Yet another "Do I want this job?" question
May 10, 2016 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I've been at my current employer for about three years. I'm thinking of making a career move, so that I focus more on, let's say, tennis policy analysis. I've found a job that looks promising, but I'm having a hard time telling if it's the right next step for me.


I was hired by Prestigious Tennis Institute three years ago, shortly after I graduated from college. Originally I was hired to organize tennis events and manage the coaches' calendars. Over time, I started taking on tennis policy analysis work (writing papers and op-eds, running regressions, etc.). I discovered that I loved the policy analysis work and was really good at it. Yay! I'm also pretty good at events and calendars, so my bosses were eager to have me do all three things.

About a year ago, I was promoted. I got a cool title and more money... but the new event and administrative responsibilities I took on have seriously overshadowed the time I can spend on policy analysis. It's a real bummer and I no longer enjoy my job. I've asked for more policy analysis work and everyone wants to give it to me, but the higher-ups seem reluctant to redistribute my event and admin work. Basically, the only way I can take on more policy work is by working more hours; it seems that I'm not able to take on more policy work and pass my calendaring off to someone else, for example.

In retrospect, I should have negotiated harder for a workload that would have been more fulfilling; lesson definitely learned.

The person who got me hooked on tennis policy analysis is always finding cool new projects for me, but I sadly don't have enough time to do most of them. :(

The offer

I just received a phone call from Other Prestigious Tennis Institute, and they're planning to make me a verbal offer later this week. Based on previous conversations, I expect (but obviously don't know for sure) that they will make an offer that I'll be comfortable accepting. Let's assume for this purposes of this question that they will. This isn't a question about the likelihood of receiving an offer or about negotiating on title/compensation.

I like OPTI and I think I'd fit in well there. But, I'm not 100% sold on the job. It is almost entirely policy analysis, but a slightly different field within the tennis policy community. Let's say that my current work is focused on making sure there are enough tennis balls to go around, and that they're distributed fairly among players. My work in the new role would be focused on helping tennis players plan when and how to transition to a less athletic career when the time comes.

I care about post-tennis planning, but my real policy love is tennis ball distribution. I'm obsessed with tennis ball distribution policy and am in the early stages of making a real career in that field.

What I'm thinking

My gut tells me that I need to "re-brand" myself, and soon/relatively early in my career. Right now people think of me as a tennis event and administrative pro, who occasionally does some tennis policy research. I need to be in a position where the bulk of my work is policy research. My mentors in the field have confirmed that I really do need to do this.

So, on the one hand, I like the OPTI offer because it would be a transition into mostly policy research, and while it isn't my exact tennis policy speciality, it's still relevant and would help me build my general tennis policy expertise. I also have ideas for keeping a toe in the tennis ball distribution policy world, so that in a couple of years, I could return to that type of work if I choose. Additionally, my new boss at OPTI shares my interest in tennis ball distribution policy, and eventually wants to return to that field, so I think he would be sympathetic to my dual interests.

On the other hand, I worry that I won't excel in this role, since while I find post-tennis planning to be very interesting and important, it's not my obsession. I also worry that I'm underestimating how difficult it would be to transition back to tennis ball distribution policy after spending some time at OPTI.

The questions

* Have you ever "re-branded" yourself like this? How did it go?
* If you were in my shoes, would you accept the OPTI offer, or would you keep looking for a tennis ball distribution policy job? (They are very few and far between - it's a small field.)
* Are there other nuances I'm missing? As noted I'm quite early in my career, so I'd welcome any advice from those of you who have been in the workforce for longer might have.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Right now people think of me as a tennis event and administrative pro, who occasionally does some tennis policy research. I need to be in a position where the bulk of my work is policy research. My mentors in the field have confirmed that I really do need to do this.

Yeah this is the concern. I guess it depends on just how much passion you can generate for post-tennis planning, but I suspect, even with less appealing subject matter, you will be more fulfilled and have better prospects by being in a tennis policy analysis position of any kind.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:51 AM on May 10, 2016

You seem to be treating this like a done deal - nothing in careers is this definite.An offer is a great way to re-organize this internally.
I disagree, a lot of companies are still very much reliant on a command-and-control style management and using another offer as "leverage" is a sure-fire way to destroy your reputation at your current company. Maybe this worked 15 - 20 years ago but this seems very, very risky to me today.

The 2016 solution is you quit and go to another company where you already have the job you want, nobody holds anything against you for getting there, and you have space to grow in the direction you want to grow.
posted by deathpanels at 7:14 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Take whichever job will let you be the person you want to be in three years (or whatever term you expect to be looking for a new job). To me, that sounds like OPTI. I'm obviously not familiar with your industry, but in every industry I am familiar with, it's easier to switch specialties than it is to go from admin work to, well, anything other than admin work. After three years at OPTI, you'll have demonstrated that you're a capable full-time policy analyst. Unless your field is hyper-specialized, those skills should translate to a different type of policy analysis, in a way that organizing calendars never will. Keep in touch with your mentor at PTI, and talk periodically with him about your preferred specialty. The combination of policy analysis experience and a strong recommendation from a respected individual in the tennis ball policy community should be enough to get you a job in tennis ball policy analysis in a couple years.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:30 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you should give the new opportunity a go.

1) You're early in your career and can adapt well.
2) Clearly the other company can see your potential.
3) Your current company can't adapt to your requirements: you don't like you current position - a good reason to move. Don't be unhappy doing something because it will affect your work.
4) It's an interesting new opportunity. It might not be a perfect match but you get to learn more about a different area of your field and given the chance to excel in that too - you might surprise yourself.
5) Try not to be be overly obsessed with an aspect of your job that might limit your career opportunities
6) See this as an opportunity for growth and expanding your skill-set - you can always refine this later
7) Make sure that company B understands that you might need help with the transition - get clarification what support they will offer.
8) You're not rebranding.
9) Don't be scared - you'll do great.
10) If you've tried your best at the new role and don't like it - you tried, but now you have experience of both areas and that experience can propel to a greater role that you get to define.

The most important point is 3) - if you're unhappy in your current role your work will suffer.

Look, from your question it sounds like you got head-hunted. This is a good thing. Company B want you with them. You are wanted.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:33 AM on May 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think you should take the new position because you don't know yet that you won't get passionate about post-tennis planning. Maybe it will be your real life's work! Or maybe it won't. But it's worth a shot.

Also, often it's hard to get people to adjust their perceptions of you and your work. By that I mean they may forever think of you in the admin/event role at your old institute, and to get the respect and new work that you want, you probably need to start a new job with new people. If you find after a few years at OTPI that you are still passionate about distribution policy and there's no way to do that at OTPI, then you might find a way to switch back to PTI in a much better position.
posted by clone boulevard at 7:43 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

From the OP's question: "I've asked for more policy analysis work and everyone wants to give it to me, but the higher-ups seem reluctant to redistribute my event and admin work. Basically, the only way I can take on more policy work is by working more hours", so it's not like the OP hasn't tried.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 7:48 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Switch. Honestly, you're lucky to get a policy research job offer after working in an admin/event position. In most fields, those are two very different career tracks. The promotion would have been the time to take on more official policy work, but it's not happening. Spend too much time in your current job and you will get pigeonholed.
posted by praemunire at 8:01 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree you should move to OTPI. The shift in roles and step up in your career will be much clearer that way. I say this especially because you have plans for staying in touch with the ball distribution people. You can return to your primary interest in a few years with greater breadth of knowledge, or advance your values at a generalist shop (integrating the issue of ball distribution into white papers on various topics).

The one reason I'd be cautious would be: there's no bad blood between the two issue areas are there? The ball distribution people don't hate post-tennis planning, saying "the end-of-career players already get more than their fair share of balls and then people like those at OTPI devote even more attention to their needs?!" The ball distributors will likely know that you're one of them at heart, but the more that a divide exists, the more careful I'd be to volunteer time on ball distribution issues.
posted by salvia at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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