To switch jobs or not? First-job software developer edition!
September 22, 2017 11:11 PM   Subscribe

Hello! I'm trying to decide whether or not to switch jobs. I've never done this - the job I'm at now is my first - and am soliciting as much advice as possible before I make what feels like a Very Big Decision. I'm a software developer, in my early 20s, and very lucky to make enough money to live the way I want as well as save for my future goals.

I've been at my current job for 2 years (with a year of previous experience in the field). It has great pay (110k), stock options, great benefits, and good people. The things I work on, though, make me feel like I've stopped learning and started to get stuck. I'm in no immediate danger of losing it and don't feel I have to jump ship right this moment. I've told my manager I feel this way, and changes are happening, slowly (6-12mo before I see them getting implemented), and have begun to take stock of my options.

The way I see it:

1. Stay at my current job and find a way to change my situation there / wait until the changes I'd like take effect. I feel like I could do something more interesting with my 6-12mo.

2. Transfer to another division with in the company to work in a similar way, with different people, on slightly different problems. I feel this option is the least risky, but the most similar to what I'm doing now.

3. Move to job B, with slightly lower pay than what I have now (-4k, no stock options, but a substantial sign-on bonus that would put me over what I'm making now in terms of base comp) and not as much vacation time, but work on something totally different, perhaps with more growth (IoT software), perhaps with more ownership of what I'm doing.

4. Move to job C, with slightly lower pay, but work from home/remotely on something meaningful with people that share my values. I worry that I'd get lonely working remotely.

5. Do 1 or 2, and continue to gather offers from other companies and hold out for something that really excites me.

I'm leaning toward option 3 because it's in a totally different domain (fun, exciting, new!) and sounds like I'd have more autonomy over what I produce, and possibly a greater opportunity for growth. I'm going to meet with the team today to clear up those last two. The hang up, obviously, is that the compensation is not as good - I've received a final offer and they're unlikely to make changes. On the flip side, I'm very happy with the compensation I have now, and increasing it seems like grabbing money for money's sake (or climbing the compensation ladder so that the next job pays more).

I'm also weary of the fact that I'd like a change - any change - from what I'm doing now, and that's pushing me towards an option that may not be the best in the long run. Because this is my first job, I'm curious about what else is out there. Diversity of experience seems like an asset.

I don't think choosing any of these options could result in catastrophic life failure - I'll land on my feet, maybe just without grace.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
It's not unusual to make a change at the 2-3 year mark. I'd say you're right on schedule. A few things to keep in mind: In terms of long-range career trajectory, these are not your high-earning years; If you don't *need* the money, then don't rule out promising offers because of compensation. These are, however, the years when you should be broadening your expertise and setting the foundation for the long run. It is much easier to shift direction and try new things now than it will be in later years. If it were me I'd look for diversity of experience, technology/projects that excite and opportunities to grow professionally. This includes exposure to people you can learn from (e.g., not working from home).
posted by mama penguin at 4:55 AM on September 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was in a position similar to yours a few years ago. This is very company dependent, but had I waited it out, nothing would've changed. While I can totally believe that your boss is being genuine about change coming, reality often forces change to happen very, very, slowly or not at all. That said, it's only 6-12 months. A drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things, so it's not a big deal unless you truly are that unhappy.

1. It doesn't sound like you actually like this idea.

2. Possibly a good idea, unless you think your issue with 1 might be a culture problem and not a team problem.

3. The drop in pay/benefits isn't a problem if it's not a big deal to you. I know people say in this industry that you should always be job hopping up, but you sound like finding real value in your work is important to you. If you can afford the decrease and you truly think it will make you happy (and not in a "grass is always greener" sense), then don't let money or benefits hold you back.

4. For an introvert, I'm a pretty social person. I would never work remotely for that reason. I know some people who have made it work, and they have an awesome time hanging out in hip co-working spaces and meeting new people and working while travelling. So it could be awesome! But I know it wouldn't be for me.

I chose 3, and while I was only there for a year and a half, I don't regret my decision in the slightest. For me, I made enough money that taking a pay cut was fine. The growth and opportunity were more than worth it.
This time around I'm sitting at a job I made "grass is always greener" jump to and wishing I had waited a while longer to find a better fit. So I'd really encouraging you to set aside your need for change. You're in a good position - you're not scrambling for a job and your world isn't falling apart around you (no matter how much it might suck on a daily basis). You have the time to make a good decision that is best for you.

At a minimum you might find how long 3 will give you to decide, and at least take that time to figure out what else is available to you, internally and externally. If they're not willing to wait a week or two (without a very good reason), then they probably weren't that great to begin with.
posted by Krop Tor at 5:02 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

The market is hot for software developers. Keep interviewing and try to find job D, E, or F that gives you interesting work without the pay cut.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:19 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

It’s normal in software engineering to change jobs every couple of years. I’m twice your age but I’ve seen that if you don’t keep your skills up to the new hotness, your career stagnates. Don’t stay where you’re not always learning and stretching. Especially early-career, getting exposure to different ways of approaching architecture, engineering practices, and team processes will make you a good foundation.

Don’t stay in your current job but don’t do remote work either.
posted by matildaben at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm kind of a year or so out from expecting to jump to my next job but already starting to think about it, so this isn't coming from experience, just some gut-check stuff:

1--Are they really changing, but slowly, or are you not sure these changes are really happening? If it's just a matter of six months, I'd probably stick with it. But I work for a place that keeps swearing we're moving forward into doing things a better way and then it doesn't happen, so I wouldn't blame you for lacking faith.

2--If one of these other things actively seemed cool, then I'd say it was a great idea, but it doesn't sound like that's true.

3--perhaps with more growth (IoT software), perhaps with more ownership of what I'm doing

Perhaps? Perhaps? I wouldn't take a pay cut without nailing that down a bit better. Part of this is based just on my first job hunt's results and the fact that I knew the people who took several of the positions I didn't take, but I'd operate under the assumption that what you're being told at first is the most positive possible spin they can put on the job. If they can't spin it any more positive than this, then it's either a lot more risky or a lot more boring than they're indicating. (I was supposed to primarily be doing React. The React conversion of our application got cancelled like two months after I started and apparently was on shaky footing when they hired me.)

4--I'd do this in a heartbeat, but I don't worry too much about the remote thing because I'm quite comfortable doing most of my socializing online. Maybe you could get more involved in some Meetup stuff or whatever to get you out of the house regularly?

Which is to say, basically, that I'd almost certainly take #4, but if you're genuinely worried about the remote thing, #5 seems like a good deal. It's not like you aren't going to have other opportunities showing up in the coming few weeks/months.
posted by Sequence at 11:12 AM on September 23, 2017

Remote work at a remote-centric company is not lonely or isolating (It probably is if you are 'the one remote person' at an otherwise non-remote job). It's certainly not for everyone though, so I can't tell you if it's a good idea for you personally. Just don't write it off altogether.

Job hopping is pretty normal in software, just do it. Worst case is you do it again sort of soon! It's up to you to find what makes you the most happy: cash comp, a real mission, good coworkers, equity, impact. All of those are fine!
posted by so fucking future at 1:46 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll add something about working remotely:

I would not recommend this for you at this point in your (and this) career. IT, and programming specifically, is easy to do remotely in the right environment and with the right support from your organization. But you're young and, frankly, probably somewhat inexperienced with only 3 years behind you. You have a long career ahead of you and plenty of time to find your niche, but it's difficult to do that without close interaction with others. You're not going to learn nearly as much sitting in front of a computer at home than you are collaborating directly with others, and learning is what you need and seem to be looking for.

I was a developer myself for several years, and loved it. Then I got into DBA work and discovered I loved it more, enough to switch my career path in that direction. I had no idea I would love it so much and I would never have been introduced to it, and afforded the opportunities I have, without supportive people sitting physically near me with whom I could spin my chair around and interact whenever I had questions or wanted to learn something. You just won't get that working in a home office, no matter how much you think you or your coworkers love teleconferencing. Until you are experienced and confident in your career and technology choices and confident you aren't interested in branching out, I feel like working remotely isn't in your best interest right now. Give it a few years and you'll be better situated for it.

Other than that, I agree with the above. The turnover rate for IT in general is pretty volatile, don't feel bad at all about looking for a change after 2 years. If you enjoy where you work now, consider giving your manager's 'promise' a chance to come to fruition, and keep following up. If in 6 months you don't see at least some progress and still feel stuck in a rut, by all means move on. Given your salary, there's no reason for you to be living 'close to your means' and it should not be a hardship to take a small cut, especially if it means you'll be happier.

Never discount how much job satisfaction is worth if you have an otherwise comfortable salary.
posted by SquidLips at 4:28 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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