How do I choose which job?
August 6, 2014 6:16 PM   Subscribe

I don't know if I'm committing career suicide. I'm at a crossroads in my career path. I don't know if I should leave my impressive "good-on-resume" job, which I hate, for something I would really enjoy, which is really, really small-time.

I'm in my mid-to-late 30s and hate my job. I don't like the culture or the work that I'm doing. I've interviewed at various places but have not been successful. I'm also battling a health condition that makes job-searching very hard. Being at the stressful job keeps my health sub-optimal.

I have a chance to work at a small business. I enjoy the owner, and we've had a fantastic relationship for a long time. The work would be interesting, but has an expiration date, I'd say a few months. By being there, my health might improve, and I'd get more perspective on life and career path. Perhaps things might open up for me, whereas I feel, and have felt for a long time, stuck in my current situation.

My heart tells me to fuck it and do what I enjoy. But my left brain is telling me I'm making a dumb move. When I've interviewed for different jobs, I got the impression that they "ooh" at the current company I'm with. I'm afraid that if I leave that job, I won't have leverage and that I'll just have my unimpressive, embarrassing small business job.

Has anyone been in this situation? Would you lend some perspective of your life experience?

I would ideally search for another job right now, and keep two birds in my hand, but my health is not permitting it at the moment... which is why I implore Metafilter.
posted by elif to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How will the fact that your income may disappear and you'll have to pay for your own health insurance affect your outlook on your health condition? It may be less stressful in the short run to take a better job, but if it's only a temporary gig, you're putting a lot by the wayside in order to have a temporary fix.
posted by xingcat at 6:22 PM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

What do your finances look like? If you take the temp job, it ends, and you don't find work immediately thereafter, can you still pay your rent, eat, etc.?

Also you are 100% correct about people looking askance at a resume of a person who quit a stable job to do a (unambiguously) temp job and is now unemployed because that was as far as your forethought went. Not necessarily because of the jobs themselves, but because it demonstrates poor planning (unless you have a solid plan in place for after the temp job.)

I also don't know how much healing and perspective you'll gain with unemployment looming in your future. That's super stressful, possibly even more stressful than your current job.
posted by griphus at 6:24 PM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

That being said, I wouldn't call this "career suicide', necessarily. But it is a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.
posted by griphus at 6:27 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you afford to be unemployed for a long time? This isn't necessarily career suicide, but it probably won't help you get a job for after it ends. This is really a question about your finances, I think, because the professional consequences are clear and negative, and the personal consequences are clear and positive (if the finances are there).
posted by J. Wilson at 6:29 PM on August 6, 2014

Best answer: I'm in my mid-to-late 30s and hate my job. I don't like the culture or the work that I'm doing. I've interviewed at various places but have not been successful. I'm also battling a health condition that makes job-searching very hard. Being at the stressful job keeps my health sub-optimal.

You health is important. Your happiness is important. It's more important that your career. If you have the luxury of being in a position to take a paycut or be unemployed for a while for less stress and more happiness, take it.

Your good-on-resume job will still be on your resume. It's not career suicide, although it may be a detour. Small businesses can give you great experience. You get to deal with more responsibility, have more control, reform processes. Small business experience can be good. You can spin this kind of thing for future interviews if you have to.

Ultimately, this comes down to the money. Can you afford to work a job that potentially pays less? Can you afford to be unemployed if your small time job evaporates? If so, do what makes you happy. Because if you're spending most of your time being miserable, what's the point?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:42 PM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Fuck it, do what you enjoy.
posted by mhoye at 6:49 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

No time in my life was worse than unemployment. As you haven't had much success interviewing yet, what if you can't find anything after this temp job? Stay where you are but seek out new opportunities - make sure your resume is top notch, network, , figure out why you aren't having success in interviews, seek out somewhat different but related job possibilities.

Seriously. I've had not just a long stint of unemployment but I also spent two years as a temporary employee. It was very emotionally draining without the underlying health problems. Don't leap before you look.
posted by Aranquis at 6:57 PM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Take a holiday asap (for as long as you can get), negotiate for different hours/better balance in your current job, save, and make a long-term plan in a direction that honours your health. Within a budget that you set, allow for nice things/experiences to offset stress in the interim.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:18 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

It is a bit hard to assess how you will do or even another person will do because at the end of the day, each person is different in terms of how you interview, background, job skills, can you move into and out of other jobs easily, blah blah blah.

But I have absolutely walked away from jobs, and I walked away from two jobs in my life that I knew would end a possible future career in X and Y.

These are things that I usually did or thought about at the time:

Is there a way to change the conditions at where you are working now? Sometimes a shift in what you do in the day to day job, or who report do, or a new project, can change your perspective. Have you tried to ask for or negotiate for those things (and if you do, give them and yourself a timeline - so if they say you will do new things in a month, if it doesn't happen two months from now, move on).

How will you get some money in the meantime if you leave: Ideally, a throw away job (meaning something for a few months, or even part time), is perfect because there will be some money coming in. For me, it usually helped having a throw away job versus a fulltime job I hated because is easy to stay and rationalize the money and stay for a month, a yr, 5 years, etc., even if it is a fulltime job you dislike. Since it sounds like it is temporary, it sounds like it qualifies you and can motivate you to keep looking. So if you take the other job, keep on interviewing like crazy. In addition, since it is a small business, are there things that you can do at this business to build your skills? Some small business offer this flexibility, others do not.

Remember you will still have all those other things that got you the current job. Okay, if people are impressed by your current workplace, you still have the education, training, experience that got you to that job. You also will always have that job and workplace to put on your resume.

Have a story as to why you want new job. So come up with a story/reasons why you left old job and went in quest for a new job. Ideally, something along the lines of "I always wanted to do X" not "I am running away/was running from other job."

Are there reasons that you want to stay at career X if it truly means changing fields? When I walked away from career in whatever, it didn't matter to me because I didn't to do that anymore, you know? I don't know whether changing the work place might improve the perspective on your job. I think leaving most jobs does not mean the end of the career, but there are exceptions, and you are not telling us what you do, so you will need to answer the question for yourself.

I can't tell from how you are framing the question, OP, but I am not sure if the workplace contributes to an illness, or you are just ill/in poor health now. But if I believed a work place was contributing to an illness, I would be gone and off to a new job, but that's me.

I don't know if this helps either, but if I want to make a change (leave a job, or move to a new place), I often implement a "burn the boat behind me" plan, meaning, you quit the job or give notice for the place you are renting, etc., so the only way to move is another direction.

I don't know if my experience in leaving jobs/careers would truly help you or not, but if you want that perspective, feel free me to memail me.

posted by Wolfster at 7:20 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've done unemployment plus ill health before. It was the worst time of my life. It still colors my outlook on life and both financially and psychologically I'm still not 100% recovered from it 2 years later.

I would not in any way set myself up for that again.
posted by slateyness at 7:41 PM on August 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah if you have a health condition, I don't see how setting yourself up for unemployment could possibly be a good move, unless you're on your spouse's insurance or something.

If you're at a top tier company, you should be able to get something at a less prestigious place that is still a decent place to work. Do your research on companies whose employer brand focuses on work life balance. Don't tell them that's why you're interested though - that's code for "I'm done working hard" - instead invoke their company culture. Hiring people from second tier companies love it when people from top tier companies compliment their culture.

Alternately, look into getting a leave of absence from your top tier company just to get some rest.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:53 PM on August 6, 2014

How is your performance/attitude affected by your dislike for the job? If your performance becomes noticeably bad because of this there might not be so much career upside in staying.
posted by duoshao at 12:39 AM on August 7, 2014

First of all, I wouldn't take the temporary job without an exit strategy - an indeterminate amount of time where you have no job at all is probably going to be worse for your mental and physical health.

If you do weigh the options and go to the smaller company, I would suggest seeing if they could work with you on your job title. If it seems like you make a move for a promotion, the shift won't seem at all suspicious and it could be a resume booster.
posted by fermezporte at 4:51 AM on August 7, 2014

What is the nature of the job at the small business?

Is it something like, "hey, I really could use someone to make me a web page!"

I've found working for friends can turn into a real mess, not only in expectations, but in getting paid a decent wage (or getting paid at all).

Pretend you are your accountant, and put it all on paper. Current salary, including benefits like 401K matching, health insurance, vision, dental, employee discounts, etc.

I was working a customer service job for a credit card company once, and a friend called me up and asked me what I knew about computers. I didn't know much, but I knew more than he did. I quit my job, and I helped him turn a computer into a point-of-sale system at a retail store he was opening, including setting up an inventory system and data entry of inventory. Bar code reader and all of that. It was tons of fun...

Until his partner, a relative of his, and he had differences. All of a sudden my friend (who was entirely reasonable and great to get along with) had split off part of the business and was no longer that much in the picture. His relative liked to say, "ha-ha, you want me to pay you? How about I give you some merchandise instead?" Then I had to keep pressing to get paid, because the project wasn't quite done yet, more tweaks to be made, monthly accrual, training people how to use the system for reports, etc. Plus, he called me at home at random times, asking me questions, and finally I said, "listen, I don't care if you're my friend's relative, you can't call me all the time and ask me questions for free." He got really huffy, and I finally told him to stop calling me and hire someone else.

Then I banged around doing temp work, not customer service, but still office work, and it was 10 times better to get a paycheck on a regular basis and have people treat me with respect and be grateful that I was there helping them out. In fact, I like temp work almost better than full time permanent employee work, because you go in and out, do your job, no time to get involved in office politics, and most agencies have benefits nowadays, if limited.

So make sure, if you do this, that you will be well compensated for your time, and that you get everything in writing. Because it sounds like you will be a freelancer, not an employee, and that means 1099. If it's a lot of money, go to an accountant and see how you report that income, before you even think of ditching your current job and taking this offer with this great friendly person. If it's not a lot of money, unless you have a spouse or other income to live off for a year, then it doesn't sound like a good prospect. It sounds like you want to get out of your current situation so badly that you aren't thinking clearly about your future finances.

Put it down on paper and do a budget. I think the idea of taking some time off your current job might not be bad, can you get short-term medical leave? Can you afford a few weeks under FMLA? My husband's job has a way to do that, some people have forms filled out by their doctor that whenever their job gets too stressful, they can leave 2 hours early because it is affecting their health. They either take it unpaid or use paid time off hours. Can you look closely at your current company's benefits and see what is available to you for medical accommodations?

I'm not saying don't do it, but I had a working spouse at the time I quit my crappy customer service job and went to work for my friend. And that was also at a time where I knew I could grab a temp office job at the drop of a hat (which is what I did after that situation didn't work out). Listen to the people who are unemployed, and if this other job doesn't work out on paper, tell yourself your current job is only to keep you in the status quo until the next one comes along. Give the job search 3-6 months, because when you are unemployed, you are less likely to even get a job interview, let alone get hired.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:31 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might think about taking some FMLA time (sorry, assuming you are in the US) for 2-3 months to give your body and mind a break. With just a few weeks of rest under your belt, you might be able to put more perspective to this question.
posted by vignettist at 7:28 AM on August 7, 2014

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