Should I stay or should I go?
August 3, 2010 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Last month, I started a new job at a local college. Today, I was offered a higher-paying position at a different college. Logically, I know I should take the new position, but it's not that easy. How can I reconcile my ethical and financial needs? If I decide to stay, how can I supplement my current income? If I decide to take the new job, what's the best way to let my employer know?

To prevent my overly verbose tendencies from boring you to death, here, in list-form, is why I'm compelled to stay at my current job:

1) I was only hired a little over a month ago. I have several projects that I've just started working on, and abandoning them in halfway would be jarring to those left behind.

2) I work closely with current and prospective students, as an adviser of sorts. I've already started making appointments and getting 'facetime' with both groups. It seems strange to me to make all of these contacts, schedule preliminary meetings, and then disappear a month later. Also, students have been very appreciative of the services I offer. My position is completely new, so before I came to the college, they had no one they could come to for advising.

3) The department I work in is already conducting a search for another vacant position; a position that's been open since May. They've had over 100 applicants, several interviews, but nothing has panned out. I highly doubt they will find someone to fill my position before the end of the year, especially since the salary is so low (just barely over $30K)

4) I work very closely with another department in Student Services. Recently, the director of this department, along with several other people, gave notice that they were leaving the college and taking jobs with another agency. So now that department, along with my own, is in flux. Now I'm the only person on the entire branch of our campus that can help students with anything related to this particular field.

5) My position was created to ensure that the college fulfills requirements that are necessary for us to maintain our accreditation. If my position is not filled quickly, the schools runs the risk of losing accreditation.

The benefits of the new job?

1) The new job pays $10K more a year. I live very frugally, but I'm already struggling to pay my bills as it is. If I stay with my current job, I'd have to get a part-time job to achieve my financial goals like reducing my debt and building a nest egg. Also, the new position has better benefits. At my current job, I'm paying almost $200/month for insurance, parking, and retirement. With the new job, I wouldn't have to pay out for insurance or parking, and I'd get an employee match on my 403(b).

2) New job is closer to home. My commute to my current job is already pretty short (approx. 15 minutes), but my new job is 10 blocks away from my house.

3) The new job has scheduled raises every year. My current employer is doing massive budget cuts; employees haven't gotten raises for the past three years. My current salary is non-negotiable.

4) This job relates to my specific field of interest, which is working with high-need/low-income populations. I'm a huge advocate of public service and "giving back to the community", so this is a definite plus.

I know that the new job is better for me, financially, but I feel really guilty about leaving my current employer--and my students--high and dry when they're in need. My supervisor is already stressed out trying to fill the other vacant position. I don't know how I can look her in the eye and say "Peace out! Good luck!"

This is only my second job out of college (my first was a contractor position with a specific beginning and end date), so I'm not even sure how I'd go about giving notice. Any advice on that front would be helpful as well.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Take the job. Accept that you are going to inconvenience a lot of people. Explain to your supervisor what happened, and express your regret that this happened this way. Ask what you need to do to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Yes, people will be annoyed, and you will burn bridges, but that kind of salary difference--at the low end of the spectrum--is inarguable in this economy, especially if you have student loans to pay off.

Suck it up, and count your lucky stars that you have two jobs to choose from, one of which is exactly what you want to do.
posted by thinkingwoman at 3:42 PM on August 3, 2010 [4 favorites]

This situation sucks, but at the same time you have to look out for yourself. The 30% salary raise is not something any supervisor can reasonably hold against you.

Tell this ASAP if the job offer is solid. Negotiate as long a transition time as you can with the new job.

This sort of thing happens and the old job won't be thrilled, but they'll move past it.
posted by mercredi at 3:43 PM on August 3, 2010

I don't know how I can look her in the eye and say "Peace out! Good luck!"

I know you're being a little flip here (or at least I presume you are!), but I would start by not characterizing it this way. If you choose to take the new job -- and, for the record, I think you should (among everything else, the school's ability to maintain accreditation should not rest on your shoulders) -- you can give notice in a way that's appropriately grown-up and respectful. "I truly appreciate the opportunity you've given me, and I'll be happy to do whatever I can until my final day to help ease the transition" (or whatever the appropriate wording might be). This can help to minimize hard feelings, and may help to prevent the bridge from being burned.

In any case, it's nice that you like your current employer and students enough to consider their well-being, but don't cheat yourself out of better compensation, better satisfaction, and better opportunities simply out of guilt. And yeah, no reasonable supervisor is going to hold a 33% raise against you.
posted by scody at 3:50 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

So, they underpay you, for work that is less interesting to you, and inconvenience you with a bad commute, yet they have a hard time filling positions. Why is it that you feel such guilt and loyalty to them? You're not a bad person for accepting the job that you would have accepted a month ago, had it been available.

They control how much they pay, working conditions etc, and if any one of them had been different, you might stay with them. By leaving, you're making the market work, and giving them incentive to change their practices.
posted by gregglind at 3:51 PM on August 3, 2010 [10 favorites]

Yup, take the job. You need to look out for yourself, not your employer.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:51 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

While it's kind of you to be loyal to your current organisation, please remember that a college is an entity, not a person - it cannot return the loyalty. And you already know it won't; there will be no pay increases because there haven't been.

If the college you're with really is in danger of losing it's accreditation, they will throw money at that problem just to staff the role. Seriously, do not worry about it. I mean I know you will, but you shouldn't.

Take the new job because it's what's best for you.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:56 PM on August 3, 2010

If someone I hired a month ago got another offer that paid 25% more than I could, I'd thoroughly understand the decision to leave.

That your employer has already begun to rely on you does not in any way compel you to stay, a month, a year, or a decade into a job. You're going to leave some students and coworkers in a lurch when you quit whether it's now, a year from now, or a decade from now.

You're a free human being pursuing happiness first and a loyal employee second. You didn't list anything about the current job that attracted you to stay except feelings of guilt and obligation; the new offer is in "your specific field of interest" and compensates you much more fairly. Be a loyal employee -- at the second college.
posted by gum at 4:02 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they want you badly enough, they'll pay you the 10K. You're not under contract and not under any ethical obligation to stay unless you promised them you would.
posted by inturnaround at 4:04 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

The department I work in is already conducting a search for another vacant position; a position that's been open since May. They've had over 100 applicants, several interviews, but nothing has panned out.

I don't think it's just that nothing has panned out. The economy sucks . If they wanted a warm body to fill that position, they'd have one easily. It's not your fault that they haven't done what they need to do there.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:05 PM on August 3, 2010

Take the job. If your guilt is too much to bear, donate a portion of your additional salary to your current employer's student assistance fund (or any other worthy charity in your field).
posted by foggy out there now at 4:09 PM on August 3, 2010

I don't know how I can look her in the eye and say "Peace out! Good luck!"

You don't say "Peace out!" Instead, you sit down to meet with her and explain that you're giving two weeks' (or three weeks, or a month, whatever you choose) notice because you've been offered a position that suits you better than your current role (better pay, better benefits, better commute, better fit with your long-term goals). Then, you work out with her what you can do during your remaining time with your current employer to make the transition easier.

Behaving ethically in this context means understanding that your departure will be a disruption and working to minimize that disruption: it does not mean declining the better job offer. Your current employer is already (at one month in) relying heavily on you in your current position because you're a talented employee with an important role, yes, but it also sounds like their reliance on you (and the fact that the other position remains vacant) points to poor management or organization on the part of your employer. You are not responsible for their management decisions. Low-paying positions are frequently high-turnover, and it's up to your employer to create a strategy for handling that turnover rate.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:25 PM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

So everyone else is jumping ship, they can't convince anyone to work for them, and the place is at risk of losing its accreditation? Take the other job.

If you don't find that convincing, first make yourself think less of the organization, then take the other job. My first paragraph is a good place to start to feel bad about this college. You don't need to full-on hate it anyway. Just feel bad enough about it that you'll allow yourself to have $10k more a year.

Really, I think you are seeking permission to take the higher paying job that you want. You've received it from us. Now give it to yourself. Then take the other job.
posted by oreofuchi at 4:28 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hadn't noticed the part about accreditation until I read oreofuchi's comment, so I wanted to add: you are not responsible for this school's accreditation even if the position you were hired for was created to support the school's accreditation. A school that is at risk of losing accreditation based on the departure of a just-hired, barely $30K salaried employee has a leadership problem that you cannot fix. Do not assign yourself the blame for this.
posted by Meg_Murry at 4:35 PM on August 3, 2010 [8 favorites]

From your description, I would say your current employer is very probably going out of business.

Take the other job forthwith.
posted by jamjam at 4:52 PM on August 3, 2010

Well, every one says do it. I have several questions. Does the "potential" employer know you are leaving your present position after working for a month. If so have you discussed this with them. Not that you should--it is just a question. If I was hiring you I would want to discuss this with you. Please be sure and get a written letter of hire before officially terminating your present position. Is the potential position secure and are you confident that you have the skills and it is an environment in which you want to work. Two things you do not want to happen--quit before securing a written letter of hire and have two short term positions on your resume. As an employer I have had similar things happen--it is disappointing when a new employee quits or accepts a position and does not show up for work (oh, I took another position). But it is part of doing business. I would also take issue with some of posters who suggest that conditions with your present employer reflects bad management. It may or may not--depends on many things including external restraints on institution, history of institution etc. Wishing you the best. BTW, no need to feel guilty--it is appropriate and very professional to have these kind of doubts. I think it reflects well on you. A pattern of rapidly changing positions is one thing--a job shift for a significant increase in money/responsibility/leadership is another.
posted by rmhsinc at 4:53 PM on August 3, 2010

Something someone told me once which bears remembering: If you aren't in contract, your employer is not loyal to you. It doesn't matter if your boss would feel really bad about letting you go. If the budget says they have to let you go, they will let you go. They will not dither about it, or worry about the ethical implications of it. It will just happen. The people involved may be sad, but they'll move on.

You need to treat it the same way. You can express regret that you need to go, you can be helpful about the transition, whatever, but don't have more loyalty to the institution than the institution has to you.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:05 PM on August 3, 2010

Tell current boss that you really like it there and would like to stay, but have been offered a job that pays 33% more. See if they will match or come close. I suspect they cannot and will not. Then tell them you are leaving based on the finances. You gave them a chance to meet your current offer and should have no guilts, etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:37 PM on August 3, 2010

Joining the pile on here. On more thing to comfort you is that most (all?) private companies have "probation period" for new hires where either party can end the arrangement for any reason without any consequences. This is usually 90 days.
At one month, you simply haven't been there long enough for your leaving to have real significant impact (despite what you mention it will only take 30 days to train an equivalent candidate to and equivalent level.) So you don't need to feel guilty.
posted by oblio_one at 5:43 PM on August 3, 2010

I don't know how I can look her in the eye and say "Peace out! Good luck!"

I work for a university and we're going through our accreditation process right now. We're state funded and have had to accept budget cuts every year for the last three years. And we have found a way to make sure the process is fully supported. Because it's critical both for us and for our students.

Let me be blunt: if your position is critical to their accreditation and they've chosen to fund it at 30k/yr and haven't filled a position to backstop you... maybe they don't deserve accreditation. An organization in 2010 that can't fill a position in a time of 10% unemployment is that way 100% because of their own (bad) choices.

You are not responsible for their failure to manage their affairs robustly. You are not responsible for their inability/unwillingness to provide competitive compensation (and when you add up insurance and retirement benefits they're apparently underpaying you more than 25%)

You are responsible for you. Period.

Now, the practical answer is that you politely but firmly give your written notice to your supervisor and say you've accepted a position elsewhere. Your written notice should say nothing more than that you chosen to pursue another opportunity and are providing your notice that you will be available to continue with your current duties and assist in transitioning your responsibilities though Date Today+14.

It's possible that in an organization this dysfunctional that the people who have remained will not be professionals about it and will give you shit. Be polite and non-argumentative. Phrases such as "I am sorry you feel that way" are your friend. Do not get drawn into arguments OR trash talk. Be polite and professional and don't start skipping with joy till you're out of sight.
posted by phearlez at 6:02 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need two letters. The first is a signed offer letter from your future employer. You need their offer, in writing, that outlines position, pay, and start date before you move to the second letter. The second letter is one you write -- a letter of resignation. You type this up, save a copy (for emailing later), print it out, and then set up a meeting with your supervisor.

That meeting is brief. You hand your supervisor your letter at the beginning of the meeting, and say, "I really enjoyed the time I've spent here. However, I must give you my two-week notice." You do not outline for that person (or answer questions that lead to) the increase in pay, etc., because you are not asking for a change in the current job. You are providing information (the fact that you are leaving); you are not bartering, gossiping, complaining, or sharing potential job leads or other information about your future employment with others. You have been very happy, and now you are leaving.

Your second letter looks like this:



Dear Boss'sFirstName,

Please accept this letter as my formal notice of resignation, effective two weeks from today.

This was a difficult decision, but it is the right one for me as I work toward my career goals. I thoroughly enjoyed TaskYouDoWell, and it was a real pleasure to AchievementYou'veHad.

If I can help train my replacement or transition my work to another person, please let me know.

Thank you for the opportunities you have provided me. I wish you and UniversityName continued success.


cc: HRPerson'sName
Do you see what I did there? It's a letter, it guides your conversation with your manager and keeps it professional, and it is copied to HR (email it to them as an attachment, after your meeting with your manager). It is a formal record that you have given notice (not required, but nice), it offers assistance in transition, and it outlines your main tasks and your achievements.
posted by Houstonian at 6:29 PM on August 3, 2010 [11 favorites]

Don't feel guilty, you work for a bunch of losers who can't make a hiring decision at a loser school which doesn't pay enough money to attract people to fill the positions required for it to be accredited. You might ask your boss why they remain, given the realities you've described. Abandon ship, matey!
posted by rhizome at 7:58 PM on August 3, 2010

You owe it to Current You to take the better job. But you *really* owe it to Future You to take the better job. Make it happen.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:04 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, we're not talking about just $10k salary difference. We're talking about $100K or more in additional income over your career.

For a hundred thousand dollars, you should be able to suffer a couple of uncomfortable weeks as you transition out of your current job.

And that doesn't even get into all the other perks of the other job offer.
posted by darkstar at 9:23 PM on August 3, 2010

Considering that they are having such difficulty filling a position that's been open for months, several employees are leaving at the same time (causing an entire branch's responsibility to rest on your shoulders) and that the school is in danger of losing accreditation doesn't make your workplace seem ideal or stable, even. It seems like there is nothing but bad times ahead for that institution. Do you really want to be there when it folds?

There's no use in staying behind on a sinking ship.

Go for the higher-paying, more convenient, more interesting job.
Moving to a more stable job environment with less hardships will mean that you can do your job better.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 9:42 PM on August 3, 2010

Personally, I'd want to have a signed contract at the higher-paying job (not just an offer) before I resigned from the current job, just to avoid the obvious worst-case scenario where you resign and then the offer falls through.
posted by mendel at 3:08 PM on August 4, 2010

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