Should I stay or should I go?
June 28, 2008 7:00 AM   Subscribe

My former boss contacted me out of the blue a couple of months ago, offering me a job. After some protracted negotiations the time has come to decide if I should take it or not.

Currently I am the IT manager at a small web software company. I find my work uninspiring and my company poorly run. Moreover, I've stopped learning here, and most days I feel like this. The one advantage of my current job is that I was able to negotiate a certain amount of flexibility which allows me to study towards a Masters in Mathematics in the evening. I've been doing this for one semester, and have 3 semesters to go at the current rate.

The job I've been offered is doing IT support and Document Control on a large engineering job in Kazakhstan. It pays roughly double what I earn at the moment. Of course, I won't be able to continue my course while I'm living on the steppe, although I can defer my study for up to a year.

The way I see it, there are four possible outcomes:

1a) I take the job in Kazakhstan and all goes swimmingly. I come home with sufficient money saved to be able to do at least one semester of my masters fulltime, and then find a job which will allow me to complete the remainder in a reasonable time.

1b) I take the job in Kazakhstan but during the trial period (3 months) the company decides that I'm not who they were looking for, and I return home. I will have missed the cutoff date for the current semester, and will have to find a job. I will have no significant savings to draw on. At the least, I will have an incentive to find a more satisfying job at home.

2a) I don't take the job, and I continue studying while looking for a new job here. I really should doing this already, but with the time commitments to studying I haven't really been looking.

2b) I don't take the job, I continue my course, and I don't look for other work.

So, having mapped out all the possibilities, I guess what I'm looking for is a calculus or decision making. How do people usually decide these kinds of things? Gut feeling?

Some pertinent information: I'm male, 29, interested in Central Asia (among other things). I have a constant feeling that I should have constinued studying maths/physics when I was younger and that now I'm a bit over the hill.
posted by claudius to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd go to central Asia. If your boss hunted you out (s)he probably has a good reason to think you're a good fit, and travel is a sort of education as well, so it's not like it would be wasted time.
posted by Phalene at 7:18 AM on June 28, 2008

I can't tell you what to do, only what I'd do.

If I were offered twice what I'm currently making to do (basically) what I'm currently doing, only in a foreign country halfway across the world, I would jump at the opportunity like a rabbit on a hot-plate.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2008

When does the new job start? I agree with Civil_Disobedient, especially if you can defer your course for a year, but if you think 1b is in any way likely I would use the time between now and leaving to save/sell things like a fiend so if it comes to pass you have a decent emergency fund to fall back on or to use to continue to travel a bit with.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:30 AM on June 28, 2008

Take the job. Find a university over there to help you continue your studies . Win, win.
posted by Macduff at 7:31 AM on June 28, 2008

Go for it. You can study math at any time in the future. You can take books with you to Kazakhstan if you want. If you turn your old boss down now, there probably won't be a second chance.

The calculus you are looking for is opportunity cost. You can double your earnings by going to Kazakhstan. The cost of staying at your current position is the salary difference, plus the "cost" of boredom at your current job, minus the educational opportunity you have locally.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:41 AM on June 28, 2008

From a slightly different angle, what about asking the ex-boss/ possible "new boss" for some sort of contract? If for some reason it doesn't work after 3 months, you could request to have a couple weeks or months of additional pay to at least cover your losses and find something else (or move home). Don't know if your industry does this...
posted by priested at 7:45 AM on June 28, 2008

priested: The contract is a pretty standard expat contract - it's a months pay (or service) if the contract is broken by either side, so I'm covered there. Also, mobilisation/demob is covered (as long as there's no dodginess in obtaining the job, like misrepresentation of qualifications or the like).

b1tr0t: thanks, opportunity cost is what I'm looking for (as well as other people's approval of my choice, obviously;-)
posted by claudius at 8:01 AM on June 28, 2008

Oh, and mad props to Macduff for resourcefulness;-)
posted by claudius at 8:04 AM on June 28, 2008

I wouldn't recommend studying in Kazakhstan (universities in this part of the world... don't get me started), but I would HIGHLY recommend getting over there. Defer for a year, if you stay longer, you can do an online MA.
posted by k8t at 8:50 AM on June 28, 2008

Another option for your Maths M.Sc.: The Open University.
posted by hangashore at 8:51 AM on June 28, 2008

Some pertinent information: I'm male, 29, interested in Central Asia (among other things). I have a constant feeling that I should have constinued studying maths/physics when I was younger and that now I'm a bit over the hill.

I'm 46 and just started back to school. Take this wonderful opportunity, travel is education in itself and would look great on your resume.
posted by JujuB at 11:46 AM on June 28, 2008

I'm going to give you some opinions and advice. They're just my own personal thoughts and interpretations.

I have a constant feeling that I should have constinued studying maths/physics when I was younger and that now I'm a bit over the hill.

Ignore this. Focus on the feeling of waiting a year to take the next class in your current masters' program. What does that feel like? Unbearable? If not, then you can probably put it off.

I take the job in Kazakhstan but during the trial period (3 months) the company decides that I'm not who they were looking for, and I return home.

Companies understand that it is difficult to find anyone worth beans who is willing to move to Kazakhstan for a year. This "trial period" is needlessly onerous and needs to be amended. If they want you out of the job after three months, make it clear to them that they will have to pay for the disruption they caused in your life at that time. In other words, if they fire you after three months, they must provide adequate compensation (sometimes called a "poison pill"). I suggest starting with the figure of $50,000 (Oz or US, your choice) for early termination before the year is up, and working down.

That said, I think that an interest in Central Asia may not really dovetail with the reality of being a single, 29-year-old, college educated man moving away from one of the great cities in the world for culture and nightlife. Kazakhstan has few of the amenities or cultural resources; to a first approximation it is a desert staffed by thugs, famous for its oil reserves and nuclear missile installations. I predict that after the romance wears off you'll find it quite dull - maybe OK for a year, probably not longer. So I'd suggest making the decision based on money.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:58 AM on June 28, 2008

Have you tried good old pros & cons? You could do it for each of your four opportunities. To evaluate the lists, some people just look at which column is longer or they circle the items that matter most. I do this elaborate numerical weighting system where I multiply two variables: how much better/worse (ie, let's say the salary were only slightly better, it might be a "2" on the 1-5 scale) and how important is this thing to me (ie, salary is pretty important, so let's say a "4.")

Going. Pros: Higher salary, interesting experience of foreign travel, when you return you may be able to justify a higher salary at your next permanent job, getting yourself out of your somewhat stuck situation.
Going. Cons: Having to delay your studies, the risk of it not working out, no social support network, "a desert staffed by thugs."

Staying. Pros: Secure job situation, ability to continue your studies, ability to look for your next long-term job.
Staying. Cons: Being incredibly bored and disengaged with your day job.

It seems like the higher salary might cancel out the delay in your studies if you use your savings to go to school full time. Or it might cancel that out and still remain as a moderate "pro," if you think that salary history would boost your future salaries.
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on June 28, 2008

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