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I work in IT. My current job has been my only real job, well over a decade long. 2 year stints are the norm, especially for someone of my age.

The job’s good. I’m reasonably compensated. Since internal IT often requires vacancies for advancement, I don’t have the title of many peers. In the end, not a huge deal.

I've completed a relevant masters degree and am finishing a doctorate. I have some national recognition for my expertise in a product in my specialty.

I have good work-life balance: hours almost always 40/week or less (company policy is less), low stress, little travel except 1-2 annual conferences, short commute, work hours flexibility, 4 weeks’ vacation, excellent benefits, and fantastic setting. I don’t see any “writing on the wall” of this changing.

Here’s the dilemma.

I get a lot of LinkedIn recruiter contacts. They’re mostly due to the national recognition.

Most contacts just offer demotions. Few are good, and most good ones are from IT consulting firms.

Sometimes I feel an itch to do something new. If I did consulting, I'm probably looking at 33% more pay, better title, similarly good benefits.

The work-life balance issue holds me back. I have a family. I do significant things outside work, things that just can’t be done well with long hours. That is important to me. is scary and confirms my suspicions.

One growing consultancy wants to expand to my city. They want me to be a key player at a new, local office.

I’ve “beaten around the bush” on the work-life balance with a principal at this firm. He didn’t think it was a big deal. But I know an employee. Per him, 55 hour work weeks are customary, definitely expected to advance. He doesn’t travel that much.

I guess company culture will override what this principal says, so 55 hour weeks would be normal. I also guess that to advance, I have to accept significant travel.

They seem interested. Going to do the “expensive meal thing” with the principal. They know I want to finish my doctorate and are OK waiting around for me.

I am in a stable career at a place with low turnover and very good work conditions. I have no reason to believe things will get worse. I have the CIO’s ear on important things. I have been able to advance well professionally even if I can’t get a super-impressive title. The work-life balance, which is important to me, is very good.

I have around 3 decades left in my career if I retire at a customary age. I do aspire to advance, possibly be executive-level someday, although I’d be happy to skip that if I can have a stable, well-compensated, interesting career with good work-life balance.

Most jobs in my IT specialty are probably with consulting firms. You need a certain amount of use of this product to justify significant in-house staff, and most places have too little.

Given all of this, should I stay or should I go? Am I missing anything?

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closed as off topic by jcmeloni, Rhys, Justin Cave, enderland, mhoran_psprep Jan 26 '13 at 12:09

Questions on The Workplace Stack Exchange are expected to relate to the workplace within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Have you read the FAQ here? – enderland Jan 25 '13 at 23:33
Victor Cheng provided excellent guidance. Basically, it makes little sense for me to leave the current gig behind. – user7451 Jan 26 '13 at 3:48
up vote 9 down vote accepted

My name is Victor Cheng and you referenced my article on work / lifestyle balance in your question.

Most career moves are motivated by a desire to reach a goal you have difficultly achieving without the move or to address some kind of problem or risk in your current situation (e.g., pending layoffs, etc...)

From your description, it doesn't sound like you have a high priority nor immediate problem with your current situation. There doesn't seem to be a strong reason to switch careers on the basis of addressing a problem.

In terms of your current goals, your current situation seems to get you pretty much everything it is you want. Consider yourself lucky. Again, you've already achieved your goal so why move?

There are a few scenarios, which I've seen play out negatively in other peoples careers in almost the exact identical situation, that you need to keep an eye on.

The main issue is does your current role keep your skills MARKETABLE to everyone else. If the product you know loses market share, and another product comes to dominate, you may be a leading expert in a product that is becoming obsolete.

This can potentially be a huge problem. I know someone who in the year 2000 was a very good Lotus Notes administrator - well paid, well respected, great lifestyle. The problem was around 2001 or so Microsoft Exchange was quickly overtaking Lotus Notes as the enterprise wide email and contact management system of choice.

From my perspective, the writing was on the wall. I encouraged this person to be proactive about this problem. He wasn't interested. He rode that wave for another 6 years or so. Then in 2007/2008, he got laid off due to a slowing economy. As he went to look for work, he had a rude awakening -- nobody needed system administrators for a system they didn't have. Lotus Notes was long since dead and he didn't know any other products. He has been unemployed for well over 4 years.

The advantage of working in a consulting firm, particularly in a technology field, is you get more opportunities to learn new technologies, keep current, and to make sure your skills never get obsolete. Your learning options is driven by the market overall, not just the quirks of a single employer.

If your employers technology choices map the rest of the industry, then it's probably not a problem. If they diverge from the rest of the industry, either now or in the future, that IS very much a problem.

Another scenario to consider are the future incomes needs of your family. If you live comfortably, aren't planning to have more kids (with associated increase in expenses) and live within your means, this may not be an issue. If you see bigger bills in your future, then you have a personal preference tradeoff decision to make. You need to decide which is more important.

Unlike the previous example where's its definitely wrong to stay on a career path that's becoming obsolete, deciding to be on one end of the [earn more + work more] vs [earn less + work less] is merely personal preference.

There is a final scenario that's related to the one I just mentioned. You should keep in mind that your preference may change over time. You want to consider the "optionality" of each career option.

A simple test of optionality is if you are currently in Job A, and switch to Job B, do you have the option to come back to Job A in the future? Similarly, if you stay in Job A, declining Job B, do you have the option to pursue Job B at a later date?

Another way to consider optionality is via the concept of "windows of opportunity". Some windows of opportunity last a long time -- years. Others much less.

Options are useful because it gives you the option, but not the obligation, to benefit from a career choice that you have not yet taken. So by staing in your current role, so long as your skills stay current, you always have the option to change your mind later.

Conversely, if you stayed in your current job and your skills slowly became obsolete, you would lose the option to move to job B (consulting) because at some point in the future they no longer want your skills.

You want to consider 1) what options you have and 2) the length of the window of opportunit you that option. When #2 shrinks, it makes sense to move proactively well in advanced of any actual consequence.

Good luck on your decision

Victor Cheng

PS. My example of work life balance in strategy consulting is typically more extreme than what you would likely experience in IT consulting. The main driver of good or bad lifestyle in consulting is whether or not your clients are local or out of town. If you work a 35 hour week, but to get home you have to fly on an airplane, the hours are irrelevant as you're not at home 4 days a week.

If cliens are local, which would be a good thing, given your goals, then it is a function of firm culture and client expectations. Investment banking clients expect all their vendors to work long hours like they do. Commercial banks where all employees go home at say 5pm never want to have a meeting with you at 5:15pm.

You also want to consider the billing model of the firm. Are they billing by the hour (in which case their incentive is to work you hard as they make more money) or do they bill you by the day or week -- in which case it is the severity if any deadlines that drives whether you're working hard or not.

Finally, be careful what people say the lifestyle is like. Better to just ask them what time did you get in the office yesterday? What time did you leave?

Also if days are longer, consider whether the longer hours are skewed in the AM, PM or are flexible. For my family, if my kids don't see me for breakfast they don't really care that much. All I'm doing in the morning is "processing" them - making lunch, making sure they didn't forget their hat, hustling to get them to school on time, etc... It's all necessary stuff, but nobody is really have a good time.

However, dinner and bed time is when play, connect, confide, etc... That's our quality time. So if I had to work longer hours, I prefer longer EARLY hours to longer LATE hours. So keep in mind not all hours are created equally. You might want to consider this nuance as well.

Good luck!

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Great answer! You're really helping me see that it makes little sense to move at this time. – user7451 Jan 26 '13 at 2:36
I wonder why this answer has been down voted. I think it's a good answer. – Amy Blankenship Jan 26 '13 at 3:24

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