Recently, fresh out of school, I had two job offers. One was a dream job in Silicon Valley and the other was a job with a team I had worked with before. For what I now see as stupid reasons, I took the second job. But two months in, I wake up every morning kicking myself for turning down my dream job. I'm unsure what to do...
posted by anonanimal to work & money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So I have a bad case of career regret right now. Allow me to explain...
Recently, I was a PhD student in a science-related field. Good funding situation, successful at publishing. My research was applied and closely related to work in industry. But due to a poor advisor, I made the choice to leave the program. I don't regret this decision at all -- it's the job choice that came next.
I applied to a few companies and got offers before quitting the PhD. It came down to two. One is a large industrial player in my field, and I had actually done a graduate internship there before. I liked the team, my boss was awesome (fair, understanding, reasonable), and as an added bonus, the job is in a city very close to my hometown, with reasonable cost of living, etc.
The second place I applied is a software company in Silicon Valley. Why? My work in the PhD involved writing a lot of research software, and I actually enjoyed this as much as the science itself. I've always seen myself as a software guy with domain knowledge in this other field, whereas colleagues mostly seemed to be scientists first who grudgingly hacked code, and I felt that mismatch a bit before but couldn't really put a finger on it. But as I had thought about leaving the PhD, being a software engineer sounded like a really nice dream job, whereas I was sort of getting tired of my field.
Fast forward a bit, I got both offers, and both were very good financially. I had people on both sides trying to woo me. I felt a sort of loyalty and almost obligation toward the team I had done the internship in my field with -- sort of, "they worked really hard to get me an offer, and the boss is awesome, it's hard to say no, how could I give that up?" But then I also had a sort of gut feeling that the software company would have the more interesting work. I think I would fit better culturally there too (the company in my field is very top-down and bureaucratic, which can be frustrating). But then cost of living, and settling near family… But then the SF bay is a more interesting area and a lot of friends are there… anyway, I went back and forth for a few weeks, and eventually, on the deadline, I psyched myself up and, based on "good boss, lower cost of living, near family, stuff I know how to do", and against my gut feeling, I committed to the company in my field.
Almost immediately I felt pangs of regret. I gave up my dream. I feel like I took the easy, comfortable, familiar option out of a combination of (misguided) loyalty and fear-of-the-unknown, and a strange sense that I should plan for the further future (buying a house, settling near family long term) even though I'm still young. I knew at some level that I would regret it, but I forced myself into it anyway, against gut feeling, because… I don't know, it seemed like the "wiser" option, or so I told myself. But I stupidly gave up a huge opportunity. And in hindsight, I see all the obvious signs I ignored that pointed the other way.
So now here's where I stand. I've been at the job a few months. All the things I remember from the internship (but suppressed somehow) are still true: it's still a stifling corporate job, and my team is great but I'm not so passionate about the work. I ignored my gut feeling. All the reasons I told myself for choosing this way seem hollow. Fortunately it's not a lifetime commitment, and I know what I have to do eventually. I'm the type of person who has a job as an identity and a source of fulfillment, not just a way to pay the bills, so I don't want to suffer here longer than necessary.
What I'm struggling with now is how long to stay and how to forgive myself until then. I don't want to screw over the team now that I actually work here. And I sort of feel stuck for a bit, too, because a few of my references were from people here (due to the prior internship) so I can't really burn a bridge. But how long do I wait? What do I say when I eventually go? How do you deal with this sort of regret? Am I right to even regret it? Finally, how do people made decisions to avoid regrets like this? I feel like I could have done a lot better.