Crossroads

Everyone reaches a crossroads at some point in their life. I have reached a few significant ones: going through with my first marriage against my better judgment, initiating the dissolution of said marriage 8 years later, coming to terms with financial disaster, and being trapped in jobs that at once solved those financials problems, yet still managed to steal part of your soul.

The crossroads I’m at now isn’t as dramatic as that, yet it is still firing on those emotional, career and financial cylinders.

A year and a half ago, I took a solid, steady government job, having left a lucrative contract job that was making me tear my hair out. The government job didn’t pay nearly as well, but the benefits were decent, even taking into account the reduced level of retirement funds provided since the system was revamped.

At this government job, I do work that serves the public good. I can be part of something larger than myself. I have a great boss who truly appreciates my work and sees me as a leader in the organization. My co-workers are committed to their jobs, despite the pay not meeting market rates. They appreciate my contributions, and seek out my counsel. I have respect here- something I have sought at a job for some time. Doesn’t everyone?

At the same time, there is a lengthy commute taking at least 90+ minutes a day out of my life. The politics can feel oppressive. The restrictions and red tape can get out of hand. Things move at a snail’s pace, because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s the way government is”.

I get to work in relative independence, until someone decides I’m “being a cowboy”- the worst thing in the world to control-freak managers. I have been told I’m being looked at for advancement opportunities, to the tune of being an executive director at another agency in a couple of years. However, I see how my boss has been thrown to the wolves more than once due to the executive team’s lack of cojones in addressing problems in a timely and appropriate way. It makes me never want to sit in his chair someday, and be subject to the same treatment. In every job I’ve had, looking ahead to where I could go is a key factor in my decision-making. So far, this job has provided me with exactly what I was looking for- specific experience I was lacking in my field, learning to be more fearless in my work, and understanding what it feels like to be truly respected, to be the go-to person.

With all that said, today’s workplace isn’t the stay-at-the-same-job-30-years anymore. People move around more often. I don’t usually like to move unless I’ve been at a job for over 2 years, but I also know you have to keep you eye out for opportunities that don’t arise often, and strike while the iron is hot. And I’ve always been one for having a lot of irons in the fire.

A job I’d previously interviewed for came up again recently, so I updated my resume and sent it in. They’d thrown me back last time for lacking that specific experience I’d talked about before, but now I had it. Now I was viable. They called me less than a week later for an interview the following day. I was the last candidate after two long days of interviews by the panel. I was myself, no putting on, no exaggeration, no closely controlled corporate posturing. Naturally, I didn’t think I’d hit the interview out of the park. So imagine my surprise when the manager calls me the next day to set up the final interview with the Director of the department, and to get my references? I am their candidate. I am the One for this job. She told me I was “real” in the interview. And they loved it.

So now, I’m stuck in this place between a job with people I truly enjoy, good benefits, so-so pay, and opportunities to advance. The new job is about a 20% increase in pay, equal or better benefits, in a much more corporate environment. It’s a BIG company, national reach. If I want to move up, I might have to move. This is a problem, because I really love it here. Everyone dresses much more formally than anywhere I’ve ever worked. It’s in the city, which means parking is problematic and costly. I worry if I’ll fit in with the culture, if I’ll have the independence I enjoy now. What about respect? Will these people come to see me as my current co-workers do? I’d say I wasn’t doing my job if they didn’t see me that way after 6 months.

If the interview with the Director goes well, if they do offer me the job, if I do accept, how do I say goodbye to people who have taught me to trust myself, my instincts, my skills? People who have taught me so much about how to manage, how to tell the truth instead of what people want to hear, yet still be heard? And respected? How do I say goodbye to a boss that clearly wants me to stay with him, to help him accomplish what needs to happen once all the nonsense is finally put to bed? Yet, if he were to leave, it would be next to impossible for me to stay, knowing who they will select as a replacement.

I figure, I could go to this new job, get the bigger experience, the bigger financial package, and learn the lessons I’d be presented. If it didn’t work out, I could go back to the government- maybe in a higher role yet. They always say they’ll take you back, but does that really happen? Not in my experience. Once you’re gone, you’re gone. Yet, I know the government works differently, people see it through unique lenses. Leaving isn’t necessarily bad.

Like I said, it’s a crossroads. At least this time it’s a good one, and not a bad one. At least not yet.

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