Career vs. Comfort
December 2, 2012 8:52 AM   Subscribe

I work in IT and am 32. I've recently left my job of 11 years for a 10K pay increase and to try to advance my career. I really didn't want to do it because I was comfortable and happy where I was in the old job. I'm an ISTJ (introvert) and my nature is to not make big changes in my life. I worry about not having a clear path in my life. Ive been at the new job for 2 months now and It's been up and down but i'm definitely not as happy as I was at the old job.

It feels so much slower there and I get anxious a lot. The environment is almost depressing sometimes. I keep thinking about going back to my former employer and I actually might have the opportunity to do so since I'm cool with my boss there and they haven't back-filled my position yet.

I know that If I go back, I'm going to get comfortable again and probably not look for any more jobs for a while. I was only making 50k at the old job and they don't give raises very often. But I was very comfortable and had a lot of freedom there. The environment was great and I became best friends with a few of the guys in my office there. I am very well known there and loved - they are honestly more of a family to me than my own family at home.

Now I'm at a Fork in the road. Do I keep going with this new job, hope that it gets better, or it leads to an even better job somewhere else? This means I'm going to try and build my career and make more money - something i've never really thought about until now.

Or do I go back and make my old salary, easy job, and just be content with what I have in life?

Normally I would just go with the safe option - be content in life with the old, easy going job but a bunch of my friends keep telling me that I'm smarter than this and I have what it takes to advance in the IT field. Sometimes I feel like that's the kick in the behind that I need to get myself to go further. But other times I just want to be safe and routine.

I think I want to get married at some point and have a small family and maybe a house. I'm not sure how soon, but its been something that is more prevalent in my mind lately. If that is the case then I think i'd probably need to go for more money/career in order to support them. But i'm really not sure WHEN or IF that is going to happen. So I just feel like sticking to my routine until its ready to happen.

I don't know what to do. I'm running out of time and I'm scared that I made the wrong choice and have compromised my happiness for some more money/opportunity...
posted by qxmbati to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think that once you step out of your comfort zone, you shouldn't go back.

I have a similar personality type to you, and I've been where you are right now. For someone who likes the comfort of the familiar, two months is actually not a long time. I'd give it a little longer and then if you're still not happy, look at making a change, but to somewhere new.

Keep up your momentum. Go forward.
posted by Salamander at 8:57 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two months is not really enough time to judge whether your decision was right or not. Especially for someone like you who doesn't like to make big changes - any change of this nature is, of course, big and will take some time for you to get your head around, as you develop new routines and relationships, and as you get used to the daily rhythms of your new gig.

You left your old job for specific reasons - look at it in those terms. You still want to advance your career, and by your own admission you didn't get raises or career advancement in your old place. You can still remain friends with your old co-workers while pushing your career ahead with your new ones, and if advancing your career is truly important to you, for whatever reason, you should stick with it.

a bunch of my friends keep telling me that I'm smarter than this and I have what it takes to advance in the IT field

I think you owe it to yourself to take this new job as far as you can. Change is not easy - I'm not even an introvert and I don't really like change. But we make voluntary changes like this for specific reasons, and that's what you've done here. Stay the course, and keep moving forward.

Good luck.
posted by pdb at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2012


Does your old job know that you dislike your new job?

I would only go back to my old job if they matched my current salary at the new job. Other than that stay at the new job. I've had my current position for about 23 months. I'd say it took me at least a year before I was happy in the new position.
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:04 AM on December 2, 2012

Look, I am the same personality type as you and I have changed jobs and moved town/country to do so 4 times in the last ten years....and whilst I could generally tell if the culture of my employer and the location were going to work for me fairly quickly this was not based on them being new to me or different to what I was used to...

If lack of familiarity and closeness to your new colleagues is your main concern, you have to give it a lot more than 2 months, because it took a lot longer than two months to get as close to your former colleagues and as comfortable in the just can't remember the initial, unfamiliar, stages.

Reading your question however you seem to be a bit lost or restless at the moment? Going back to your old job or else finding another one immediately won't help with that. Your time would be better spent continuing to settle into your new job and using that as a way of working out what you are looking for in a job. Base your next steps on what you actually want, not on what you don't want and you'll have a much better chance of getting there.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2012

Thank you guys for the quick answers.

@dgeiser13 - yes the old job knows i'm not very happy at the moment. They won't match the salary. Its a University so salaries are not generally high. They do give good vacation time though.

@koahiatamadl - yes i've been very restless and confused. The old job was great. I loved what I was doing. I didnt have much room to grow though and I could never make as much money there as I can other places. It was almost a dream job for me, just not money-wise. Not that money is super important to me but I've been trying to think ahead (maybe too much) about needing to get out there and build my career in order to support a better lifestyle in the future (support a family, buy a house etc)

I guess my decision to leave my comfort zone was based on just that - trying to take a risk and see what else was out there. I kept reading all these articles about how leaving comfort zones helps you improve your life. But that job had become part of my Identity.
posted by qxmbati at 10:25 AM on December 2, 2012

I dunno -- I'd go back to the old job. It sounds like a way better work environment. The new job provides a bit more money, but it doesn't sound like it's a life-changing career path. The money is not worth the angst that you're feeling. Some places are just not as welcoming, and it's rare to find a family environment where you get to work with people you love.

I'd go back to the old job and start planning for something that will REALLY boost your career. Getting a Masters' degree. Getting new certifications. Learning to program a new language. Doing some websites on the side, etc. With the comfort and freedom you have, you'll have the space to do something that will really improve your life.

Alternately, you could go back to the old job, live frugally, and plan a crazy trip that you'll remember for years after you are settled with your small family and house.

That sounds way more fun than still doing IT and working for a company you don't really like.
posted by 3491again at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am highly introverted IN/STJ. I have made several job changes and moves over my 30 year career -- the 3 month point is always the lowest. It's past the exciting/new phase into the "I don't know anything" and "this place is very unfamilar" phase. I encourage you to stick it out for at least 18 months if at all possible.

Also, it sounds like you have made your job your family. I did that too in my first job -- that was a real mistake. When I left after 9 years, I felt totally adrift. Now, I try to have a lot of interests outside of work -- this might be a good time to develop those other connections. There's nothing wrong IMHO with being friends with your colleagues, but it helps to have friends outside of work. When work gets crazy, it helps to have a 3rd party to bounce things off of.

A $10k raise when you were making $50k is nothing to sneeze at either -- that's a 20% increase. If you are living in the US, that is a damn good raise in this day & age. It makes me think your previous employer was significantly underpaying you...which you probably don't want to go back to.

Hang in there and good luck!
posted by elmay at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just saw your update -- if it's a university, can you take classes at the old job?
posted by 3491again at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2012

@3491again - yes the environment was a lot better. I had a lot of freedom to move around campus there and it was 10 minutes from home. The new job is about 40 mins away and I'm expected to be at my desk for most of the day. I just completed my Masters degree from there. But Yes I can still take additional classes there and maybe get into other areas somewhat..

@elmay - I guess I don't have a whole lot of hobbies outside of work. I'm pretty laid back and trying new things isnt my forte. I usually have to push myself a bit to get to that point. Can I ask you why you left your first job? You say it felt like family - did you leave for more money or a career path etc??
posted by qxmbati at 10:54 AM on December 2, 2012

If that is the case then I think i'd probably need to go for more money/career in order to support them. But i'm really not sure WHEN or IF that is going to happen. So I just feel like sticking to my routine until its ready to happen.

Honestly, in my experience, things don't work that way where you decide one day that you will pursue more money and a better career and then the next day you do it. Rather, you only get those things by methodically planning for them and setting the foundations to get them over time. So if you feel that when you get a spouse and kids that you should have a better job, the best thing to do is start making those plans and taking the initiative now rather than later.
posted by deanc at 11:03 AM on December 2, 2012

I was in a somewhat similar situation to yours this summer. (Here's my question.) I ended up finally deciding that I wanted to ask if I could go back to my old job (which wasn't perfect but had a lot of pluses, and my boss, who hadn't wanted me to leave, had said she'd take me back), and then by the time I asked, it was filled, and I was disappointed. I really miss that job, and I've decided not to stick with my new job -- so I'm busy job-hunting. I don't know how much that helps you, but sometimes if it just doesn't "feel right," it isn't. For me, the negative feelings ended up being more than just "adjusting to a new job" stuff. My current job gives me much better benefits and money than my old one, but to me it hasn't really felt worth it. Good luck with your decision!
posted by trillian at 12:05 PM on December 2, 2012

It's actually a problem if your old job was part of your identity. I understand you've been in one job your entire adult life, but you need to understand that you have feelings about your prior job that the job does not reciprocate. The job has no loyalty to you and no feelings about you. If the department changes or your boss changes or there are budget cuts, you may lose that job and that's entirely outside of your control. Do not make something like that part of your identity.

As a worker, even in academia, you have to be prepared to change jobs several times in your career. The expectation that if you go back to your old job you can work it for the next 33 years is not realistic at all. Give it more time; nobody is going to be as comfortable after two months as they are after eleven years.

Dig up. If this isn't the job for you, stay for a year or two and leverage it into a different job you're better suited to.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:40 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

@deanc - Thanks for the advice. Its just so hard because right now i'm sacrificing my happiness in hopes that it will bring me a better life down the road somewhere. Some days I feel like its just not worth it.

@trillian - Yea, I'm in a very similar boat right now. Thanks for the link.

@DarlingBri - It's not that I am not prepared to change jobs. Im just saying I was a lot happier in the old job. Also there are actually a lot of people at the old job who have been there 20, 30+ years even in IT
posted by qxmbati at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2012

I have been in your situation; I still think fondly of an old job where I was paid very little but did work I loved.

However, the work I loved came to matter less and less the longer I had to get by on less than I knew I was worth. And no, the next job I took wasn't my One Perfect Job either; it worked for a while, then I moved again. And several times more.

And now I'm in a job paying 4x what I used to make, doing work I like even if I don't like it as much as what I used to do, and working for a company that values me and wants to see me advance. The people who stayed at my old job suffered a lot, from low pay, overwork, and finally by the place going out of business. And now they're ten years older and trying to move on. I don't think doing work they loved during that time makes up for not having what they need now.

You were right, in my opinion, to keep looking. Whether or not you marry and have a family, you are going to get old eventually, and you need a job that puts something worthwhile in your 401k and allows you to keep yourself in good health, to buy a decent car, to live in a decent place. Money isn't everything, but places that consistently underpay their staff will end up with either high turnover or an old guard that tends towards the bitter and hidebound.

It's not a choice between Old Job and Current Job; it's a choice between Old Job and Job That Actually Values Your Work Fairly. Current Job may or may not be that job. If it isn't, then you try again.

The thing about that is, even though it is uncomfortable, it's also an amazing way to learn new things that also make you more valuable and make it more likely you will find a place that lets you do things you love and pays you for them too.
posted by emjaybee at 1:58 PM on December 2, 2012

Me, personally? I would choose quality of life, happiness in my daily existence, and the people around me over money. An additional 10 grand? Yes, it's a lot, but I surely would not give up my daily happiness for it.

The two things I would think about, though, are: are you living simply enough that you are able to save money? And DarlingBri's point of any job not being guaranteed to last is a very valid point.

Maybe spend some time making a pro/con list for each possibility. Imagine each job with your future self being in it, with whatever dreams/goals you have. See if both paths can get you there.
posted by Vaike at 7:30 PM on December 2, 2012

@qxmbati, I moved from Colorado to California to take a different job in the same company. It was a new role that I wanted to do, and it did turn out to be very helpful for my career. However, I underestimated how hard it would be to leave Colorado (and I grew up in California so in some sense this was a return home).

I am not one to pick up new hobbies or go out and meet new people, but I forced myself to. I found groups online that sounded interesting to me and went to their meetings. More importantly, I learned the need to do this -- and after I left that job in CA and transferred to another job 2 hours north, I was able to re-build my network again.

I think @emjaybee has some good advice too -- I no longer think of my current position as being permanent -- and I'm 51. You are even younger, and it is likely that you will change jobs again whether due to choice or need. You don't want to become a job hopper, but learning how to find a job and get used to a new environment is a good thing, IMHO
posted by elmay at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2012

@emjaybee - If you told me i'd be making 4x the amount i used to, It would make things a lot easier to bear right now. IDK how much I can really make doing IT, or what my salary could top out at. My old Job offered to let me get involved in some extra projects as well that could net me an extra stipend at the end of the year but Idk how steady that extra income would be.

@Vaike - My values are similar to yours - I've always valued Quality of life and Happiness OVER Career and Money. But the older I get, the more I start to wonder if i'm going to need more money down the line.. I do live pretty simply right now. I'm single and Dont have many bills other than Rent. I wish I could see further down the line of each path but that feels pretty impossible.

@elmay - Thanks for the advice. I'm trying my best to get used to this environment but its really hard. It gets so much quieter here than I'm used to. It makes me pretty anxious. I don't know, maybe I'm supposed to just get used to it eventually....
posted by qxmbati at 12:16 PM on December 3, 2012

IT jobs here in northern va pay well over 6 figures when u have at least 5 yrs experience. So IT jobs CAN pay well.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 3:54 PM on December 3, 2012

IDK how much I can really make doing IT, or what my salary could top out at.

I think this would be a good start for you: plan out what you want in life and plan out a career in IT, figuring out what your salary possibilities are, and see if your career will get you what you want, and then what path in your career you should take to get what you want.
posted by deanc at 5:34 AM on December 4, 2012

Thanks guys, for the tips and responses.

I'm having a rough day here at work. Can't stop thinking about the old job. It's like I'm torturing myself. Its such a nice day out. At the University job I'd be able to just stroll around and be happy.

But I'm sitting here stressing out now. Ugh. IDK if this is worth the $ and the anxiety...
posted by qxmbati at 12:37 PM on December 4, 2012

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