Best ways to decide if you’d rather stay comfy in a career or take risks
September 30, 2018 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I have been looking for a new job for a while. I have also been looking to move to be closer to my partner. Nothing was really happening with the job search, so I decided to try to make the best of my current job and city. Now I have a job offer and this is all very scary. It’s a great job on paper, but there is up to 40% travel and 45 minute commute from my partner (better than a plane ride now.)

Do you make a pros and cons list? How do you appropriately weigh the pros and cons when some are sort of unknown to you? Like I’ve never traveled up to 40% for a job and am not sure what that would be like. The travel is paid for though.

I also only had one long interview before they offered me the job, so I am chatting with the manager before making a final decision. Questions like “how do you measure success, tell me more about the team dynamic, how would you describe your management style?” Are these ok to ask?

So far, the big pros are that:
-it pays me a lot more than I make now
-it gives me higher level experience, and this would be my second job out of school
-I’ll be much closer to my partner
-I’ll be in a state that’s pretty fun to be in, and I know a few people there
-I’ve rarely made a risk in my 20s and I just want to do something different. I made a lot of safe choices to make my parents happy and this would be an adventure.
-if I turned down the job, maybe I could find another one? It takes so long to find a job in my field as a long distance candidate. My partner and I have the contingency plan of “if I don’t find a job in two years, they will quit their PHD program and move to where I am.” But I do want to try living in that area, it’s been a dream of mine.

The cons so far:
-I’ll be in a state with pretty bad winter weather and driving a 45 mile commute
-the job is stationed in the middle of nowhere, which is why I would rather live in the cute, fun town 45 miles away
-It’s a different culture than I’m used to (rural)
-I travel up to 40%, but that’s like 1.5 weeks out of the month. I only get to see my partner every other month currently.
-I AM SCARED OF MOVING ACROSS THE COUNTRY AGAIN AND DIDNT THINK THIS WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN. I’ve come to like my current city and friends, but I abhor my job. But I also would rather live with my partner. We’ve talked about moving back here after their program is finished.
-if my partner and I break up in the worst case scenario, that would suck. But I would survive because this job still sounds interesting enough and a boost for my career path.

I read over that list and still can’t figure my feelings out. How do I have a clear head about a big career move?
posted by buttonedup to Work & Money (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I see a lot of definite pros but none of the cons are even things you're sure will turn out to be bad. Maybe you won't like the rural culture, commuting in winter weather or traveling that much. But maybe that will all be fine. Maybe you'll even like it. You certainly aren't likely to regret making more money, getting higher level experience or living closer to your partner. (Well, it's always possible things won't work out with the partner. But better to find out sooner rather than later if you're not really that compatible.)

You say living in that area has been a dream of yours. You hate your current job. You say you want to do something different. Doing this involves no financial risk, because you'll be making more money. Taking the new job seems like a no-brainer to me. Yes, it's possible that you'll end up disliking something (maybe even many things) about the new situation. But even if that happens you will have had some new and interesting experiences. And you will have learned a lot more about what you like in a job and a living situation and that will help you end up in better situations in the future.

If the pros and cons were equally balanced, I would say to go with the new job because in general I think having new experiences enriches your life more than staying with the status quo. But in this case the pros seem overwhelmingly to outweigh the cons. If I were you, I wouldn't even consider not moving.
posted by Redstart at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2018 [11 favorites]

This sounds like pretty much a slam dunk, honestly. Like, the only thing I can see here that's an actual "con" is that it's scary. Most of the things that you list as cons are not actually cons. The location sounds better than your current one on the whole. You could break up with your partner anytime whether you take this job or not—but it's less likely to happen if you're seeing each other regularly. And those are just the cons, I'm not even touching the several significant pros that you've listed.

The only thing I'd say is this: is your commute 45 miles, or 45 minutes? Around where I am, a 45-mile commute would actually be 90 minutes or more a lot of the time. A 45-minute commute would be OK to me, but right now I'm doing a 90-minute one and it is just not tenable in the long term. That said, rural areas can actually be super fun! Barn parties, late-night jam sessions in people's attics, hiking in the local woods, kayaking and ice fishing on ponds… there's so much fun stuff to do in the rural areas around me, I'm actively trying to move out to the sticks right now. And if I want to get into the city, I can do it when the ENTIRE WORLD isn't all simultaneously trying to commute there. Plus, cost of living is generally a lot lower out in the sticks. So don't count out rural areas if you could save yourself some commuting time!

Overall though, it sounds—from what I can see here in your question—like taking this job would be an excellent life choice for you, and that the main thing holding you back is fear. Fear can be a useful signal that you need to think twice about something, but when you've thought twice (and three times, and four) about it and you're just not coming up with any concrete reasons to hold back other than fear itself, it's time to tell your fear to get stuffed and just do it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

“is your commute 45 miles, or 45 minutes?”

Both? As in it’s 45 miles away and it approximately takes 45-50 minutes because it’s a straight shot on the interstate according to google maps.

I have done relatively rural before! But...I am a person of color and rural areas sometimes makes me hesitate, which is why I mentioned it. However, the town I plan on living in is a college town and more diverse, so that can help me cope with a rural experience for work.

Thank you so far for your thoughtful answers! Have definitely thought about this a little too much #thanksanxiety
posted by buttonedup at 9:47 AM on September 30, 2018

I guess I'm just saying, have you looked at the travel time during the hours when you'd be commuting to and from your job? My commute is also a 45-minute straight shot along interstate highways—if there's no traffic. But during rush hour there is always traffic, which turns it into a 90-minute commute. Google Maps and Waze can give you travel time estimates for specific days and times. Maybe you've already checked that, but if you haven't then you should!
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

If the cute town is only 45 mins away I would vote for living close to your work and just making a lot of trips into the town. I live rural, and yes being a POC can be an issue, but it is super dependent-related. You can always try living close, especially during the winter, see what friendships/entertainment develops, and if you find it is not enough, then move to the cute town. I don’t see any downstides to taking the job, honestly. Enjoy your new adventure!
posted by saucysault at 10:08 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

As to the travel, it depends on you, really. No kids in your twenties is pretty ideal. I did it mostly in my thirties and brought my three kids along (I was homeschooling at the time) so it was more of a challenge but doable. It is certainly something you can give a year and then if you decide it is a dealbreaker telling future prospective employers that you are leaving a great job for one with less that 40% travel is understandable.
posted by saucysault at 10:14 AM on September 30, 2018

it pays me a lot more than I make now
It gives me higher level experience, and this would be my second job out of school

A big salary bump early in your career can have a massive ripple effect in your lifetime earnings, so this is great.

I’ll be in a state with pretty bad winter weather and driving a 45 mile commute
-the job is stationed in the middle of nowhere, which is why I would rather live in the cute, fun town 45 miles away

Are to you an experienced winter driver? Even interstates can shut down in storms. Will they be forgiving if you're late or make it if there's bad weather?

Depending on the local culture, they may take it as an afront that you don't want to live there.
posted by Candleman at 10:17 AM on September 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is there no place to live that is roughly 25-30 minutes from work and 15-20 minutes from the cute town where you’d like to spend your time?
posted by Andrhia at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2018

“Will they be forgiving if you're late or make it if there's bad weather?

Depending on the local culture, they may take it as an afront that you don't want to live there.”

This I don’t know. I’m not sure how to approach that in the question asking on Monday. “Are you ok with me living elsewhere?” I DO know that some of the team don’t live there. One team member also commutes 40 miles in from his town to our work (because it is in the middle of nowhere. Or he has family that lives in another part of the state. Either way, I don’t think everyone lives in the town.)

My partner also lives in the cute college town, which is a big draw because we could live together even with the longer commute.

Ok, that’s all from me!
posted by buttonedup at 10:35 AM on September 30, 2018

Living outside of town because you live with your partner seems fine, especially if other people live in various areas.

I think it’s pretty much 100% go for it. It’s a risk, but you’re in your 20s (the time for risks!) and at the very worst you will probably have boosted your lifetime earnings and moved closer to someone you love. Go for itttt
posted by stoneandstar at 10:50 AM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

Most places that are headquartered somewhere rural are used to having workers commuting in from elsewhere. Being able to live close to your job just isn't an option for a lot of people anymore; if I wanted to live within half an hour of my work I'd need to be making at least twice what I do. In my experience, that's very normal.

Likewise for commuting in bad weather. Where I live, there are generally 2-3 storms per winter where the governor declares a state of emergency and asks all non-essential personnel to stay off the roads. There are generally about half a dozen lesser storms that are nevertheless very disruptive. That's just the reality of the climate in my part of the country, and workplaces are used to dealing with it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2018

Sounds to me like it’ll be a win to move, probably. I normally second guess life choices at right around this stage, personally. If it’s terrible you can always move again.

If the cute, wintry college town on an interstate happens to be Madison, WI, say hi :)
posted by eirias at 11:11 AM on September 30, 2018

One question you should ask is how the travel typically works and where you’d be travelling to. Things like, will you be travelling during working hrs or on a red eye flight Sunday night and go from plane to office to work the whole day? Will you be travelling alone or with others? Will you be driving, flying? Will you be locked into company rewards programs or be able to do your own thing? Will you be expected to stay away weekends if the trip is more than one working week? How did they come up with 40%? That could also be two full months away, three at home...unlikely pattern but don’t assume it’s predictable and short trips unless somebody has confirmed that. Especially if you‘ve never had a job with travel commitments you can be open about the need to understand.

Re the commute - how much overtime will you typically be doing? Driving 1.5-2 hrs/day (how long will it take in winter weather?) if you’re working a reliable 8 hr day is one thing, doing that in a long hrs environment is a completely different proposition. Do they have anybody telecommuting at the moment? If there is no precedent that may not be an option, especially if you already get little facetime with your team due to travel.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:37 AM on September 30, 2018

Go for it. Try the commute for a few months and if it really sucks then move somewhere closer, maybe halfway between work and cool collegetown. Maybe your partner would even consider moving to some halfway point so you both have equal commutes.

Do you have a good car for winter driving? If you don't you should factor the cost of a better car in to your list.

Also see if a four day week is possible.

If you want to tell us which towns you're talking about there's probably someone here who is familiar with the area. I know you're not talking about Ithaca because it doesn't have an interstate highway.
posted by mareli at 11:42 AM on September 30, 2018

Ack, forgive my typo “dependent-related” meant to be “location dependent”.

Partner being in cute town makes me change my advice, upgrade your car with your increased pay to make the commute enjoyable.
posted by saucysault at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would go for it! It sounds like even if it doesn't work out, it will open some new possibilities:
- it will be easier to look for a new job in the area because you are local
- you can adjust your living situation so you and your partner have a more balanced commute or you could rent a cheap apartment closer in and spend the weekends you are in town with your partner
- you will not only be making more money (try to save as much as you can so you have more flexibility later) but this will also help you ask for more in your next job
- the new job sounds like content-wise it is a good move (at least I assume that - definitely think about what you would actually be doing every day while you are at work)

So, you can take the risk and if it doesn't work out, you pivot and move onto something better. This doesn't have to be perfect as long as it opens more doors than it closes.
posted by metahawk at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding that you should try to get more info on the travel expectations before you commit to the new job. What kind of travel, where are you going, expected work load when you're traveling, etc are all important questions. I would at a minimum want clarification on what 40% means - a predictable 1-1.5 weeks/month, most months is totally different than say one month on, two months off. For reference, my current job is categorized as about 40% travel but it is very irregular - trips can last anywhere from 3-4 days up to three weeks, can be anywhere worldwide, often span multiple weekends, and often is requested last minute. Jobs like this might not be the norm, but they're more common than you'd think.

Other things to consider, less important but will start to matter to you if you're on the road that much: do you keep miles (if you fly)? Is there a preferred carrier or is it always lowest cost? What about hotels? Being able to earn status/miles makes the slog of business travel much, much easier. What's the policy for longer international flights (if that's relevant)?
posted by photo guy at 12:45 PM on October 1, 2018

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