i need you to do my thinking for me

I usually try to keep my posts from sounding like frantic stream-of-consciousness entries in a personal diary, but uh… I’m kind of at a career crossroads and I need to put this out to the universe and see what I get back.

As you may already know, my current job is ending. This excruciatingly long buyout process will finally draw to a close in about two weeks. In the meantime, I have somehow fortunately stumbled my way into two very different job opportunities. ALLOW ME TELL YOU ABOUT THEM.

Opportunity #1. A small design studio with a range of clients. I would be doing both print and web design and development.

Opportunity #2. Small in-house design department for a very large company with a range of physical enhancement products. Print only, no web.

Straight out of the gate, I like Opportunity #1 a lot, but some of the pros of Opportunity #2 are giving me pause and causing some doubts. What, exactly, are the pros and cons of each job? I AM GLAD YOU ASKED.

#1 Pros

  • Web, web, web. I love it but have had little time outside of my current job to teach myself new CSS techniques, scripts, and languages. This job would provide me that opportunity — and the studio owner is willing to teach me what I want to know and feed me those projects.
  • Flexibility! I can go into the office — which is a nine-block walk from my house — or just work from home. The hours are flexible as well, meaning if I need to take the afternoon off to get some things taken care of, I can. As long as the work gets done on time is all that matters.
  • The studio has grown exponentially in the past few years and continues to do so, meaning I can grow along with it.
  • This job would act as a great stepping stone in my career, giving me the experience I need and want so I can move up to new opportunities in the future.
  • It’s a 40% raise over what I’m currently making per hour.
  • The studio owners are great people with whom I already have a working relationship, from back when I did some freelance work for them a few years ago.
  • I can take the job with me if I go! This means that when we move, I can still keep earning us a paycheck. That’s killer, right there.

#1 Cons

  • Because it’s a small studio with a fluctuating amount of work coming in, I will be guaranteed a set number of hours each week but those hours may not always add up to 40. In other words, not quite full time some weeks, meaning my pay will vary.
  • No benefits! No health insurance, no paid time off, no 401K. Nothing.
  • And again, because the studio is small, I’m not technically an employee of them so much as I’m an official contractor. I mean, that’s not much different of a status than my current job, but still. It somehow feels… less important. You know what I’m saying?

#2 Pros

  • Giant benefits. Huge benefits. A virtual Scrooge McDuck money-pool of benefits.
  • Lots of pay. I understand the range is from $65-$80k per year. That is, like, more money than I have ever made in my entire life.
  • The office is cool, and the people seem nice.

#2 Cons

  • It is only temporary to start. Then again, it’s highly probable that it would lead to full-time, so this isn’t that much of a con.
  • Since the branding for this company already exists, there’s not much room for creativity. I’d just be laying things out, pretty much.
  • No web. No new learning. No advancement of knowledge or skills.
  • You know how I said something up there about how this company makes and sells “physical enhancement” products? You probably thought to yourself: what the fuck. Well, yeah. I did too. Can I really feel comfortable designing marketing materials aimed at encouraging people to change the way they look?
  • There isn’t as much flexibility in this job. Must drive to office and be there for the various emergencies handed down from the various marketing departments.
  • It is yet another job in yet another cubicle. As if I didn’t already feel trapped in my current one.

Looking this over again, it seems like the pros are weighted with Opportunity #1. But I can’t get over the feeling I have when I consider not taking that kind of pay and benefits package. For the first time ever, I’m struck with the realization that life is bigger than just me, now. I have to take the beau into consideration, and our future together. I need to be willing to make sacrifices for that future. I mean, consider what could be done with that extra money? We could save it for a move, we could save it for extensive travel to faraway places, we could save it for a buying a house one day. Which we want to do. We want to buy a house. We’re traditionalists like that.

These two options are like choosing between business and art. Like choosing between legitimacy and insecurity. Like choosing between adulthood and perpetual adolescence. Like choosing between monetary wealth and mental wealth.

I know money should never weigh out over happiness. So why, why, why do I keep questioning it? Also: any thoughts? Experiences you’d like to share? Decent recipes?

Yeah, so there it is. First I blog about my hair, now I blog about my job situation. Tune in tomorrow for a very special entry in which I describe to you in considerable detail what I ate for lunch and what kind of smart phone I’m thinking about getting.

It’s the quality content that keeps you coming back.

PS — OH, and I forgot to tell you I almost DIED on the way to the interview for Opportunity #2 today, when an unannounced lane closure ahead caused all the cars to come to a sudden stop and everyone was veering left and right and tires were screeching and brakes were burning and I ended up in the fucking median with my hands shaking and this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that makes me terrified to drive anywhere in the first place and I was like really? Really? Is this some kind of sign from the universe that, you know, this job will cause my career to stall out and I will possibly end up dead? Because you know, you can see signs in anything when you’re looking for them very hard.

25 Responses to “i need you to do my thinking for me”

  1. First of all, congratulations on two great opportunities. I’m thrilled for you and even just having choices in this economy is such a great thing. You’ve earned it and have to be sleeping better now about the stress.

    Second of all, it sounds like both of these are great in very different ways. But I have to make a pitch for the day-to-day feel of a job. Which one gives you a better vibe. Which one makes you more excited to go to work? Because THAT’s the job you’ll succeed in. THAT’s the job that will get you somewhere with your long-term career. And careers aren’t built on 401Ks and benefits. Those things are vitally important, of course. But they’re important in the long-term even more than now, when you’re building your portfolio and marketability for jobs 10 years from now.

    I’ve always been more willing to build my career/long-term skills when I feel like I matter to the company : both my bosses and my role. I like coming to work when I know I can conquer a challenge and not when I have rote work. When my brain and talents are values and necessary.

    The other things – money and stability – are imperative. But you already said Opportunity #1 is a step up in pay and a step towards new opportunities. And you can never underestimate flexibility. Seriously. It’s the only think that keeps me in my job somedays and you can’t put a monetary value on that if you’re thinking of moving or traveling or having a family. Or buying a house in a different part of the country and keeping this job to pay the much-lower mortgage.

    It’s NOT perpetual adolescence to take a less-than-40-hour-a-week job if it’s in the purpose of something more and it fits your real goals. If it’s a stepping stone to the woman and wife you want to be.

    • And, um, obviously this is just my two cents, primarily based on what I see you leaning towards in your own musings. If Opportunity #2 weren’t here, what would you think of Opportunity #1? When you’re comparing them against each other, it might be harder to see clearly what excites you about each of them. But if you have been happy taking #1 – truly happy – without #2 providing a confusing alternative, I think that’s important to listen to. If you still would have had strong doubts about the work because of contractor status, then that’s a totally different thing. Mild doubts are normal. Strong doubts are a gut-check warning.

      And I didn’t mean to discount the importance of 401Ks and salaries and benefits. I love all of those things. But I don’t love my job. I would love to love my job. But if you have some stability in the marriage between the two jobs, this could be a chance to build yourself into a more stable place so that you can support the Beau if he needs time to change paths. Or you can take the stability job while he takes the opportunity to figure out new pathways, if he’s ready for that. Stability in marriage doesn’t mean you both need rock-solid jobs and benefits. Stability means that one of you can hold up the other, so long as you’ve agreed upon it and your joint reasons why.

      I’ll stop taking over your comment section now. I’m just happy for you but also know how hard this decision must feel. Hugs and good luck.

  2. Oooh, this is tough. I have a design background, and jobs like #2 can really drain you. It’s hard to keep up creative skills and feel challened as a designer in an environment like that.

    At the same time, health care and retirement savings are no joke. If you don’t have a plan in place to cover those things should you take job #1, I’d definitely consider taking #2 or going with #1 with a one year exit plan. If you guys have student loan or other debt that’s holding you back, I’d really think about #2 as well. It doesn’t have to be forever, and having those burdens lessened can be a big relief.

    If you do have a plan for the lack of benefits, and general financial flexibility, go for #1.It sounds like you’re making do without the extra $$$ so you can stick it out! My gut says you’ll be unhappy with #2. But we’d probably get another great blog out of it!

  3. It totally IS the quality content that keeps me coming back — you’re one of my favorite bloggers, and even if I’m totally behind on my blog-reading (which I always am), I make a point to read your posts.

    I’m super excited for you (and I hope to soon be in a similar situation myself… fingers crossed)! I have been thinking a lot about what I want in a job, even though I can’t quite identify what it is I would like to do or am meant to be doing, which is a whole ‘nother issue. At any rate, the best thought I’ve had on the matter is that I really want a job, ultimately, where I can be myself. I don’t want to have to put on airs or be fake interested in stuff that really bores me; I want to be able to be myself and express myself and use my talents and skills without worrying about what my boss who doesn’t appreciate my perspective thinks. It seems like job 1 is the one that would allow for the most personal and professional growth and would allow you to explore and express yourself.

    That said, I am very much my father’s daughter and certainly think about benefits and money and all of that (which is why I haven’t quit my job). It really seems like an easy grass-is-greener problem until you’re faced with both options at once, doesn’t it? In this case, I think it is beneficial to be married — if your husband has benefits, you can get on his insurance plan (even though that can be more expensive, it’s good to be covered) while you try out something new. You can look at his salary combined with each of your potential salaries and see what is feasible. You’ve sort of got a built-in safety net with another income and another potential benefit-getter under your roof. I think this question definitely calls for a team approach.

    My heart wants to say job 1, and my head is pretty well convinced of it, too. I’m so tired of soulless, numbing work that I would give up a lot to feel like I’m engaging my brain between the hours of 9 and 5. You’re young, and now is the time to take chances while you only have yourself and your husband (and maybe some pets) to take care of. Once you have more things depending on you — kids, a house, aging parents — I think it gets harder to opt out of the more stable and lucrative thing, even if it will be dull and limiting. One option isn’t more grown up than the other, but one is definitely a safer choice. If all goes to plan, taking a job that is less conventionally safe but allows you to be creative and continue your professional growth now will lead to similarly fulfilling jobs in the future.

  4. Becca pretty much just said everything I was thinking, but far better. Flexibility is absolutely fantastic, especially since you guys might be moving. That counts as thinking of your future together big time. And seriously, being able to be creative in a nice team of people, while learning new stuff, isn’t that like the ideal job? You don’t have kids yet, so it really isn’t necessary to force yourself into the benefits+pay job. You have plenty of time for that. And I am speaking as someone in a gov’t job – I recognize the benefits in terms of a pension, mat leave, flexible pay/time off arrangements and they would be absolutely ideal for having a family. I just kind of wish I had had a different experience somewhere else first, and gotten this job like 2 years from now when all that stuff started to matter more. Alas, sweet gov’t jobs in my field don’t exactly pop up every second week so here I am.
    I feel like you want option 1, so do it and don’t look back.

  5. Congrats on the two job offers! Even though the decision is making you crazy, it’s pretty exciting that you have two options to choose from and aren’t stuck with one or the other. Honestly, from reading your post, it sounds like Option 1 is really where your gut is telling you to go. Do you have access to health insurance (via the beau or a cheap but decent plan you can purchase elsewhere) if your job doesn’t provide it? I wouldn’t stress too much about the 401k–you can still sock money away in a Roth IRA for now so that you’re still saving something for retirement. The independent contractor thing is a bit rough though. That usually means you have to pay extra Social Security/Medicare, which can eat a significant chunk out of that 40% raise.

    Ugh, now re-reading what I just wrote, it sounds like I’m saying go with Option 2. But I’m not. You can’t put a price on being happy with a job. Flexibility is awesome, good people to work with are awesome, and the ability to work on the couch in your PJs if you want sounds like a dream to me! And in the long term, getting to do creative work and develop your web skills is going to be huge. It sounds like if you go with Option 2, you’ll be making more money, but you’ll quickly be bored, miserable, and not adding a lot of new skills or experiences to your resume. So if you can swing the insurance and lack of guaranteed hours for at least awhile, I vote Option 1. Just my two cents from a random stranger on the internet. :)

  6. Congratulations! This is a really exciting opportunity for you and I’m proud of you. See, look at you knocking those interviews dead.

    Now with the decision. Stability is important. It’s a great thing. The fact that I am the person with the stable job in my relationship is a big responsibility. I like providing it. And I firmly believe that health care is an important thing to have. You never know when you might need it. If you can’t get it through your job, are there other ways of getting it?

    But I also dream about having access to all the things listed in the pros for the first job. You would be able to grow internally and externally. You’d develop new skills, push your creativity, and learn new things.

    Ultimately I think you and the beau need to make this decision together. How much stability can his job provide right now (I’m blanking on what he does right now if you’ve ever shared that with us)? Just remember, nothing is permanent. What you decide now does not have to be what you do for the next 30 years of your life. You are a smart, successful woman and can thrive at whatever is put in front of you.

  7. Happiness wins out for your relationship everytime. So go with your heart.

  8. I agree with everyone who says go with your heart/with what makes you feel excited about work. Because in a year, if you hate your job, you will no longer care about your health benefits, and your fancy vacations to exotic places will be tinged with despair because you have to return to work when you’re done.

    I tend to side with the scrappy artsy underdog rather than the big corporation. But it depends on whether you can afford health insurance while working there. So my vote would be, if you can afford to eat, insure yourself, and pay for what you need to, go with option 1.

    You can take all the new exciting things that you learn and apply them elsewhere. And rake in the big freelance bucks (she chokes on her coffee) on the side if you don’t have quite a 40-hour a week job. After all, learning new things and working at home is awesome, and cubicles and being a corporate drone sucks ass.

    • I agree with the idea of going the direction you think will make you feel deeply happy with your work and your path. But then again, I am a broke freelance theatre director and have never had insurance or paid vacation time included with a job. Ha. But I don’t regret it.

      My husband says that he only ever wants to do work that doesn’t feel like work. And he has only ever done work he has enjoyed. It’s pretty amazing. And I think there is great wisdom in that idea of work that doesn’t feel like work (most of the time) because you enjoy it. I haven’t done that because in my single days, I had to work a full time day job to make up for the unpaid freelance directing during nights and weekends, or those weeks I took time off my paid job to do theatre for free….? Yeah. But what it came down to for me was that the theatre work is invigorating. The data entry stuff was not. But at that time, it was absolutely necessary to ENABLE me to do what I loved. The data entry job was the means to something else I was passionate about. Now that S and I are married, he is fully supportive of the idea of me also only doing work I love, even if it doesn’t pay much, as long as we can afford rent, food, etc. I am thankful for his outlook and his relationship to “work” as “play.”

      The thing is….one has to do what is necessary to eat, pay rent, etc. Once that is possible, when choosing a job, it then becomes a question of which pros/cons are more important to the individual and the couple. And then there is that idea of trying to live so you have as few regrets as possible later on. It’s a lot to balance. Good luck and please update us on which pros and cons when out this time.

  9. The ladies above have lots of great things to say but here is a thought…
    First of all, congratulations on having two great opportunities like this! Its choosing between two awesome choices, so win win all around, yes?

    Also, think about it this way. #2 will pay you lots o money with which you can take awesome vacations. But #1 wouldn’t kill your soul so you would need those vacations less. I lean towards the one that will take your career further. Its so awesome that they will help you learn new things and expand yourself into new areas.

    Hope we’ve been helpful!

  10. I don’t really have much to add besides what these smart peeps have already said. I mean, most of us have had to take one of those soulless jobs at one point in time. (Hell, here I am!) And, truth be told, you need the sick days and health insurance — you know, for the days you can’t bring yourself to get out of bed and drag yourself into the office and/or the days where stabbing yourself with a pen and hightailing it to the emergency room is better than sitting in front of a screen and feeling your brain cells dying off, one by one, minute by God-will-it-ever-end-minute.

    Not that I know from personal experience, of course.

    *ahem*

    If there’s just one thing holding you back from taking the job that it sounds like you want (benefits, for example), I’d see if there’s a way to work around that (which I’m sure you’re already doing). And if you can tell your brain to shut up for a few minutes, see if there’s a little niggly thing in your gut, just trying to be heard. Listen to it. It’s usually right.

  11. What everyone else has said is genius and I can’t speak to it.

    But you’re awesome and this was hysterical as always.

    I hate, hate bad driving stuff.

  12. Job 1. Job 1, Job 1, Job 1. While 401ks and all the rest are nice, if there is any lesson we should have gotten from our current economic crisis, it is that THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF STABILITY. (Sorry, was that a little loud? ) We are past the days of working for stable companies which provide for their workers, and well into a world of providing for yourself. Investing in yourself — working at jobs because they give YOU skills and training which make you a better employee — is a MUCH smarter move than working for the “established” company for a better paycheck. Sure, a little extra money is nice, but it’s better to develop new skills and make yourself worth more in the future. The flexibility sounds awesome — and if you end up with less than 40 hrs sometimes, then maybe you can devote that time to another job (bartending, freelancing) or to a class, or to networking. And eventually you’ll get paid a crazy amount to do something you enjoy. Yay!

    My career has followed a very strange path, with a lot of jobs that did not seem related at the time (and sometimes didn’t pay well), but all of which gave me Skillz. Now I’ve reached a point where I have a much clearer focus on what I want to do on a daily basis — and the resume to back it up. I fucking love my current job, which manages to combine all the things I liked at previous jobs, plus flexibility and great benefits… it exists, I swear!

    And — to reiterate the point above — you really never know when you’re going to take the job with the benefits and stability and then find out that they’re restructuring in three months and you’re going to be out anyways. (Not that I am still bitter. Ahem.) Life is too short for cubicles. And while you have responsibilities to Beau, and your family, YOU are a part of your family and should not be miserable.

    • Oh, and one more thing — driving is fucking dangerous, and I am PRO- avoiding it whenever possible. I work in security, and spend a lot of time in really crappy places in the world, but I can tell you that the most dangerous thing any of our employees does is commute.

  13. I’m sorry – I have to go with #1. Even though it’s less money than #2, you’re still making more than you are now and you can budget it for health care etc. when you’re starting, which will make THAT less painful. The near-death experience doesn’t bode well, and you sound MUCH less excited about #2. I think beau will understand that you need to do what excites you – hell, I would LOVE to have an opportunity to grow and be creative! I understand your dilemma but after careful consideration have to recommend #1. If they’re growing exponentially already, then they presumably will grow some more and then you WILL be at full-time! Bing bang boom!

  14. HUGE congrats on having two great opportunities to choose from.

    I have to tell you I’m leaning toward Opportunity #1 for a few reasons. The ability to still have a job when you move is huge…job hunting is not a fun process, especially when you’re new somewhere. I love that aspect as well as the flexibility of #1.

    The ability to walk to work is exactly what I’m struggling with right now as well…take a job that’s within walking distance…more creative environment…etc. It would be a HUGE perk to walk to work, that’s all I’m saying.

    Opportunity #1 sounds like a huge portfolio builder as well. The ability to be creative, work across several different industries, give yourself a chance to build a diverse portfolio? That sounds huge, no?

    Opportunity #2 definitely has benefits…If you have a big name on your resume, it can get you more of those flexible full-time positions in the future…they’ll be more willing to work with you if you have that experience.

    It sounds like a bit of a creativity killer and MOST importantly, it sounds like it kind of goes against your values…

    If that’s true, don’t kill yourself for $50k/year…plus the ability to network with several clients across several fields in Op1 would be great if you ever wanted to make the jump in the future.

    Hope that helps and BEST of luck, you are awesome, I’m sure either will work out just fine.

  15. Oh, you guys, thank you so much. I can’t say enough what your congratulations and thoughts and experiences mean to me. To echo what Jo said, you’re all geniuses. Thanks again…

  16. congrats on 2 great opportunities! I am partial to #1. have you researched affordable insurance or can you get any through your husband? it seems like this option has so many great things going for it besides insurance. #2 had too many cons & a near death experience so I want you to stay away from there (picture me saying the last part in a mom voice and shaking my finger at you)

  17. OK, you might have already decided but I’m going to say congrats on getting two great offers.

    And I think you should run with box number one.

    I think the chance to learn new skills and it being an opportunity to advance your career is one up over the cash. At least for now. And the web designing bit is where it’s happening long term.

  18. Oooh, I was rooting for #2 all the way — as you could not PAY this wee Canadian to take a job in the States that did not offer medical benefits — until the “physical enhancement products” part.

    That is tough.

    I work at a social services non-profit where many of our staff come from high-paying corporate gigs. They’ve taken huge paycuts to use their powers for good instead of evil, as it were.

    Frankly: Most of these private sector-background staff don’t last six months. Money is powerful. Getting paid what you’re worth is powerful. Our staff who stay… the ones who are in it for life… they came straight from school or an entirely non-profit background.

    Not sure how that relates. Except that I, for one, would not think less of you if you went with #2.

  19. I think you answered your own question — Opportunity No. 1 is clearly the way to go. I have learned the hard way never to take a job solely for the money. It seems that’s the primary benefit of Opportunity No. 2 and, in my experience, that benefit doesn’t go very far. Good luck!

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