The pro/con list just isn't cutting it
October 20, 2013 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I have an amazing-on-paper/tough-in-reality job, and now an offer for a new position that is a total unknown. I am panicking about this decision.

I've been at my current job for over 3 years now. On paper it's my dream job, but the reality is more complex than that. It has amazing highs but also some serious lows (I suspect it might be somewhat of a sick system). It is very high stress but with high payoffs (not financial, it's an NGO).

I had an epiphany over the summer that maybe I don't need my job to be my whole identity (yes, I know that should be obvious!) and decided to keep an eye open for other opportunities. I think in the long-run I want to prioritize my mental and physical health, as well as the relationships in my life (I have a partner but no kids).

A posting came open for something a little while ago. I applied and have now been offered the position. And now I'm panicking because I have less than 24 hours left to decide what to do, and I feel completely frozen by indecision. I think the main issue is that the new job is a complete unknown (it's a new organization, and a bit of a switch of field for me), so I don't know how to assess my options. I've spent all weekend doing pro/con lists but they aren't helping. Compensation-wise the two jobs are about the same (including non-salary compensation). I feel like the new job has the potential to be better for my health (primarily mental health) though it would not be unstressful (but I have to do intense travel now, and there wouldn't be any of that).

Any tips for making extremely difficult decisions? I'm terrified of leaving and regretting it (there aren't really any other jobs like mine in my city) or things not being better at the new place. Oh, and I do realize it's crazy to be complaining about this in the current job market but that doesn't make the decision easier, unfortunately.
posted by sabotagerabbit to Work & Money (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you talk to anyone else at the organization to get more of a sense of what you'd be doing and what your colleagues would be like? Have you looked at employee reviews of the company that might be at Glassdoor? Googled the company and read what customers and the press have to say about it? Learned more about the field and what you'd be doing in it on a day-to-day basis? All that might help you make a decision.

You have difficulty making this decision because this company is a "complete unknown." You need to make it less so.
posted by shivohum at 9:32 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm terrified of leaving and regretting it
Then don't regret it, even it isn't perfect.

If you take the new job and it isn't super wonderful, then what?

If your new job isn't your whole life, can you make it work even if it falls short? Maybe a less than perfect job that leaves you with more time and energy for your interests or family might be OK too.

If it really doesn't work, uou can't go back but can you go forward? If this doesn't work out, are there other jobs that might open up if you have this experience? Third possibilities that you could go after if you needed/wanted to?

There are people who need to be very careful about what risks they take with employment. There are others who just need to believe that in themselves - that they can make it work or use the challenge to move forward into something better. Don't be stupid - do the research, think about the consequences but make the decision with at least as much weight given to hope as to fear.
posted by metahawk at 10:04 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take the new job. Any change is better than no change at all in your present position.
posted by ptm at 10:52 PM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am in a sick system. I've been in your situation twice this year. Both times I turned the chance down, and boy, do I regret not taking those chances now...

You may find the book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers helpful. One thing the author says is “don’t protect- correct”. Take a chance, and if it doesn’t feel right, try something else. By taking a chance, you are sure to have opportunities open up that are not apparent to you now. Life is an adventure and you are the protagonist of your story. Do it!
posted by koakuma at 11:20 PM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Take the new job.
posted by chasles at 11:38 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had a job like your old one and left it for a less stressful one. It was like someone gave me my life back. The bonus is that once you have a job that doesn't take up 95% of your mental energy, you also have more capacity for thinking about other things like job-hunting, so if the new job's not perfect, you can look again.

YMMV - I had no doubts at all about leaving my stressful job, so if you're not sure you're ready to leave, I guess it's not as clear-cut. That said, a former colleague who made a similar move after me had lots of doubts and her experience has been the same as mine. We suddenly feel like we're living in a normal world again instead of a nightmare, and it's lovely.

One thing about sick systems is that they're good at making you feel dependent on them and powerless to escape them. Leaving them can be empowering.

Also - I see someone above suggests Feel the Fear by Susan Jeffers. It's a while since I've read it, but IIRC, she also points out that if you're completely torn between two options, then they're clearly both pretty good options, so rather than thinking "I have to make the right decision, or life will be awful," you have the luxury of framing it as "Great - either of these will work out OK, do it doesn't matter too much which I choose - I have two good options."
posted by penguin pie at 1:30 AM on October 21, 2013 [11 favorites]

I'm no fan of labels, dunno what qualifies as a "sick system," but I have worked in places that were nasty, comprehensively fucked-up messes. Sounds like I don't need to tell you of the tolls they took.

With that, the effect your job has had on you -- and, no doubt your partner, too -- and apparently the chance to be done with "intense travel," taking the new job seems the obvious choice,
posted by ambient2 at 1:51 AM on October 21, 2013

Leave the sickness.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:07 AM on October 21, 2013

Best answer: Take the new job.

My reasoning: I've done intense work-related travel myself, for quite a few years. Even under the best of circumstances, it drains you -- and your family -- in ways you may not even realize right now. Even if everything else remains exactly the same, getting rid of the huge amounts of work-related travel will be a HUGE boon to your mental and physical health. You will be amazed at how much better you feel.

Also, the new job doesn't have to be forever. You're not sealing your fate. This is one step in a journey. And if you get the chance to jump, jump!
posted by pie ninja at 5:19 AM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Twice in my career, I've turned down other offers (or at least, not pursued them as much as I ought to have), and stayed at my then-current job. Twice, I've been let go from the then-current job within the year and had long periods of underemployment follow. Twice, now, I've felt like a fool for not trying to move forward, for taking the complacent route.

Take the new job.
posted by notsnot at 5:37 AM on October 21, 2013

Best answer: Move forward. You applied for a reason, you aren't happy where you are.

Jobs aren't ever going to be 100% fulfilling, but sometimes it's the combination of factors that fit into your life better. For example, you may be trading off some sort of fulfillment in job 1, for more personal time, a gym membership and no travel. Yes, you're giving up something you value, but you're gaining other things you value in exchange. Things that are just as important to you and that will give you a better over-all feeling.

Part of the problem with folks working in NGO and Non-Profit arenas is that you identify too much with the mission, and you feel like you're abandoning the mission when you move to something else that's a better fit for you. Your co-workers will make you feel guilty that you're leaving and you think that if you go that people will suffer because of your absence.

The fact of the matter is that everyone can be replaced, no matter how integral you are to the organization.

So do what's right for YOU. Take the new job. Even if it's not what you expect, you can always look for a new position. What you do know is that where you are isn't a good place for you anymore. Which is why you applied in the first place.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:57 AM on October 21, 2013

I think it's time for a change. If this one doesn't work out, get another new job. But your old job isn't working anymore, and that will only get worse, I suspect.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:14 AM on October 21, 2013

Best answer: 1. Your new job will not live up to the hype. This is not a bad thing. Expect that if it sounds great, its gonna be good. If it sounds good it'll be pretty good.

2. Your new job will have new issues. It isn't likely the perfect job, but it is likely a stepping stone. Accepting that ahead of time is important when realizing that the new job doesn't live up to the hype.

With the down out of the way.
3. Your current job sounds like it is toxic. Even if the new job turns out to be toxic, it isn't going to be toxic in the same way and toxicity takes a while to build up. Changing jobs has the immediate effect of flushing the majority of the toxins.

4. I changed jobs 58 days ago. While the hype didn't live up to the hype, it is still pretty sweet and I dig it. The changes that I wanted were mostly made, and reports from the old job indicate that I made a great decision for me. I'm bummed that my former coworkers miss me and that I don't get to see them every day, but I'm not missing the stress of the old job. I can easily say the old job was killing me with workload and stress. I liked my old job, there were some great things about it, especially the people - but... there's a time when you've got to think about you and yours.

5. Remember riding a bike? Ever ride with training wheels? Remember the first time you took them off? Changing jobs is a lot like ripping off the training wheels for the first time. Scary, sometimes you fall and get a little scraped up, but oh so worth it once you figure it out.
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:59 AM on October 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I tend to think we regret things we don't do more than things we do that just don't turn out. You want to leave your job for a reason. I don't think your worries are about the new job (since you don't have anything specific you point out about it that concerns you) but about the fear of change. No matter what you do in the end it'll involve change and the more you experience change the better you get at it.
posted by marylynn at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2013

Response by poster: Just remembering to resolve this question, and wanted to update to say that I did take the new job, and it was totally the right decision. I still miss things about the old job, but I'm learning tons of new things, and I'm sooo much less stressed, anxious and exhausted. The input here was invaluable in helping me make the decision, so thank you :)
posted by sabotagerabbit at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, yay! That's brilliant news, sabotagerabbit - well done you.
posted by penguin pie at 12:18 PM on April 27, 2014

« Older We're Going to the Mattresses   |   Many a name I know, But never a name like this. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.