Flipping my job from one field to another - again
June 2, 2014 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I may be close to receiving a job offer after my efforts to escape my horror transition into government began to pay off rather more quickly than I thought they would. Now I feel really uncertain about another career pivot so soon after the last one. Should I consider flipping again into another completely different area?

I changed jobs last year, moving from civil society to a government job somewhat related to my previous work. The change to government was quite trying and I started to put out feelers for other opportunities.

I now have a very strong lead for a job in Large Technology Corporation. I was referred through a friend and it appears to be moving very quickly towards an offer. This role draws on my transferable generalist skills, but is working on a very large corporate program that is very different to anything I have ever worked on - I am definitely a non-traditional candidate for this role. My friend thinks I would fit in well at the company and would enjoy the culture and has given me clear salary figures which for a permanent role would be a 30% pay increase and for a contractor role would be a 60% pay increase from my current salary. I followed up on the opportunity because I thought it would be quite different experience to add to my resume and I might like working in a more innovative environment and wanted OUT from government.

Somewhat a red herring to this question is that I also have some interesting leads on jobs in my original field, which I would take at a drop of a hat, even at my current salary. While I am well qualified, there will be strong competition that means it may take some time to land one of these jobs, but I believe could get one in the next year.

While all this has been going on, the government job has began to bear fruit since my previous manager left and I am now doing some interesting work which is a good addition to my resume and fits well with future opportunities in either civil society or government. Even though there are still aspects of the job that make me insane, the idea of swapping sectors again so soon and having to go through that transition phase worries me. I also worry how I would explain the corporate job if I tried to go back to my civil society work (which unless I love love love corporate work, is what I would like to do eventually).

A bit about me:
- I am not strongly driven by money. I am managing to pay my small student debt and make extra mortgage payments, while taking international vacations almost every year. A period of earning a higher income would help make me very comfortable, but I am not wanting.
- I have about 15 years of professional experience (just to give you an idea of career stage)
- I have enjoyed my work 'doing good' in the world in terms of public service
- My work, including my current job, has always had an international aspect which is important to me, but the Large Technology Corporation role does not within the role (but being technology, there are opportunities for relocation, not within that company, but within the industry)
- I used to always say I worked to live, but now I accept that work is a big part of my life and identity (changing that might be a different ask.metafilter question!)
- I have quite varied experience and strong generalist skills that mean I have always found new work quickly when I want it

Should I consider taking the Large Technology Corporation role if offered? At a gut level, I feel like I am being tempted by money and getting some corporate experience which I am unlikely to be offered again, that it will challenge my brain but may not satisfy my soul. If I don't want to, how do I politely do so and help my friend maintain face, when my friend has gone out of their way to make this opportunity happen? Is there a way to say to the company 'no, not right now but I'd like to stay in touch and may be interested in the future'? I am about to have another meeting with the company - should I continue this process if I am not sure about taking an offer?

My friend, who is more interested in money and has never really understood why I do the work I do, would suggest I should just take the job and enjoy the money. A former boss who knows me well said 'just negotiate really hard on salary and if they give you a really good offer, just take it for a while and see how it goes, and if they won't give you a really good offer, don't take it'.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your question is inherently flawed because you don't have a job offer yet. It is silly to ask a question about whether you should consider a job offer that has not been tendered. Until that job offer is made, your entire post is academic.

I don't feel any further answer than this is necessary or beneficial, but Ask Mefi requires answering the question posed. The following statements assume that you are in the USA, which is a statistically likely assumption.

Should I consider flipping again into another completely different area?

You should always be considering alternate job options. It's part of becoming a more valuable employee with a broader base of experience. However, government jobs are a bit particular about short job stays - most government managers seem to prefer employees that are focused on the long term. I suspect that "long term" in your field is more than the year you stated you've been in your current position. So, if you do want to flip again, I would consider what that means in terms of returning to government service, which it sounds like you want to do. If you conclude that government civil service is your ultimate goal, it's not clear to me what you'd get out of a corporate position. This is absolutely not to say that a corporate position isn't warranted, just that it's odd that nowhere in your post do you indicate what you get out of the corporate position that is relevant to a notional future government position.

If I don't want to, how do I politely do so and help my friend maintain face [...]?

Your friend won't lose any face if you decline an offer. In my experience, something like 50% of job offers are declined. It's part of finding an ideal candidate. The ideal candidate is the one that wants to work for the employer. If the candidate doesn't want to work for the employer, the employer doesn't want the candidate to work for them. No harm, no foul. It's a mutual decision for the employee to work for the corporation, not a corporate decision. You can decline this (non-existent) job offer the same as any others.

Is there a way to say to the company 'no, not right now but I'd like to stay in touch and may be interested in the future'?

Well, yes, you can say that, but don't expect them to be interested in the future. Unless you are a very specialized employee (for instance, highly technical or executive level), it's likely you will be forgotten the moment you decline the offer.

I am about to have another meeting with the company - should I continue this process if I am not sure about taking an offer?

Yes. The company will be expecting that there is only a chance that you will take the offer. If the hiring manager is offended you decline a job offer, you don't want to work for that hiring manager.

My friend [...] has given me clear salary figures which for a permanent role would be a 30% pay increase

When you think about this opportunity, you should realize that pay increase is not just a short term number, but something that affects you for the rest of the year. Put another way, this is equivalent to working 4 years of your current job every 3 years at the corporate job. For however much you want to consider your "soul", there's something to be said for a lot of money making things easier. If you do like international vacations, for instance, I'd suggest they'll be a lot easier to do when making 30% more money. Further, the difference compounds, because future job salaries are generally taken to be a percentage increase from your current salary. An increase of 3% from 130% of your current salary is a lot better for you than 100% of your current salary, especially when you compound that over the rest of your career.

All that said, the real message here is that you are over-thinking this. You don't have a job offer. Until you do, talk with the company and see what happens. You'll either end up exactly where you are right now, but more convinced it's the right decision for you, or you'll end up somewhere that's better off for you. Either way, it's good for you to explore options.
posted by saeculorum at 5:16 PM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's good to keep your options open, but you just seem so wish-washy, as if any change in the wind will send you in another direction.

Would you actually enjoy the tech job? Or would you still be focused on getting back to your original sector? Because even if you make more, it makes more sense to stay where you are and work to get into the sector you want than transitioning to a new role and looking for a new job. Also, it may not look so great to have that level of jumping around and lack of commitment.

But maybe the tech job could be a great fit for you. If you never could get back into your original sector, would you be happy there for several years? Think about the job as a pernament change, instead of something to do until you can do what you really want to do. Be honest with yourself.
posted by Aranquis at 5:19 AM on June 3, 2014

I'm going to say this about money. You say you're comfortable, but are you well funded for retirement?

That should be HUGE for you, because we're all going to live longer and need more dough in our golden years.

While money shouldn't be the only factor in accepting a job, it's a very important factor in the long run. If you're married and/or have children, it's a luxury to work for less, if you have these obligations.

You don't have to accept a job you're not 100% fired up about, but don't dismiss the money issue.

Also, as quickly as your problems diappeared with your old manager, that's how quickly they could reappear with a new manager, a reorg, or some other disruptive event at work. That's the nature of the beast.

You keep talking about things looking good on your resume. That's just creative writing. You need to be looking for jobs that you can be happy doing, while making the most money you can. The rest is noise.

It irks me to hear people say that they prefer to work in non-profit, or government because they're "doing good" in the world. The implication being that working for a corporation isn't "doing good."

I worked for the phone company for over 20 years. Every day I knew that I was "doing good." I helped people get the services they needed, and helped them navigate the bureaucracy. Customers told me all the time how much they appreciated my efforts. I made it easier for other people to do their jobs. I was "doing good."

Where to you want to be? What is the resume ultimately for? There's more than one way to get to Pismo Beach, but sometimes you've gotta make the right turn at Albuquerque.

Decide on where you want to be, and then plot the course to get there that makes the most sense. If it's six of one, half dozen of the other, take the money.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2014

Contrary to the first response, I think it's a good idea to evaluate potential situations, just for peace of mind. You don't really know what will happen, but you can prepare for "what would you do if it did" happen.

Make a list of all the possibilities (they are mostly in your post). For example: If you take this job, you might not be able to get back into govt jobs, or you might still be able to. That's 2 choices. Go through and write down others.

For each of them, pretend that it came true and truly live in that reality for a few minutes. How would you feel? What would you do to move your career forward from that point? What other factors need to be considered? Could you live with it? Would you want to live with it?

Once you've done that, you can quit worrying because you already know how to react in each possible case. You can evaluate the results and rank them - if there are results that you truly can't live with, then don't make the choices that lead to those possible results.
posted by CathyG at 2:39 PM on June 3, 2014

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