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When to Decline a Job Offer

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When you're looking for a new job, it’s easy to come down with a case of tunnel vision, focusing exclusively on reeling in an offer without considering whether it’s really the kind of job you'd like to snag. Many of us get so wrapped up in crafting the perfect cover letter or wearing the perfect interview outfit, all in order to snag an offer, that we forget that not every job is one worth taking. mental_floss spoke with career coaches Sarah Stamboulie, head of Stamboulie Consulting, and Jennifer Rosenthal, president of Career Confidence NYC, about the important factors to consider about when weighing a job offer—and when it’s a good idea to turn an offer down. 


Both Stramboulie and Rosenthal agree that it’s important to know what your goals are before going into a job interview. It’s difficult to know whether a job is a good fit, or whether an offer is right for you, if you haven’t thought extensively about what you really want.

Rosenthal recommends making a list of what she calls “key career ingredients” before beginning the application process. These are the criteria that are most important to you, and can include job stability, compensation, brand recognition, and more. Rosenthal notes that career ingredients are personal, not universal. “Some people are looking for stability above all else, and others don’t care,” she says. “Some like to be really independent, while others are looking for a really strong mentor. Everyone has different priorities.” 

Rosenthal also emphasizes the importance of using your must-have list to help keep your eye on the prize during a difficult job hunt. “Most folks do not like the job search process, and find it stressful, so there can be the impulse to say, ‘I just want to stop this process and take a job.’ That’s why it’s so important to have that list,” she says.


Stamboulie recommends strongly against interviewing for jobs you know you don’t really want. “People should prep very hard and very specifically for the opportunities they’re really interested in,” she says. “Because when you get an offer from a job or a company you’re not really interested in, and it’s good money, or your mom says you should take it, all kinds of bad things come from that.” 


Avoiding a bad job offer can be as simple as narrowing down your job search before you start applying. Other times, a job sounds great on paper, but things start to go downhill during the interview. Both Stamboulie and Rosenthal say it’s important to pay attention to your own feelings during an interview. “If you feel like you wouldn’t be happy somewhere, even if the interview process wasn’t overtly negative, it could just be a bad fit,” Rosenthal says. “It doesn’t mean it’s a bad role or a bad company, but it might not be for you.” 

“Some people’s personalities are such that they’re better at seeing, and heeding, red flags than others,” says Stamboulie. “If you’re one of those people who’s not great at noticing red flags, talk to the people around you about your interview experience, and ask your friends for advice.” 

Some interview red flags are more tangible than others. Your comfort level during an interview, and how you mesh with your interviewer, are decent ways to gauge whether a company’s culture is a good fit for you. But some red flags are more objective. “If any employer asks you illegal questions about your personal life, that should be a huge red flag,” Rosenthal says. “Clearly, no one should ask whether you’re married or trying to get pregnant. And if anything feels unethical but not quite illegal, that should also be a big warning sign.” (You can read a list of some of the most commonly asked illegal interview questions here, and questions you might not realize are illegal here.)


Once you make it past the interview stage and finally get a job offer, it’s time to take a close look at both the written offer and the attitude of your potential employer. One of the biggest things to look out for, according to Stamboulie, is the bait-and-switch. “If, throughout the interview, the interviewer referred to the job as a manager position, and now it’s suddenly an assistant manager position, that’s a bad sign,” she says. “Or if suddenly, the interviewer is acting like they’re doing you a favor when they give you the offer—if you were feeling the love during the interview process, and now you’re not—it might be time to reconsider.” 

Stamboulie says it’s incredibly important to look at your job offer in its entirety. “In addition to the written offer letter, you should be looking at the employee handbook, non-compete agreement, or any other legal paperwork you’ll have to sign,” she says. “Sometimes there’s really bad stuff hidden in there: You don’t want to quit a job only to find out there was some vicious non-compete clause you didn’t know about. If you have a friend who’s a lawyer, or someone who understands how to read those materials, get them to help you. It’s always good to get a second pair of eyes on those papers.” 


Make sure to do your research on the company and the position you’re about to fill. “Find out if the company is financially secure and why your particular position is opening up,” recommends Rosenthal. “If it’s a completely new position, that might indicate the company is growing, which is great. If it’s a position that opened up because somebody moved on, you can ask your interviewer where your predecessor went, and whether they were promoted or left the company. If they left, it’s not necessarily a bad sign, but you might want to do a little research on your own, take a peek at their LinkedIn, and see where they ended up.” 


If you’ve received a job offer and it’s not raising any major red flags, Stamboulie and Rosenthal say the decision is ultimately a personal one. “It just has to feel right to you,” Rosenthal says. “If a job hits the top three things on your list but misses a few lower down, it might still be worth considering. It’s a decision you have to make based on your priorities.” Most people can tell when a job doesn’t feel quite right, says Stamboulie, and unless you’re in dire straits financially, it’s a good idea to turn down jobs that aren’t appealing.

“When should you turn down a job and keep looking? My thought would be, a lot of the time, if you’re asking that question, you should probably keep looking,” Stamboulie says.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]