If not now, when?
February 7, 2009 9:01 AM   Subscribe

In this economy is it a bad idea to relocate for an IT job?

(asked anon because no need to advertise to my bosses that I am thinking of leaving)

I am a mid-30s male and I currently work as a high level programmer in a dead-end job. The job is not a problem in its day to day work, but in a meeting with management I was outright told there is no advancement for me in the company and that the work done by my department is not really seen as important; we programmers are seen by management more as a necessary evil than an experienced, professional team. This crushed all of my morale. Normally this would be where I would be enjoying the smell of warm laser toner off freshly printed resumes, but with all the really bad news about jobs that I read daily in the news I wonder if I should alter my playbook.

I've worked here over a year. It's a company related to the medical field and seems financially stable. And while I will not be able to advance in my current role, I don't think my job is in jeopardy. I can tred water here; I am just unhappy to do so.

But in my region there appear to be very few high level programming jobs available. There have been thousands of people laid off in recent months, unemployment is high. In my looking, I found that I will likely have to relocate if I want to find a job with advancement opportunities and matching my current salary (currently there appear to be quite a few tech jobs in Atlanta, GA).

My question is this: given the economy, how bad an idea is it to switch jobs from one where I'm not likely to become unexpectedly unemployed to a totally unknown situation? Even if I choose a large, national company they are not immune to layoffs, and in a new job I'd be "low man on the totem pole."

I don't want to wait forever...I'm not getting any younger and this is the time where I am energetic and willing to work hard to keep advancing my career. But assuming I get a job offer, is now as good a time as any to pull up roots and move my family to new locations where my wife and I would both need new jobs, or should we stay put until things start to improve?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's always a good idea to know what jobs are out there - it's my feeling that if you're skilled in your field you can always find work or another job or even relocate again if need be. Are you in a position to do so - 6 months of savings, dependents and children, etc? Forgive me for saying so, but your words sound like someone scared of venturing into a brave new world by looking for stable multinational companies to be a veteran at when that's really what's making you unhappy in the first place.

Perhaps you could try a small agile company that values each employee, where you can learn to plan for the next step in your road at all times. :)
posted by kcm at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2009

how bad an idea is it to switch jobs from one where I'm not likely to become unexpectedly unemployed to a totally unknown situation?

If the economy is your primary concern about moving, then I say go for it. The situation you describe sounds depressing, and being depressed by your job threatens burnout and discouragement, which will be bad for you professionally, and take longer to recover from the longer you're enduring it. How bad an idea is it to stay at a job where you are undervalued and your professionalism isn't respected?

Advancement opportunity is a great motive to leave your current job, and employers interviewing you will view your ambition positively. While you are interviewing, you can evaluate your risk of layoff at your new position; in my experience being laid off from a large company will be less about your totem pole status (layoffs are wide-reaching and not usually cherry-picking individuals) and more about the company's financial circumstances, and the revenue impact of the team you are to join. You can ask questions about these things and research them independently during the interview process.

Companies are still hiring great developers. Our industry isn't as affected, yet, by this crisis as many others. You should definitely look around and interview. During the interview process, you can get an idea of how in-demand your skills are, and how valued you might be by another company. Interviewing is great for that, even if you don't decide to change jobs. Don't let discouragement about the economy stop you from trying.
posted by doteatop at 9:16 AM on February 7, 2009

stay where you are and take on outside freelance jobs that meet whatever career/professional needs the job isn't providing you for now. don't work yourself to death, just take on jobs that will strengthen your resume. there are all sorts of small businesses who could use your skills. it will make you stronger in your job search when the economy is better.

i have never understood leaving a well paying steady job because it's boring or dead end, especially when you are being treated fairly well and in no danger of being fired or laid off.
posted by elle.jeezy at 9:25 AM on February 7, 2009

i have never understood leaving a well paying steady job because it's boring or dead end

Because being bored with no possibility for advancement is not fun?
posted by mpls2 at 9:41 AM on February 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

elle.jeezy, I would consider a meeting like that to be code for "start sending out resumes, buddy, because if we have to cut people you'll be the first to go."

OP, I would start seriously looking and interviewing, because the shot across your bow has been fired. It's a crappy market, but it's still better to find something before you've been laid off than try to do it after. I speak from experience - COBRA's a bitch.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:56 AM on February 7, 2009

Personally, I wouldn't move right now unless I had a job lined up.
So line up a job.

Send out the resume to those places in Atlanta, and once you have a few interviews planned, take a "vacation" down there to check it out and meet with them and the other companies you would be interested in.
See what develops and move once you or your wife has an offer there.
posted by rmless at 10:05 AM on February 7, 2009

I've worked here over a year.

I'd tough it out to the two-year mark if you can make it, then look for work. By then maybe things will have settled down some, plus 24 months of steady employment looks better than 12.


in a meeting with management I was outright told there is no advancement for me in the company

Yeah, you're screwed. When the axe falls you'll be on the opposite side of the block from those bozos in the meeting. Word up. Unless you know someone above you who can throw you a lifeline and get into another department, I'd dust off the resume.

I wouldn't jump ship just yet, but I would drastically change my lifestyle so that I'm packing away as much income as possible. Get rid of the cable TV, stop eating out as much... stuff like that.

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 10:31 AM on February 7, 2009

Can you give us an idea of your general location and skills set? There may be some MeFites who read this in your area who are in the position to hire or recommend for hire someone with your skills. You seem like you have decent communication skills and a good head on your shoulders which, along with your experience, should give you a foot in the door in a lot of places.
posted by sherlockt at 10:36 AM on February 7, 2009

As an addendum to my previous comment, even though the economy is bad, this may be the time some companies are looking to staff up. Our company is solvent and growing and we are happy with the prospect of a lot of talent coming onto the job market as a result of layoffs.
posted by sherlockt at 10:39 AM on February 7, 2009

Before I'd advise you to jump ship, I'd want you to clarify if "management" feels that way or if that particular manager feels that way. It's a huge difference. Don't let one manager with poor people skills sour you on your job.

Right now, I'd advise you to stay put, not because of the economy but because I don't hear a clear career progression plan. You're unhappy with your job because of that meeting. Don't let that rush you into a choice.

Figure out what you want to do with your career long-term - manage other programmers, manage projects, move into IT strategy or architecture? If your career goal is to be programming from now until the end of your career, then that's somewhat limiting. It also puts you at much higher risk of being off-shored. In my experience, testing goes off-shore first, then coding. Requirements, architecture and analysis last. In this economic climate, the risk of being off-shore is something all IT professionals need to consider.

Considering you're in a safe spot now, there's no rush. Decide on your career path and start getting your professional credentials, network and resume in order. Then you can start looking for a new gig.
posted by 26.2 at 10:44 AM on February 7, 2009

What harm is there in looking and talking? It probably doesn't feel like it, but your employer did you a favor in being up front with you.

related to the medical field

Medical/IT is a pretty hot field right now, and every posting I've seen looks for previous experience in the medical field. Sounds like you have a good combination of experience. Also, [peering into crystal ball] there's a strong possibility that there will be a lot of large scale, probably government-mandated IT/medical projects coming down the pike in the next 4 or 8 years. So I don't see demand in that field declining anytime soon.

My caveat to this is, if you are a chronic job hopper, with a history of staying in jobs for less than two years, follow wfrgms advice and try to make the two year mark. Or look for a position with Accenture or similar companies that move you from assignment to assignment, which might keep your interest for a while.
posted by txvtchick at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2009

You can pad your resume & entertain yourself by contributing to or starting some good open source project while working for your current employer. You might also consider doing a PhD in computer science or the computer side of biotech. A PhD might be the hurdle for further advancement in some medical related companies. Well, Georgia Tech would be great for grad school in either field. So maybe you can apply for grad school there? You'd get the taste of life & the job market in Atlanta. Atlanta is a great town if your employed and/or can live like a student, but not so cheap if your unemployed and can't live cheaply.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:08 AM on February 7, 2009

Leaving the area where you have a professional network for a new area is tempting.. but wrong.

Most jobs that are worth having you get through friends and FOAF contacts, not through Monster.com and the like. Walking away from this network is enormously risky.
posted by rr at 1:31 PM on February 7, 2009

rr, that depends on what your network looks like. My professional network is spread all over the country - I could move pretty much anywhere in the US and not "walk away" from anything. Leaving the industry I'm in, however, would be "walking away."

I know a number of people in Atlanta, actually, and it does appear to be the next IT boomtown. But OP, just start looking for something now - however you can best do that.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:04 PM on February 7, 2009

restless, I'm so happy for you. That is an unusual situation and not common at all, which I am sure you appreciate.
posted by rr at 3:40 PM on February 7, 2009

They've told you that they don't value you. Look for greener pastures. Line up two or three options, so if one falls through you can move more quickly to the next. Don't sweat the national economy- if you have skills, you'll be fine.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:04 PM on February 7, 2009

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