manager I worked for in the summer. I also set up a meeting with the director who offered to mentor me, and his PA got back to me to say didn't I want to set up a series of meetings, not just one, which made me feel he is serious about trying to support and develop me. I just got into a horribly negative mindset about work last week, which has now receded.

I've left my phone at home today (by accident!) so I will no doubt have a load of missed calls from the recruiter asking for my decision. I do owe it to all involved to give them an answer ASAP, so I'm thinking of going home at lunchtime to call them and say no.

Am I mad? The main qualms I have about saying no are:

- that one of the main benefits to moving would be to gain experience in private sector audit and different sizes of businesses- it does sound as thought it's great for that, but I still feel quite committed at the moment to working in/for the public sector and worry I would miss that sense of contributing something useful to the taxpayer. However might the big 4 experience might open doors for me later on even in the public sector?

- that if I turn down a big 4 job now I'll never be able to go for it later on.

- my CV will always look a bit less good than other people's because I stayed at a md tier firm (that no one has heard of!)

Sorry, that was long! It feels less about confidence now and more about making sure I'm in the right place for me.

Allthebees Thu 31-Oct-13 06:36:52

Another opportunity will come up again if you don't decide to take this job this time around, nothing has to be forever. You made it happen this time so you can make it happen again.

Start feeling like things are in your control and that you have some say over what happens in your career and I think you'll feel more confident.

Great news re the feedback and your mentor!

MrsMargoLeadbetter Fri 01-Nov-13 18:57:47

What happened OP?

ancientandmodern Sat 02-Nov-13 15:11:44

OP - might be worth taking a look at this website: http://www.theaccountantscoach.com/ which is set up by a woman who was with a BIg4 firm for years, including introducing more family friendly policies, and who now does a lot of coaching around how to minimise work stress, maximise career choices. If you look around the site and google her name, you can get hold of quite a bit of free stuff.

I notice you're CPFA qualified, and think I'm correct in saying alot of Big4 coleagues will be ACA or ACCA -- not sure if that is an issue for you?

ArabellaBeaumaris Sun 03-Nov-13 19:27:46

What did you do OP?

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