Job Opportunity Gut Check
December 1, 2008 4:37 PM   Subscribe

What questions should I ask myself in order to decide if I should take a new job in this economic environment? It's basically giant corporation vs. boutique consultancy.

I have a stable middle-management job in a large corporation which, although while not exactly exciting, is secure and gives me a certain degree of responsibility and creative control in an area I'm not particularly interested in. The salary, benefits and growth opportunities are all average to good. The soulless bureaucracy, fizzled initiatives, office politics and general no-fun atmosphere leave my entrepreneurial, adventurous side cold. I've been there 18 months, like my boss, feel appreciated. I have recently been approached by a well-established, boutique UK consulting firm committed to building out the NY office. Their core competencies are much more closely aligned with mine, they seem to be on the move, they are well connected and have a dynamic client list with several projects on deck that would immediately fall into my area. Not to mention, more money, more freedom, better title, great events and projects, travel.

My question is: now that we have gone to the next level in discussions, what kinds of economy-related questions should I be asking about their business model? It's obviously a tough climate for strategy consultants -- I want to ask cogent, meaningful questions in order to surface their thinking about the economy and to find out what they're doing to stay strong during this recession.
posted by thinkpiece to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You don't say who their clients are. I immediately asked myself who their clients are, and will their clients have money to hire them in the time frame you care about.
posted by salvia at 5:18 PM on December 1, 2008

Best answer: It sounds like it's definitely worth exploring. At the very least, it'll bring your thoughts about your current position and what you want out of it into focus.

Questions I'd be asking are, as salvia says - who are their clients, what contracts do they currently have, how long are those contracts for (i.e. long enough to last out the current recession), what plans to they have to survive, what scope for growth is there given the recession and what they plan to do to exploit the opportunities that are there to grow market share and consolidate their current position, what deliverables do they expect from you, reporting/accountability lines, opportunities for personal development/projects.

Any change is a leap of faith, but then even the most secure jobs can disappear without warning. My sister quit her job last week since she was fed up, started her new job this week and found out today that her previous employer was laying people off without warning. There but for the grace of God...

Good luck!
posted by arcticseal at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2008

Best answer: It's a tough call. What kind of cost-of-living requirements do you have? Family and kids? Good benefits needed? Corporate perks?

If you can switch jobs at a whim and not be totally screwed if the boutique fails in 6 months, I'd say go for the boutique job. If you absolutely need 365 days of employment a year with benefits, I'd say stick with the corporate job.

I would ask a lot of questions during the due diligence period and try to get a feel for how much work the boutique has coming down the pipeline. If it's enough to sustain a NY office/team for 6-12 months, then great. If you get runaround answers and hedging, I'd be wary.

I work in NYC right now and quality jobs in my industry are getting harder and harder to find. I'm employed full-time now but there are no guarantees the company (a startup) will be retaining their entire team 6 months from now, especially if all of our clients stop putting money into advertising campaigns (not likely, but I expect some kind of pullback on spending).

So I have a similar choice. Do I stick around and hope the company is successful 6 months out, or do I start applying for jobs at larger companies where is a bit more job security.

The rule of thumb I've been living by lately is "there is no job security" no matter how large or small the company is. The recent failure of huge companies on Wall Street and companies like Circuit City and Linens & Things prove this point. One day you have a job, the next you don't.

So, weigh the risks, and choose the path that makes you the happiest. If you're willing to risk a steady, good job (is it really, though?) to go work for a smaller company where you'll be happier, then I see no reason why you shouldn't take that risk.

Also, is this boutique hiring User Experience Designers? I might be interested. :-)
posted by camworld at 6:29 PM on December 1, 2008

Ask if they have a strategic plan, if they're following it, and if you can see it.
posted by Miko at 8:29 PM on December 1, 2008

Best answer: "committed to building out the NY office" sounds like they don't already have the client base to support the new hires (including you). What is their history in terms on the size of a typical project (how many people for how long)? Are they one-off projects or do they have on-going relationships with their clients? How many different clients do they have now and how many new clients do they expect to get in the next 6 months. Ask about their "rain makers" - who brings in the new clients and new projects and what is their track record? Are you supposed to bringing in clients yourself?

As someone upstream said, look at who their clients are and what service the company is offering. Many consultants are going to suffer in this economy, a few are positioned to do even better in a recession.
posted by metahawk at 9:00 PM on December 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, this is great -- I was worried I would come off sounding pushy and skeptical if I asked challenging questions or for more info on the biz model. Any economists or finance types, feel free to weigh in too!

Funny, after I posted I got a call from my current boss at the big corp, telling me about a late meeting she was called to wherein it was announced that a biz unit that reports to her is being considered for outsourcing. She said, "Don't worry, we're safe." Boy, did that not allay my worries!
posted by thinkpiece at 3:28 AM on December 2, 2008

Building out a NY office is basically a gamble that may or may not pay off. You want to know who the clients are, but also what the strategy is, what brings them to New York, how the work will tie together, etc.

It's possible the New York office is completely integrated with their existing work, and that they simply want to create a new flagship office. This is good. On the other hand, it's possible that want to try and grow their business and get new clients. In this economy, I think this would be a bad bet.
posted by xammerboy at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2008

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