Should I stay or should I go? Job Edition
July 7, 2022 2:12 PM   Subscribe

I’m an almost 63 year old woman who works for a large public entity. I’ve been a remote worker for 1 ½ years, always being told that my position would remain remote. Until yesterday, when I was informed by my superiors that I would need to be in the office 3 days per week. Is it time to move on?

My wife and I purchased a house a long distance from downtown, because we were both teleworkers. We sold one of our cars, because we were both teleworkers. Neither of us had any inkling that we were going to lose our status as remote workers.

Add to this situation the following: I am what is considered a “term” worker, where I am given a contract each year to extend my employment one more year. I was hired as a classified employee but after being hired, my employer changed the classification of my job to this term status. I’ve always been reassured by my supervisors that there was a “98% chance” that my job would always be continued, but then again, I was assured that my remote position would stay remote.

To add some more confusion to the mix, there are these factors: I have a huge amount of student loan debt. If I work 3 more years with a government or non-profit employer, my loans will be forgiven. My current employer meets this criteria.

My current employer has a wonderful pension plan that I will qualify for if I make it to 70 years old, which is my current plan. But will I make it to 70? If my term employment ends when I’m 67, I’d hate to be that age looking for a job. I look my age and I am fearful of not being able to find new employment, more so with each passing year.

I’ve got a call into my boss to see if she’d advocate to get my job classified as a regular position, so I’d no longer be a term employee. I’m not feeling hopeful about this idea, though.

Is it time for me to seriously start looking for a new job, or would you stick it out at my current job, betting that I’ll make it to retirement age?
posted by furtheryet to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Both. Hang on tenaciously to the current job, and at the same time look aggressively for another one.

In the meanwhile, don't give your employer any reason to let you go. It's always easier to get a job when you already have one.
posted by dum spiro spero at 2:28 PM on July 7, 2022 [32 favorites]

Honestly, given everything you describe other than the distance, I have no idea why you would want to leave this job just because you have to go in three days a week now.

Sure, if you get a much better offer, then maybe but I think it'll be hard to find something better or even as good in terms of the long-term benefits. And maybe you can negotiate and only go in once or twice a week or even stay remote for longer.
posted by smorgasbord at 2:32 PM on July 7, 2022 [25 favorites]

In your shoes I'd start hunting, but prepare for it to take a while, and try to negotiate for staying remote in the meantime.
posted by Stacey at 2:37 PM on July 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like this change has really shaken your confidence in your organization. I think that's a good reason to look for a job.

At the same time, I do think due to the speed of decision-making during Covid, decisions about remote work and work have been made through entirely different processes than say, funding or contract renewals. So I don't know that you have to feel less secure about your job than you did before Covid.

That said. I think doing a job search will give you a lot of information that might be helpful whether you actually switch jobs or not. Personally I think unless a new job met the loan criteria I would try to stick it out.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:40 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Start job hunting with a focus on other jobs which would qualify for loan forgiveness.

Talk to your manager about being made permanent. Also discuss whether a return to the office can be delayed, or whether you can ease back into it rather than jumping straight into three days a week.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Looking is free, as they say, but...

(a) Getting that debt off your books before retirement will be a huge boon to your quality of life. It's almost like a little pension in itself, no longer having to pay that $500/mo. or whatever. The feds can and will garnish your Social Security benefits for student loan debt, so this matters a lot. So you'd have to either go to another PSLF-qualifying employer (you have been submitting your ECFs all along, right???), or go somewhere with much higher comp.

(b) I'm not sure where you think you'd be going in the private sector where you'd get a pension, much less one you could vest in in any meaningful way in 7 years or less? So you'd have to get a big bump in salary to compensate for that if you left.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm getting a certain whiff of "we still haven't actually really planned out our retirement finances" from this post (because if you had, you'd have lots more hard data on what your needs are). If I'm right, you need to pull yourself together and tackle it right now. Every day that passes is another day you won't be able to work on fixing any shortfalls. Once you've done that, you should have at least a decent idea of what you'd need from another job. The remote issue sucks, but your choices may be limited.

(Are you not in a union? If you are, they should have something to say about changing the terms of your employment midway.)
posted by praemunire at 4:02 PM on July 7, 2022 [13 favorites]

It’s up to you if you consider this a make-or-break issue, but I would try to negotiate this before jumping ship. My employer sent us all back 2 days a week, but has been hemorrhaging staff ever since and is now reconsidering.
posted by vanitas at 4:04 PM on July 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, I would start looking, but only for PSLF-eligible telework jobs. You are so! Close! To loan forgiveness, which will be a really hard thing to make up for, financially. I’m 5 years from forgiveness and won’t consider an ineligible job.

Meanwhile, push back on the days in office and see if your job can be converted to permanent. If one or the other happens, but not both, keep looking. Looking hurts no one. 7 years is a long time to be counting on a “98% chance” your term is renewed.
posted by assenav at 5:55 PM on July 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

A bird in the hand etc.

It seems to me you have just the two issues with your current arrangement - the lack of permanence and the expected return to partial on-site work. I would be inclined to try and trade those off against each other with your employer, by perhaps trading your agreement to return to site (while negotiating around the extent of that in when it happens, the extent, or possibly both) for having your employment status upgraded to where it should be. Given the importance to you in having certainty at least for the next three years, you may need to accept some trade-off to assure this.

As someone of similar age, I understand your concern about having to try and find another position, but this makes your current position that much more attractive if you can reconcile the above two issues. In the meantime, there's absolutely nothing wrong with looking for other opportunities and I wold certainly do that.
posted by dg at 6:22 PM on July 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with a few others - this feels totally out of the blue and unfair. Your well-founded expectations were suddenly disabused, with seemingly no warning and for no articulated reason. My instinct would be to try to cut bait too.

But at the same time, it sounds like you may not really be in that much of a different situation than you were 1.5 years ago. You live further away from your job, but you'd presumably be going in three days a week vs five so the commute time may be a wash. You and your wife sold one of your cars, but you still have the other (again, assuming you may have previously had two cars and two people commuting to work every day). If you weren't looking to jump ship pre-COVID, then this perhaps shouldn't be a deal-breaker. My point is - it's hard to say this is worth leaving over without knowing whether, given the advances we've made as a society to enable and normalize telework, your field now offers more flexible and better alternatives than it did in the before-times. From what you've written, I definitely don't think you should quit with no other compelling job offer in the bag.

I would not assume that having assurances over telework upended means that assurances over your term position are now more questionable. The whole world is working through how to adapt to this longer-term phase of the pandemic, but from what you've said, there's no reason to think a similar rethinking is happening regarding your particular position.
posted by exutima at 9:55 PM on July 7, 2022

Talk to an employment law lawyer. There’s a lot here that raised my eyebrows and you shouldn’t assume it’s legal just because it’s a government job. Changing of your status, for example. It would be worth getting a consultation, which are usually free or cheap.
posted by Bottlecap at 12:26 AM on July 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Not a good reason to leave. There is a recession coming and many employers intend to use it to cancel work from home altogether. This is especially true of employers who own their own real estate, which is the case for most public service employers.
posted by MattD at 4:06 AM on July 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, one and all. I've officially made a request to have my position reclassified as a permanent position, from being a term position. I'm feeling more comfortable with the plan of continuing to work at my job as it goes to 3 days at the office, 2 days at home, all the while looking for jobs that are fully remote and meet the criteria for PSLF loan forgiveness. I appreciate everyone's insight and sharing.
posted by furtheryet at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

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