Take the job or leave it?
July 6, 2006 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Should I stay or should I go now? How do I decide?

THis is my first question to the group at large here. I really need some input on a weighty decision that just landed in my lap.

About two months ago, I interviewed in VA for a Sr. position with a consulting company. Due to my lack of years of experience (barely 8) and the fact that they wanted 8-10 minimum, I was not offered the position. I did impress them enough that the contact in the company that I had said to call back in 8 weeks due to a personnel change that might happen. Lo and behold, a straight position opened up, one level below the Sr. position. While I have not been formally offered a package, my contact wants to know if there is any interest?

My problem is that while I will have a job, my wife (just shy of a master's degree) will have to start over looking for a new position. She is in pharmaceutical packaging as a cleaning validation specialist (basicially a regulatory paper maker). The market for this in the VA area is literally nil. That means a new job doing something else and starting either on the ground floor or slightly above that. She is in her late 30s and is feeling like we have never set down roots. Not an issue for me but it is becoming a big one for her. No kids, we rent, and the COL between where I am now and VA is 1.2:1. So here is the question?

Should I take this job or should I decline at this point? What can I use to make up my mind? Is there some way to help my wife make her mind up?
posted by Koffeeman to Work & Money (20 answers total)
Well, (and this is probably obvious), this is a decision you & your wife need to make together. That said, if I was in your wife's shoes, I would look at your combined salaries now and compare them to your likely combined salaries if you accepted the job in VA. If she won't be able to get a job right away, then you'd basically need to see if you could be comfortable living on one salary for awhile. If I was in your wife's position, I would only agree to the move if it didn't mean I had to take any crappy job I could get just to make ends meet, because the move requires a pretty big sacrifice.

From what you've said, it doesn't really sound like your wife wants to move, but again, it really depends on each of your individual values.
posted by tastybrains at 7:18 PM on July 6, 2006

Since it appears that you have a relatively flexible profession and your wife does not, and in fact your wife does something extremely specific, it looks like you're not going to be able to move.
posted by k8t at 7:20 PM on July 6, 2006

You should tell the consulting company that you're still very interested, but you would need to consider it closely with your wife before accepting any offer. You haven't been offered a job yet, you're just pretty sure you'll be offered a job. So you don't have to close the door on this possibility yet.

Now: When the time comes to answer this question, you'll be a lot better off if you and your wife decide together than if you listen to a bunch of know-it-alls on the internet.

There are a lot of things I'm not clear about from your post.

Is your wife just shy of a master's degree in the same field she's currently in now? Would she have to give up on the degree in order to follow you to a new job? How career-oriented is she? How career-oriented are you? Can you afford to support her for a while -- maybe as long as six months -- while she finds her footing? Would this arrangement be acceptible to her?

What is "VA"? Do you mean Virginia? And what regions of Virginia -- there are several very diverse economies in that state.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:23 PM on July 6, 2006

How much more would you be making at the new job than your current one? Use this equation:

xx = Your wife's current salary
xy = Your current salary
xNew = Your new salary

if (xNew < [(xx + xy) * .75]) thenbr>   stay;

In other words, if your combined salaries are only slightly more than what you'd be making in your new position, she won't have to find a replacement job to sustain your current lifestyle. You might even be able to get by with her only working part-time. I know if I were in her shoes, the opportunity to work less every day would be a pretty appealing argument.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:28 PM on July 6, 2006

Aw damn, my formula was all screwed up.

if (xNew < ((xx + xy) * .75)) then
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:29 PM on July 6, 2006

I think your wife's mind is probably already made up; if she's gone to the trouble of pursuing a master's degree and there will be no meaningful work in her field in the area (Virginia? Seriously? Extremely diversified economy here...), then of course she doesn't want to go. Would you, were the situations reversed?

This is one of those marriage situations which requires compromise. Can you find a similar job in the area where you live now? In another region where she could find work more easily? Or, if she moves to Virginia and gives up her current career track, could this be an opportunity for her to continue on to a PhD or something else equally rewarding?
posted by junkbox at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2006

Regarding the above formula:

If I were to follow my fiance into an area away from my family where I had no roots, no children to care for, no house to maintain (they rent, remember?), and also no full-time job to go to, I'd very quickly go batty.

This is probably more than just an economic decision for the both of you.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2006

Is it worth exploring a telecommuting option with this company? You don't talk much about the work you might do, but they might consider letting you work from a different city, particularly if it's a travel heavy position anyway (which minimizes the need to office with everyone else).
posted by j-dawg at 8:33 PM on July 6, 2006

I'd say don't get ahead of yourself. Right now they're just asking if you're interested, and I think the answer to that question should always be yes. You can probably also gather more information for you and your wife to base the decision on. See where the interview/negotiation process takes you, and let the new employer know your situation. If they want you badly enough, you may get a relocation/sign-on package large enough to sway the vote- maybe enough to help you "set down roots?" Who knows, they may even be able to help place your wife.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 8:45 PM on July 6, 2006

I mean this in the nicest possible way: all of the information necessary to give you good advice about your decision is missing from your question. How do you feel about the job you have now? How do you feel about the job you may have an offer for? How does your wife feel about the job she has now and the work she does now? The way you put it this move offers I don't know what for you and several straighforward negatives for your wife.

If your wife is in her late 30s and concerned about having not put down roots, asking her to move to a job market where she's basically going to have to start her professional life over is making a pretty profound request of her. It had better be a pretty profound step up for you, to the extent that you can offer some sort of compensation to her situation (buying a house, kids, further education?). Otherwise, unless the chances for career advancement in your current market are less than none (what hers are going to be if you move), it doesn't sound like there's a reasonable compromise in the decision.
posted by nanojath at 9:35 PM on July 6, 2006

I'm with junkbox and nanojath. The benefits to your career of moving up the ladder a bit faster are nowhere near the benefits to your life of supporting your wife as she builds a satisfying professional identity. (I'm assuming that she'll support you in this, too.)

An anecdote -- my mom started over three times as the family changed cities so my dad could move up the corporate ladder. She left behind one career-path job and two startup companies. And even though she assented, probably because of combined-earning formula logic, today fifteen years later, she sometimes feels she sacrificed her entire self and life for the family good. Imagine the effects that has on their marriage and home life. When her latest job ended for budget issues, she went through a huge bout of depression, which only ended when she took on a major entrepreneurial endeavor with the potential to ultimately give her that sense of professional accomplishment she lacks. Age 55 is not a good time to make financial gambles for a startup company, but to her it feels life-or-death in the way that personal identity issues often do.

So, if your wife derives much of her identity from her work / career life (which it sounds like she might), I'd support that and try to find situations that don't require either of you to make a major sacrifice.
posted by ruff at 9:59 PM on July 6, 2006

Tell the contact, Yes, you're interested, but you'll have to work out the specifics before you know if it's a good fit for you.

Now on those specifics -- Consider the economic impact, as covered above. But how permanent is this position? Your wife wants to put down roots, so is this a company you could see yourself sticking with for awhile and advancing? (Also, would you be likely to transfer?) Or what about the job you're at now? How do they compare?

If you see your economic situation improving a lot, would your wife be interested in taking a break from her career and having/raising kids? Is she even the type of person, with the type of career, to make that a realistic decision?

How did your wife feel about the first VA interview? If she was fine with you taking that position, how is this one similar/different? (And if she wasn't happy about it then, is there any reason she should be this time?)

Think about those questions, and hopefully you'll be closer to an answer about what path to take. But unless Mrs. Koffeeman is dead-set against it, you might as well tell them you're interested and see what you can work out.
posted by SuperNova at 10:07 PM on July 6, 2006

Response by poster: After reading the responses so far, I realize that I am a little light on details. My wife almost obtained a MS in molecular biology but dropped out just before the thesis portion of the program (all the classes were done). She went into teaching, where I met her. After that, she has moved with me every 2-3 years as I have gone from a staff engineering position to my current position as a cost engineer. She is now using some of her education in the pharmaceutical industry as part of a company doing clinical drug contract work. She is feeliing overwhemed, depressed, and drained (sounds like burned out to me) from the job. To boot, if anyone here knows people from New England, she is convinced that she should never rely on anyone else. As she says,"all by myself".

I am underused in my current position (my entire department is). The new position is in my original field of consulting, but 1-2 levels above where I started from. I am only 30 years old, so this is a good opp for me. The issue is that my wife would, as christinethesip suggested, pretty much go nuts from lack of family, no friends in area, having no job, and depending on me to make money, pay the bills, and having no fall back plan.

The offer is not to interview or apply but actually to negotiate a deal. I already interviewed and am on the offer stage.

I am leaning towards saying thanks but not at this time due to family concerns. Do you think that this will be a bad call career wise (in case things with the wife change)?
posted by Koffeeman at 5:49 AM on July 7, 2006

See what the offer is. It sounds like she has enough experience to be employable in a related field, maybe not exactly what she is doing now.

I think a grand adventure is always fun. You can always try it for a while. If this turns out to be a great deal, I do think you might be shooting yourself in the foot career wise.

Of course, having an unhappy spouse can really put a damper on things as well. Is it possible she is a little depressed, all that feeling overworked and drained? Being in that state of mind can really make it hard to consider a big life change. Go on a three day weekend , relax, and really hash it out.
posted by stormygrey at 6:30 AM on July 7, 2006

Here's how I make these decisions: Go someplace quiet away from home (try a cafe with coffee and dessert...) Take a piece of paper for each option (one to stay, one to move) and consider each option alone. List all the pros and cons of each. Be sure to also list mitigating factors for the cons. If your wife dislikes her current job, is having no job in the new location an opportunity to go back to school? Change careers? I would do this with your wife. For me, this exercise has been all it's ever taken to know which option is the right one for me.

Re it being a bad career decision to turn down the job: my personal opinion is, who cares? If you're not struggling to survive, than this is just an opportunity for a change. If the opportunity doesn't work for you, I would absolutely turn it down. (By all means, leave the 'maybe later' door open.)

Because it sounds like you are both dissatisfied with your current job situations, why not brainstorm for the 'ideal' situations and add that to your option list. What would your wife rather be doing? Where in the country could you both go to be working your ideal jobs? Can you look for a better job in your current area? Maybe the right answer for you both is not even on the table yet!
posted by sLevi at 6:32 AM on July 7, 2006

I don't see anything you mentioned as something that would make your wife happy, and plenty that would make her depressed. You're not unemployed, you don't desperately have to take the job...and I wouldn't. It's not worth the depression she might get from lack of everything else in her life due to your job.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:43 PM on July 7, 2006

I am leaning towards saying thanks but not at this time due to family concerns. Do you think that this will be a bad call career wise (in case things with the wife change)?

Sounds like between the two of you, it's your career that's actually going somewhere. I think throwing away an opportunity like this is a bad, bad idea.

She is now using some of her education in the pharmaceutical industry as part of a company doing clinical drug contract work.

So she's barely using her degree, a sort-of round peg in a sort-of square hole, meanwhile you're on the up-and-up. She'll have plenty of time to find a job that's more well-suited to her skillset (doesn't sound like the current one fits the bill). Or perhaps with the extra income, she can go back to school and finish her degree. Makes more sense to me than her staying in a job she doesn't really like that doesn't really use her skills, while you languish at a job knowing you could be your boss's boss.

Do you really anticipate things are going to get that much better where you are? Or do you see nothing but stagnation in your future? I'd be mighty pissed if I was forced to turn down a really great opportunity because my wife was worred about changing locales. You think life just keeps throwing you these chances?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:17 PM on July 7, 2006

The issue is that my wife would, as christinethesip suggested, pretty much go nuts from lack of family, no friends in area, having no job, and depending on me to make money, pay the bills, and having no fall back plan."

This is the part that gets me -- why would you even still consider it then? You are so specific about job titles, job qualifications, and the process of interviewing, yet you are fairly vague about your wife's life desires and plans. Don't you two make these decisions together? Don't you have an overall plan that works toward setting up a life you both want? Aren't there things besides your career (eg, local friends, your wife's happiness) that matter to you? It feels odd that the two things (your career and her desire for a certain kind of life with roots) seem fairly disconnected in your mind, connected only through a locational decision. Maybe there's a lot you're not saying and I've gotten completely the wrong impression, but there's something that feels really strange in all this. Like you're advancing your career while she's trying to create a family, home, and life... But apologies if I'm reading too far between the lines.
posted by ruff at 10:57 AM on July 8, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I wanted to add an update to what has happened. I turned down the offer today. ruff actually hit on something that has been bothering me for more than a few years. My wife and I have been essentially rolling from crisis to crisis, taking jobs and moving as needed to pay the bills. My wife would like to set down roots but not where we currently live. Her attitude, one that conflicts with mine to no end, is the you should not want anything and just deal with what you get. So instead of pursuing things that give her the roots where she wants (closer to family, back towrads New England) or even stating that wish, she just hopes that somehow something will happen to make those roots grow. I kind of find out these things via arguments and pushing her outside of her comfort zone. I know, not the best way to get this information. In essence, she has not stated to me or herself (grammar?) what she wants life to be like in 5,10, or even next year until a decision has to be made. She then states the choice as "Do this or I will leave". I love my wife and usually let her make the decision for us (she has followed me when there seemed to be no other choice). Granted, this is not a life I like. I have my wishes but I don't know how palatable they are to her (I have mentioned them to her but she is very blase about all of them). If I want to remain married to her, I have to let her have her say. And before you unload on me about having a spine, we are trying to see a marriage counselor about this.

In closing, thanks for the advice. I will definitely be consulting the group at large again for some of these hard questions.
posted by Koffeeman at 8:14 AM on July 10, 2006

Dunno if you'll drop back in on this one after so long, Koffeeman, but for what it's worth, given the added information it really sounds to me like you made the right decision for your marriage - additional strain on the marital situation you describe is definitely contraindicated, and there's no question the move would have added strain. It sounds like what's really needed is for you and your wife to be able to communicate honestly enough to start working towards a shared goal for the future; clearly neither of you is happy where you are. I hope the counselling helps with that, and I really do wish you the very best of luck.
posted by nanojath at 11:13 PM on July 17, 2006

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