What's most important in a job?
May 10, 2010 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I need help deciding between job opportunities. Should I go for the one with less interesting work but at a small start-up, working from home? Or should I turn it down for the one that has more interesting work but for a huge company?

Long story short… I just finished my Master’s of Mechanical Engineering last week. I have worked as a student engineer in the research department of a major electric utility for the past four years. I have been looking for full-time employment for about 6 months and a few opportunities have finally presented themselves. Somewhat unfortunately, my fiancée is still in grad school in our current city so looking for jobs elsewhere is currently out of the question.

There are currently three opportunities that have a pretty high likelihood of working out:

A) A Research Engineer in the dept. I currently work in, working on Renewable Energy research
B) Another Engineering position in a closely related group working on environmental strategy
C) A Sales Engineer position for a small company, selling and designing high-efficiency HVAC systems

The focus of my question is on the latter job. It would be for a 4-person company. There is no main office so I would work from home. The sales territory is a two-state area, so day-trips throughout the region would happen 2 to 3 days a week. Pay would be based on a base salary plus commission.

My dilemma is on what is most important to me in a job. The pay will be about the same for all the jobs. On the one hand, Job C has a number of benefits that appeal to me: small company, working from home, flexible hours. On the other hand, I might get bored with the work fairly quickly as my previous experience is in pretty technical academic and research fields. Also, maybe I’m being young and stupid, but when I’m asked what I do for a living, I like to respond with something that is progressive and has a bit of “allure.” (Of course, this is somewhat debatable, Job C would be working on a number of LEED projects - Job A would be working on progressive, attractive research but would be working for a huge polluter).

I should note that I am not a workaholic. Working from home has a ton of benefits for me - I'm a musician on the side so it might give me more of an opportunity for that. It might encourage me to exercise more. However, I still think I would get plenty of work done since the pay would be partially based on comission.

Unfortunately, I will hear the results of my interview for Job C well before I will hear the results of the other two (since the company requires such a long and drawn-out bureaucratic hiring process). I think it’s highly likely that I will be offered Job C for a number of reasons I won’t go into. I also think it’s highly likely that I’ll be offered at least one of the other two, but there’s still a chance I won’t.

Basically, I want you to persuade me to either accepting or rejecting Job C. Does anyone have experience going from a highly technical job to one that is sales-driven?
posted by JacksonEsquire to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Do you enjoy selling?
posted by freya_lamb at 9:22 AM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: @ freya_lamb

I'm not sure if I enjoy selling - I've never done it before. I don't think I would hate it. I'm definitely not the stereotypical introverted engineer. I'm good at communiccating with people and holding conversations. I think I would be good at the sales part, but I honestly have no idea if I would "enjoy" it.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 9:29 AM on May 10, 2010

In this economy I would stay away from a job where you relied on your commission to make ends meat.
posted by amethysts at 9:31 AM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

How much do you know about company C? Are they well-established? What's the risk that they will go under short-term? Having worked a sales position (from home) for a small company, I'm really reluctant to encourage anyone to do the same unless it's for a solid position with a good base salary. If you have no sales experience, that only makes the situation less stable.
posted by OLechat at 9:32 AM on May 10, 2010

Sales isn't just communication, it's persuasion. Some people really relish that element, others really don't. You should be ok if you believe in the product, especially if the customers are largely open to buying. If not, you really need to enjoy the ACT of selling or it's going to be tough.
posted by freya_lamb at 9:48 AM on May 10, 2010

Sorry, I meant the act of persuasion.
posted by freya_lamb at 9:50 AM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: Company C isn't quite a start-up, they've been around for about 30 years or so but recently shifted their focus to high-efficiency HVAC. Their main product is a Mitsubishi Electric product and the technology is starting to see a lot higher sales in the US (it's been established in Japan for decades). The current electric utility I work for is doing a research project with EPRI using the Mitsubishi product and although the results haven't been finalized yet, I have a good source that says the results will present a huge energy savings and could be a big game changer for the region. Therefore, the company itself is pretty stable and my personal job stability hinges on MY performance.
posted by JacksonEsquire at 10:19 AM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: I worked in Renewable Energy resesarch for over 4 years in various capacities, including getting my M. Sc. in it and continuing on as a research engineer with additional business-related duties (like funding and conference-related stuff). And now I'm a process engineer for an engineering consulting company, which involves a lot of client interaction and business development work (very much like sales).

The difference I felt most strongly between green research and the commercial sector is that it's not hard to pimp out the research (hey, it's for the greater good!), whereas pimping out my company feels far more strategic, less wholesome if you will... So I ask, how much did you work with people in the last few years? Are you comfortable meeting and interacting with all kinds of new people on a regular basis, giving presentations? I loved it during the research, so now the awkward side of commercial business is becoming less uncomfortable every day as I learn this new spin on the game. And your job will still have a large technical component, you need to be able to work with the client to determine their needs, that's just taking a more accommodating attitude while treating it as teamwork.

If you enjoy working with people on technical problems and don't mind giving presentations, then DO accept the Sales Engineer position, it's not forever (if you don't like it) and getting that experience interacting with clients is going to serve you well for the rest of your career, regardless of what you do down the road. R&D in something green will still be there in the future if you want to go back, and these skills will only help there too.
posted by lizbunny at 10:34 AM on May 10, 2010

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