Is it worth taking a job that's good for my career that's far away?
April 7, 2017 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Should I stay in my field, taking a job that's a plane trip away from my fiance, which is probably the best career move, or should I take a lower-paying local job with fewer career-trajectory benefits? I'm losing my job and basically I have to choose between a far away company that pays great and looks great, and a close company that looks low-stress, but is in a different industry and would possibly set back my career.

I'm about to lose my job. Looking for a new one has been easier than I thought, as I have a pretty established background in my field. Most recruiters are jumping at the bit to offer me 25-30% more than I currently earn, but usually for cities like Denver, Kansas City, New Jersey. Far from southwest michigan!

My fiance just started a local job. She is a nurse and will be able to work anywhere in ~2 years, but she needs to establish herself at the hospital she interned at before switching.

Southwest Michigan does not have a lot of companies in my field right now, but there are a few, and I have begun the application process. One company is particularly appealing, but it was made clear that there isn't much room for career growth at that company. Specifically, it is a very "flat" organization with 10 of the open role reporting into one manager, so being promoted to manager is even less likely than traditionally.

Anyway, this whole decision is complicated by the fact that I won't get the offers at the same time. The local company moves slowly through the interview process, and so I would need to turn down the other company's offers before even knowing if the local company is worth it.

I have enough money to last 6 months with no job easily. I am only 26. The local job would pay 90K with a medium cost of living, far job would pay 108 with high cost of living.

It feels like I would be trading my career growth potential (Like I could be a VP etc some day of a major CPG company) for the "easy, comfortable" path.

Anyway, I would love to hear any thoughts or reassurances. When I tell this in real life people usually say "You are so young, wow, you don't need to worry about this kind of thing, I was (insert bad job here) when I was your age", and I say to myself - alright, so yes, I have an early start or whatever, but that doesn't make this decision much easier.
posted by bbqturtle to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To further clarify, I would be doing some kind of long distance relationship with my fiance which sounds very difficult to me. Lots of flying back and forth, lots of being lonely, which I imagine will be hard.

Also it would be fun to explore a new city, but only if we did it together.

I guess the kind of advice I'm looking for is, in couples with two working partners, how do you handle a job search after losing a job? Do you only search locally? What would have to happen for long distance to be a possibility? At what point do you take a "career backseat" job just to stay nearby your loved ones?
posted by bbqturtle at 6:06 AM on April 7, 2017

I'm in a career where long-distance relationships for the sake of the job are common, and I'm still just about the only person I know whose marriage/relationship didn't implode or die a slow death by doing this. We did it for three years and it was the worst ever. Even though I'm in my dream career, I would give it up and switch fields rather than have to do long-distance with my husband again.

So, sure, maybe it will work for you, but even if it does, it won't be easy. And there's a relatively large chance that it will be the end of your relationship. You need to decide if the possibility of being VP one day is worth more to you than your relationship. Like, if it doesn't work out with your fiancee, will you look back and say, well, the job is amazing, so it's worth it anyway? Or alternatively, imagine yourself at your job 20 years from now, and you aren't really in the top sort of position you wanted, can you see yourself saying, it's okay anyway, because at least I have her?
posted by lollusc at 6:13 AM on April 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

Oh, also, I'm pretty sure 108k with high cost of living is going to work out to be the same as, or less than 90k with a medium cost of living, in practice.
posted by lollusc at 6:14 AM on April 7, 2017 [17 favorites]

It feels like I would be trading my career growth potential (Like I could be a VP etc some day of a major CPG company) for the "easy, comfortable" path.

You say you are 26, and that your fiance will have more professional flexibility to relocate after two years. I'm not advocating one way or the other, but I think you are setting up a false choice. You have plenty of time to make VP somewhere.
posted by AndrewInDC at 6:15 AM on April 7, 2017 [9 favorites]

If your partner is in theory free to move in two years, personally I can't see the harm in taking the local job in the interim and then looking for a career-boosting move (possibly for both of you?) in another city later.

I can't imagine two years of relevant work experience being bad for your career even if you're not actively developing it a lot in that time - people drop out of the workforce entirely for illness, to have kids etc. and usually manage to re-establish themselves afterwards; I'm struggling to think of a non-performance/non-self-employed career that would be seriously hurt by a relatively short period of you not making the absolute maximum career progress you possibly could.

From your followup comment it sounds like you value your partner and relationship a lot, so if you think you can spend a couple of years on the career back burner without getting resentful, that might be a good option.
posted by terretu at 6:16 AM on April 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

I guess the reason this was stressful enough for me is the ORDER that I need to make decisions.

I have offers far away now, and I'm not even sure the local stuff will pan out. So while ideally the local job seems like the obvious answer for a few reasons, I have the far away job offer NOW. Bird in the hand vs two in the bush.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:17 AM on April 7, 2017

You've got more than one offer already and you have savings to last six months or more. Wait and see if the local job pans out, and if not, then you can start chasing other options elsewhere towards the end of your six months. You already said finding something new is easier than you'd expected, so you can afford to be picky.
posted by lollusc at 6:20 AM on April 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think moving a plane trip away from your fiancee is something you do when you absolutely have to, or if you don't care that much about ending the relationship instead of getting married. It doesn't sound like either of these is the case for you.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:26 AM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another thing to consider: do you like where you live now? Do you have friends/family/activities there? How easy or difficult is it for you to adjust to a new town and meet people? If you were talking about job offers in a specific city that you knew you liked, that might tip the scales more towards moving, but Denver and Kansas City and New Jersey are all very different. It would suck if you moved far away from your fiancee for a job and liked neither the job nor the location - or if you moved to a city that you hated but felt forced to stay in for career reasons.

Two years is probably not going to completely derail your career, and you sound focused and ambitious enough that I bet you can find ways to stay competitive even if your job is a step backwards. And, yeah, sometimes you have to take a less great job for the sake of your loved ones; this will be even more true if you decide to have kids.

So I vote stay, easily.

As for negotiating current offers versus possible future offers: sometimes you can push the windows together a little. Ask the place with the current offer if you can have another week to decide, then ask the local place if it's possible for them to expedite the interview process since you've got an offer elsewhere. This doesn't always work, and it's a safer bet when you're a lock for both positions, but you could try.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:53 AM on April 7, 2017

At a $108k salary, you can house and feed two people. Ask your fiancée if she wants to move with you, quit her job, and look for nursing positions in the new town. Nursing seems to be in high demand everywhere!
posted by slateyness at 6:55 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

So much "I" in your question! You need to talk to your fiance about all this and make a plan together. There are no bad choices, the two of you just need to figure out together what you want out of life and act accordingly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:05 AM on April 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I agree with ThePinkSuperhero, you need to talk to your fiancée and see what she wants. I work in a field where long-distance relationships are common, and I've seen it go both ways. I will say without a doubt that the most successful couples are the ones that have a plan and a set end date in the foreseeable future.
posted by photo guy at 7:20 AM on April 7, 2017

If your partner is going to be mobile in a couple of years, I personally would not take the "career backseat" job to stay in the same area for that time. Either you're going to be with that person for decades, in which case (for me, a middle-aged person who recognizes the value of financial stability and the role of career advancement in achieving that) putting the relationship on the back burner for 2 years will be a blip compared to making the sort of progress in your income, career, and geographic location that you want.

However, there is a 3rd way that you seem to not be considering right now, and that is: are there reasonable opportunities in the metro areas that are road-trip distance from southwestern Michigan rather than plane trip? I'm thinking Indianapolis or Chicago or Columbus, for example. This would be doubly good if either of you have family in the area who you'd like to be able to spend time with at least a few times a year.
posted by drlith at 7:22 AM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks everyone. Expanding my search to include chicago and detroit and columbus are great ideas.

As far as the nursing job being portable, she isn't an established job and says it is difficult to start as a nurse, but due to her internship being at the local hospital (which is also one of the best hospitals in the country) she has a guaranteed position. Once she establishes herself she is happy to follow me anywhere.

At this point I have called recruiters to cancel the jobs in new jersey and denver and KC. However, two of the three recruiters said they have opportunities in chicago! So, the process continues.

One thing that a lot of people have said which I appreciate is that two years of no advancement is not THAT big of a deal. I think that's true. I just needed to hear it. And I am good at turning things like that into a positive during the interview.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:45 AM on April 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would be highly surprised if your relationship survived two years of long distance, even if you were close enough to see each other most weekends. Losing 6-8 hours a week drive time again and again can add up and lead to resentment and feeling like spending time together is a chore rather than delight. Depending on what she's doing and her personality, it may be especially hard on her because nursing can be physically and mentally grueling and having someone to come home to for support can make a big difference (and videochats just aren't the same).

If it came down to it, would you rather be married to her or vice president at a company?
posted by Candleman at 9:39 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think two years is a long time to be stagnant in a job. If your skills are in demand now, strike while the iron's hot. I also think that the nursing market is very local, and what holds true in SW Michigan doesn't necessarily hold true for NJ or CO or IL.

You and your fiancée need to sit down and figure out what you want. Do you want to be close to family? Travel? Have kids sooner rather than later? If so, does she want to stay home with them? Do you want to be outdoors and active? Away from the snow? What does your ideal life look like? Start there and proceed accordingly.
posted by snickerdoodle at 11:21 AM on April 7, 2017

If the local job does not have progressive responsibilities, can you put time/energy towards non-job things that will increase your skill set/desirability - such as further education, volunteering on community boards, personal projects?
posted by saucysault at 6:54 PM on April 7, 2017

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