Gift horse or red herring?
June 7, 2016 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Out of the blue I've been offered an opportunity that could lead to leaving London, but is it the right reason to go?

As amazing as it can be, in the 8 years I've lived here it has got harder rather than easier and I would like a less stressful living situation - and also to buy a house and put down roots (which, despite saving for years and being in a double-income no-kids situation will never happen here). I live with my partner, who is also champing at the bit to get out of London, possibly more than me. We both have good, stable jobs in high profile organisations but our skills are fairly transferable, although there are far fewer opportunities outside London to work in the kinds of organisations I prefer (cultural, academic). Partner is more flexible.

THE OPPORTUNITY: I've been strongly encouraged to apply for a new post in another organisation by a member of the recruiting panel (a former colleague). It's also high profile and in my preferred sector but located elsewhere in a college town that is on our current list of potential 'outs' - cheaper, smaller and very green! The post would be a step-down in general seniority and pays less than current job but enough to live comfortably outside of London. The project is exciting and interesting - not without pitfalls but nothing I think I couldn't handle, and would put me back into the kind of direct delivery that I enjoy. It's temporary (a year) but would set me up for longer-term contracting, or even a permanent post within that org. It's likely that partner would be able to find work there too, however it's not a guarantee. We have savings enough to cover us for up to a year if need be, but it could make a big dent in house-buying funds and we may never get back up to the earning potential we currently have in London.

THE RUB: my current job is about to change radically. The org is going through a big restructure and I'm being sponsored by senior management to take a strong role in determining how things play out, which would mean holding off on any move for at least six months to a year. Having 'leaned in' in order to get my current post 2 years ago (and having operated at stretch capacity since) I'm feeling a bit burnt out and not able to get a clear perspective on how much of an opportunity this actually is. On the one hand I could learn a lot and gain more experience ready for when we do exit. On the other it will involve a lot more mettle-grasping at a senior level and at least six months of churn before everything's in place. There's also the chance that I could be shunted back down to rank and file once the new management structure is established.

I'm now 40 so this opportunity feels like a fork in the road - whether to keep trying to climb the career ladder in current post and max out on what the city can offer for a bit longer, or whether to crack on with moving out by going for this post (and others if it doesn't work out).

What advice would you give in terms of weighing up the options?
posted by socksister to Work & Money (4 answers total)
What are your major sources of satisfaction in life? I think the answer varies a lot depending on the relative weight you give career ambition as against the other possibilities. It's possible to adjust to less income (though, of course, the bigger the difference the harder it is), but it's harder to compensate for the loss of a high-pressure high-achieving job, if that's something that's really important in your life.
posted by praemunire at 8:19 AM on June 7, 2016

A job that is both temporary and a step down in several ways would definitely give me pause - if you want to put down roots, only having guaranteed employment for a year is at odds with that. If the position doesn't lead to long term work for the organization, what are your options going to be if your partner doesn't want to uproot their life again?

That said, thus far it's only an invitation to apply, so if you're intrigued it seems worth applying and seeing if you get an offer and how good it is before agonizing on making a decision.
posted by Candleman at 8:54 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

A word of warning: if you do leave London, it's going to be hard to go back if you want to. The financial pain you'll feel moving back to London from somewhere cheaper (which is just about anywhere) is going to be severe. I did it myself, and it sucks.
posted by veedubya at 9:48 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

As a person also in the middle of burnout, and I have been for a while, I would lean toward taking this opportunity. Burnout eats away at your body and soul and does not improve. Also, I think it is hopeful that both you and your partner already picked that city as a prospective place to live.

Here are the two precautions I would take and/or look into, however, to mitigate any potential financial loss, especially since you mention your partner will need to find a job.

Since you mention "academic" in relation to the new job (and assuming that it works similar to the US), it is not uncommon in academic jobs to mention an accompanying partner and for a suitable job match to be found by the institution. You could mention this during the offer (ie, very excited about the job, need a little time to look for partner's job), and they might find something for you.

Another thing that I would look into is if the position that you are moving into has several other temp or contract type jobs. If it has tons of them, including work from home, other companies, etc., then I would not be worried about the next gig. However, if there are very few of them - then I would be worried and hesitate. I would also poke around job websites looking at the town for potential jobs (are there things there now for you and/or your partner either now or in the future.) Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 10:35 AM on June 7, 2016

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