Author Topic: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?  (Read 5968 times)

monstermonster

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Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« on: September 25, 2015, 09:42:51 AM »
So I've been working for poverty-level wages in the nonprofit sector for the last 10 years. I have a lot of experience and a director role at my current organization but now that I'm nearing my 30's, I've started considering moving into a better-paying sector (i.e. government or for-profit.) A friend that worked as a postal inspector for her whole career told me that age 30 was the last they'd consider someone in the FBI, and I started in a career thought spiral where I wondered if now was the time to jump ship. Want to give me unsolicited career advice?

Fair warning: I might be spiraling because I just got off another 89 hour workweek of standing on my feet all day in the desert and I fundraised more in two days than I make all year.

I always assumed I'd stay on the small non-profit career ladder forever and end up as an executive director- even when my fellow classmates from my small college with the same degree (and no job experience unlike me) went on to be policy/data analysts at the White House, UN, etc, right out of college.  So I didn't do much to prep for a career outside of this world. I did intern with a congressman and at the police bureau as a financial analyst intern, so I have limited exposure to government sector.

I don't know what my skills map to the for-profit world, though (my field is weird.) I have a BA in Economics. Any thoughts on what sort of jobs look for these skills? I'd strongly lean towards a job, that doesn't, you know, make the world suck and preferably involves significant travel (I'd be willing to travel over 50% of my time.) The only for-profit jobs I know folks with my degree go into is data analyst, but I don't want to spend all day running regressions. I've considered a law degree but I'm uncomfortable with the prospect of debt (I scored in the 98th percentile on my LSAT and I just took it for fun.) Here's my skills - what are better paying jobs that use them?

  • Managing complex organizational budgets and government grant reporting requirements
    Negotiation
  • Policy analysis skills - including pushing legislative priorities through
  • Fundraising - asking face-to-face for donations of $100,000+ from high wealth individuals
  • Managing staff and diverse volunteer groups
  • Writing grants
  • Running social media/email marketing campaigns including basic front-end web development
  • Event planning
  • Managing CRMs including data analysis & market segmentation and A/B tests
  • Public speaking
  • Basic Radio production -produced and edited a popular podcast for 5 years
  • Deep understanding of social welfare systems, i.e. DHS, social security, etc

In the end, I'm looking for something that could edge me much higher than my current $40K salary for 80+ hour work weeks - maybe in the $70K range if I don't have to move to HCOL area. I'm a hard worker- I worked on reducing systemic homelessness with recovering ex-convict drug addicts, so impossible odds don't scare me.

Okay, thanks for reading my long wind-ey question.

TL;DR: Nonprofit burnout is real, maybe it's time to get a new job - but what the hell else can I do?
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 09:52:48 AM by monstermonster »

Cwadda

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2015, 09:49:51 AM »
You seem like an interesting individual! Have you considered an MBA?

monstermonster

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2015, 10:00:14 AM »
You seem like an interesting individual! Have you considered an MBA?
Ha thanks!
I have! I've even looked into a few programs for MBAs where if I work in the public sector, I'd get a full scholarship. The opportunity cost of an MBA without a clear value proposition though - directly linked to something I *Need* an MBA for, seems silly. Until there's something I can't get a paying job for without an MBA, an MBA seems like a waste of money and time.

Cwadda

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2015, 10:45:13 AM »
You seem like an interesting individual! Have you considered an MBA?
Ha thanks!
I have! I've even looked into a few programs for MBAs where if I work in the public sector, I'd get a full scholarship. The opportunity cost of an MBA without a clear value proposition though - directly linked to something I *Need* an MBA for, seems silly. Until there's something I can't get a paying job for without an MBA, an MBA seems like a waste of money and time.

Maybe find a job in the public sector first, and get them to pay for your MBA. Unfortunately though I can't really steer you in the right direction to finding that job.

mozar

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2015, 01:33:59 PM »
I can't really think of a business job you would like that wasn't "soul sucking"
I think you should reconsider law. With a score like that you could get a full scholarship to a state school that is still top ten. There is also some thing called "reading the law" or legal apprenticeship where you skip law school and just take the bar. I know you can do this in Virginia. And you could parlay this into a career in policy.

Also, this may seem way outside what you were thinking, but you've got the chops to be a politician. The list of things you described as your strong points are basically everything that a politician does.
So study so you can get 99% on the LSAT, apply to Harvard law school, get in, become the editor in chief of the law review, graduate, work for a fancy law firm for a couple of years, start networking your way into politics, and make a difference. Boom! Your welcome.

monstermonster

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2015, 02:06:29 PM »
So study so you can get 99% on the LSAT, apply to Harvard law school, get in, become the editor in chief of the law review, graduate, work for a fancy law firm for a couple of years, start networking your way into politics, and make a difference. Boom! Your welcome.

AND THEN BECOME JOSH LYMAN ON THE WEST WING!

You've solved everything for me.

No seriously, you described my dream career path (fancy law firm of course being substituted for housing policy lawyer, obviously) but the prospect of 3 years without an income towards a path with shrinking job prospects sounds rather nerveracking. Not quite enough in the stache for that yet.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 02:13:15 PM by monstermonster »

irishbear99

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2015, 03:01:29 PM »
Have you considered taking the foreign service exam? Some would say it's questionable whether US foreign policy "doesn't make the world suck" as you put it, but it is an excellent way to live all over the world on Uncle Sam's dime and do something interesting and worthwhile. (Keeping in mind, of course, that "all over the world" includes the less hospitable places like Afghanistan as well as the glamorous places like Paris.) Google "Foreign Service Officer" and you should be able to find information on the Department of State's website on the different career paths.

AZDude

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2015, 03:06:23 PM »
Quote
Managing CRMs including data analysis & market segmentation and A/B tests

If true, you have a career in MIS and/or sales management if you are willing to work for it.

muckety_muck

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2015, 06:07:20 PM »
Have you considered taking the foreign service exam? Some would say it's questionable whether US foreign policy "doesn't make the world suck" as you put it, but it is an excellent way to live all over the world on Uncle Sam's dime and do something interesting and worthwhile. (Keeping in mind, of course, that "all over the world" includes the less hospitable places like Afghanistan as well as the glamorous places like Paris.) Google "Foreign Service Officer" and you should be able to find information on the Department of State's website on the different career paths.

I second this. We had a neighbor once who had been at posts all over the world, but you'll get better assignments if you're fluent in a certain language (italian, portugese, french, german, etc) - HOWEVER they will pay to send you to foreign language fluency classes if you're a desirable candidate.

If you want to travel the world, general advice is to stay away from domestic-focused jobs (FBI, IRS, DEA, ATF, etc). Look for CIA, foreign service, embassy jobs w/ state dept, etc. However, if you want to be a federal (domestic) agent, the age limit is 37 to be hired (and generally takes a few years to get through background, etc so apply before  you turn 35).

Also. your plans may change and focus shifts quite a bit from late 20s to late 30s. Unless you are planning to FIRE in <10 yrs, pick a career field that is flexible. ie. you may not want to spend 50% or more of your time traveling Pakistan, Syria, India, Japan, Germany, etc if you get married and decide to have kids. Or want to purchase a house and have to deal w/ all the general upkeep. Good luck w/ your decision!

Yankuba

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2015, 07:47:48 PM »
What about staying in your field but moving to a better market? My wife is not as decorated as you but she makes significantly more money at her non profit in NYC. She does have her masters. Plenty of people in her organization with 10 years experience make $90k or better. There seem to be a million development jobs in NYC and we have a friend at a local university who is always looking to hire. She makes six figures and also has less experience than you.

An acquaintance of ours was non profit all the way and went to get an MBA and then went back to non profits and people treated her differently - they didn't understand why she got the MBA instead of the MPA.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 07:50:29 PM by Yankuba »

Tig_

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2015, 08:02:04 PM »
Seconding the university system.  You still would get to work for a good cause (scholarships, general education, research funding, etc) with just a touch of soul sucking.  Overall though, I think higher ed development sounds like a good fit for a bunch of those skills and depending on the school would pay a little to a lot more than a traditional non-profit.

But before you accept the job, check the tuition remission benefits in case you end up wanting that MBA.

mozar

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2015, 12:22:15 PM »
Quote
you described my dream career path

This is also Obama's career path. So...you want to give up your dream because you are worried about not having income for 3 years? What if you get a full scholarship? You don't know unless you apply.
And yes there are fewer legal jobs, but there is still a lot of jobs for people with the best grades. Like most careers now, it's the people who are in the middle and bottom who have few prospects, where as before the most recent recession any schmo with a law degree could get a good job.

Yes, this path is a leap of faith, but you are so lucky that you have a dream, and the ability to follow it.

marcela

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2015, 06:53:40 AM »
Piling on to say higher ed development. You still get the feel goods, but with less burnout and more money. Tuition benefits are pretty stellar too. I'm working on a graduate certificate now and will probably move those credits to a masters degree in the next year, all 100% paid for.

Jouer

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2015, 07:46:18 AM »
If you decide against law school, what about statistical software sales? You wouldn't have to run regressions all day - not that that's what an analyst does...I also present to executives/board, shape policy, etc. Plus with your skills, you'd be running the analytics shop in no time - having others run regressions all day while you shape policy/strategy.

Back to sales. I was thinking for SAS or IBM Watson or something. Travel. Check. Asking for things face-to-face. Check. Knowledge of analysis. Check.

Not exactly saving the world. But maybe you could do some good with your extra $60,000 a year salary (at least).

2ndTimer

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2015, 08:05:54 AM »
Had a friend who went through something similar.  After getting her MSW and working for a few years as a social worker she concluded that she needed to work with happy people.  She wound up getting a job as a wine saleswomen to grocery stores, making more money and being happier.

FLBiker

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2015, 08:23:07 AM »
Interesting to see the higher ed development ideas.  I'm in higher ed (but not development) and I really enjoy working for a university.  Campuses tend to be pleasant, bikeable places and the library is amazing.  I'm an admin for our English language program, and as a faculty member, I can take out books for a semester at a time (~4 mos) and renew them up to 99 times online.  Plus, any book they don't have I can get via interlibrary loan or UBorrow, and keep for 3 weeks (for ILL) or ~2 months (UB).  I also feel like the stress-level / work-life balance is pretty good.  I work 40 hours a week, but nobody is timing me.  I recently was promoted to director, so I come in a bit earlier (8:30 - 5, more or less) but for years I'd been working from 9-5 w/ an hour lunch.

Let me throw another (albeit maybe strange) idea onto the pile -- you could teach English overseas.  I taught in Taiwan for 5 years and China for 1.  In Taiwan, I made ~ $25K per year, working ~25 hours per week.  That might not sound like much, but I easily saved 10K+ per year, despite buying a bunch of music gear and taking 2-3 international vacations each year.  Taiwan is a great mix of decent wages w/ low cost of living (at least, it was from 1999-2004).  I was paying ~$250 / month for a 2 bedroom apt w/ AC, high speed internet, etc.  I bought a scooter for ~$300 that lasted my 5 years (and sold it for $200 at the end).  I ate out every lunch and dinner for ~$2-3.  Plus, going from that into the Foreign Service is pretty smooth.  W/ a BA you can definitely get a job, with an MA you could teach at a university, which is a pretty sweet gig in terms of vacation time.

It's not for everyone, but as a way to see the world it's pretty good.


Easye418

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #16 on: October 08, 2015, 08:48:01 AM »
Try Sales.  You are pretty much the "most important" part of a company.  You get overpaid, underworked, and glorified for talking with people.  You get to travel all the time, have fancy dinners for free, and sometimes get amazing vacation incentives.

If I could live with travelling 50%+ of time and living on the edge of being fired for not performing, I would definitely do sales. 

And, you wouldn't have to get an additional degree because you have Sales Support who spoon feeds you your analytics and presentation decks.  Pretty much, you have to know how to talk, dress appropriately, and not screw up.

DCKatie09

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2015, 08:48:25 AM »
As somebody who currently works for a law school, I second the call to look at jobs in higher ed, and I'd encourage against going to law school (unless you are pretty sure you want to be a lawyer, I don't think it's a great investment right now). Foreign service is another awesome suggestion. You could also look into grant management for the state or federal gov't (tons of stuff in that field with the feds, and it'd pay substantially better), or into grant management for a foundation. Lots of transferable skills you've got going!

Easye418

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2015, 08:51:16 AM »
If you decide against law school, what about statistical software sales? You wouldn't have to run regressions all day - not that that's what an analyst does...I also present to executives/board, shape policy, etc. Plus with your skills, you'd be running the analytics shop in no time - having others run regressions all day while you shape policy/strategy.

Back to sales. I was thinking for SAS or IBM Watson or something. Travel. Check. Asking for things face-to-face. Check. Knowledge of analysis. Check.

Not exactly saving the world. But maybe you could do some good with your extra $60,000 a year salary (at least).


::Shiver:::: regression analysis for 8 hours a day.... I would jump out a window.  Thank god I live my nerf ball CPG Finance life.

Valetta

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2015, 09:52:35 AM »
I really do think you wouldn't be so burned out if you switched organizations. The life of a nonprofit development person is not always like yours.

My biggest event of the year - a Gala for 500 people - is TONIGHT. And I'm sitting here browsing these boards. I left at 5 p.m. last night, came in an hour late today. Even on my busiest week of the year, I won't work more than 55 hours. And I make $90,000/year and could leave anytime I get tired of it. I get approached by a recruiter at least once a month.

If you really want to get out of nonprofit work entirely and a few of my development friends have, here are a few options:

- There are software companies that sell to nonprofits - particularly for development products. You could easily make a leap and go work there.
- Go work on the foundation side and give away money instead (still nonprofit). I hear this has its own set of stressors though.
- Sales in general is often a reasonable leap - you are used to building relationships and asking people for money.
- You could go into consulting. Nonprofit consulting is very lucrative - $200/hour isn't uncommon here.
- Freelance grantwriting is another option. I pay my grantwriter $80/hour and I'm underpaying her.

Have you read UnderDeveloped? I suggest you do:
https://www.compasspoint.org/underdeveloped

There are lots of other articles out there along the same lines, UnderDevelopeded is just the most famous. Most Development Directors only stay 18-30 months in their job and then move on. You can make more and more money and move up the ladder faster if you just move on. And you would probably be happier.

jollygreen23

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #20 on: October 08, 2015, 01:59:06 PM »
I'm 28 and will be starting a nursing degree in January. I don't see a problem with it (yet). Sure, I'll be a bit older than most people with my experience level, but not by much. And I got a lot of life experience squeezed in beforehand that will help me with my job performance/knowledge in the future.

Philbert

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #21 on: October 08, 2015, 02:12:47 PM »
Try Sales.  You are pretty much the "most important" part of a company.  You get overpaid, underworked, and glorified for talking with people.  You get to travel all the time, have fancy dinners for free, and sometimes get amazing vacation incentives.

If I could live with travelling 50%+ of time and living on the edge of being fired for not performing, I would definitely do sales. 

And, you wouldn't have to get an additional degree because you have Sales Support who spoon feeds you your analytics and presentation decks.  Pretty much, you have to know how to talk, dress appropriately, and not screw up.

I second this. Sales immediately jumped to mind after reading your post. You don't need any special degrees. You just need to know how to talk to people. If you can fundraise, then you can sell. And there'll be traveling involved. I know sales can seem soul-sucky, but you could look into selling a not-terrible product that helps people. I work in ad sales, and our reps have a sweet life.

Above all, don't sell yourself short. You have developed fantastic skills that are transferable to other fields and always in-demand. Good luck!

monstermonster

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #22 on: October 09, 2015, 09:19:01 AM »
Whoa! Thanks everyone who jumped in with helpful suggestions yesterday. You've given me a LOT to research! I've ordered quite a lot of books at the library thanks to your suggestions.

Higher ed has always stood out as a way to jump into higher paying stuff in my field, but it isn't quite my wheelhouse, if I'm going to stay in non-profits, I'll be much happier being policy-adjacent. The real big dollars in higher ed are for major gifts work, and that's just not my favorite task. I can do it, but talking with people who want their name on a new science building isn't really how I want to spend my days. Grant compliance, though sounds pretty interesting to me! I love communicating stupidly complex policies and I have a knack for understanding grants regulations!

Sales sounds a lot like what I do now, only I'm actually selling a product, not just good feelings- which I might find supremely easier. Statistical software sales is something I've never even thought about existing! (But knowing how much I shelled out for statistical software in college...must be some money there!)

The foreign service officer thing is too interesting to not consider! I managed to line up coffee with two people who work for State from my small alma mater! I'm not sure I'd get accepted with some of my more radical nonprofit background, however. But I am fluent in German (which is not a critical foreign policy language anymore) and am learning Arabic at classes at night (not even conversational yet.) I was part of a federal fellowship program when I was in undergrad, and many folks went into the foreign service from it, so there's some hope that my radical activist past might not screw me.

Law school- well, y'all are sweet with encouragements, but yup, I'm just rather risk adverse. As much as I'd love to be a lawyer, I love not being in debt and the opportunity cost is just too high. WAY too many people going into law school now without actually wanting to be a lawyer.

Teaching english abroad-oof, I think I'm too far along in my career to want to do that. I've worked abroad in SE Asia in schools before (but as part of an NGO), and it isn't for me. I would prefer to leave that imperialist part of my past behind. Also I am not a fan of children.

mozar

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2015, 11:28:35 AM »
Quote
Grant compliance, though sounds pretty interesting to me! I love communicating stupidly complex policies and I have a knack for understanding grants regulations!

I did some grant compliance. I got my masters degree in accounting, and my first job was an auditor for non profits. Some of my former co-workers transitioned into grant compliance. Pay seems to plateau at about 65k though.

Quote
As much as I'd love to be a lawyer, I love not being in debt and the opportunity cost is just too high.

Like I said before, there are scholarship opportunities for high scorers.

Quote
WAY too many people going into law school now without actually wanting to be a lawyer.

What does this have to do with you?

monstermonster

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #24 on: October 09, 2015, 12:38:28 PM »

Quote
As much as I'd love to be a lawyer, I love not being in debt and the opportunity cost is just too high.

Like I said before, there are scholarship opportunities for high scorers.

Quote
WAY too many people going into law school now without actually wanting to be a lawyer.

What does this have to do with you?

I guess I should have said I'd love a *law degree* without being a lawyer professionally. Which puts me in the same boat as too many other people- and there's an oversupply of young JDs on the market right now. Their unemployment rate is higher as a whole than recent BA's unemployment rates. I get people with JD's applying to my organization for jobs under me at $30K. There are cheaper and shorter paths into public policy jobs without the legal background.
And scholarships or not, there's still a significant opportunity cost to law school- $120K at a minimum based on my current salary. Additionally, likely for a scholarship I'd have to relocate to a more expensive city. That's not to be underestimated.

Law school sounds great, but maybe once I'm FIRE'd it would make more sense.

Dee18

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #25 on: October 09, 2015, 01:05:12 PM »
For what it's worth, my sister makes $125,000/year as a fundraiser for theater groups, and in lieu of higher salary has negotiated 10 weeks vacation a year.  She has a Bachelor's degree only, no masters.  Your fundraising experience is worth a lot...and you can make decent money in non-profits as a fundraiser.  Or you might do it for a university.   My sister worked as a fundraiser for the School for the Arts at a private university before moving on to her present job.

irishbear99

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Re: Career switch in late 20's? Interested in giving me guidance?
« Reply #26 on: October 09, 2015, 03:18:37 PM »
The foreign service officer thing is too interesting to not consider! I managed to line up coffee with two people who work for State from my small alma mater! I'm not sure I'd get accepted with some of my more radical nonprofit background, however. But I am fluent in German (which is not a critical foreign policy language anymore) and am learning Arabic at classes at night (not even conversational yet.) I was part of a federal fellowship program when I was in undergrad, and many folks went into the foreign service from it, so there's some hope that my radical activist past might not screw me.

Sounds like there are some pretty crazy stories in there. :) If you do follow this route and get to the interview/clearance stage, just be honest. There are many things you might think will disqualify you but won't; however, not disclosing something asked and they later find out about is grounds for dismissal pretty much 100% of the time.

Let us know how your meetings go!