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You’ve been approached about a new gig—but it’s complicated. You’d be happy to stick with your longtime employer, but you’re not sure if that’s realistic, and your spouse doesn’t want you to relocate. Here’s how to think of this decision as an opportunity, not a chore.
I’ve spent my entire (12-year) career at one employer. It’s the same company that my father and grandfather spent their whole careers at.
Unfortunately, the company is closing the plant where I work. They’ve made promises to my group that our jobs will stay in the region. But they still have not selected a new location for our team, despite the fact that the announcement to close the factory was made almost two years ago. The actual closure is now coming in a matter of months.
I have been approached by another firm about a position with similar responsibilities to mine, but in an entirely different field. I’d be switching from a manufacturing company to more of a tech company. My commute would change from 30 minutes in a car to about an hour on a train.
I’m really passionate about the product we make at my current employer. But I can’t shake the feeling that we are being strung along, and it’s going to end badly. I would be open to relocate to stay with the company, but my wife is from this area and would prefer to stay where we are.
Should I stay or should I go?
This, of course, is one of the most familiar recurring dilemmas of work life. And in a way, it’s one of the best dilemmas of work life. Maybe it doesn’t feel that way right at the moment, but it’s totally healthy to think about the pros and cons of making a change or standing pat. Appreciate that you always have choices, and that’s something to be taken seriously and embraced, rather than avoided until a moment of crisis.
That said, I get it: These decisions are seldom easy. There’s no way to avoid risk (and sometimes sticking with what you’ve got is actually the biggest risk of all). So moments like this are a good time to ask yourself a question that’s worth posing on a regular basis, as the answer is likely to change over time:
What do you really want, and what are you willing to sacrifice to get it?
Shift your time horizon
You have already done much of the basic comparison legwork. You really dig your company/product; the new gig would include a more difficult commute. Maybe you should stay put!
On the other hand, your Spidey sense is telling you that your job will ultimately evaporate, or that keeping it will involve a move your wife doesn’t want to make. Maybe smarter to go!
Now try to reframe the decision with a longer time horizon. Think about what you want ten, twenty years from now. If staying in the area is a top priority, that may put certain limits on your career options. (That’s the potential sacrifice.)
But the experience you acquire at this new firm seem more likely to build out your set of skills that will give you more flexibility in the future to do interesting things even as you stay in the same geographic location.
Imagine future regrets
Sticking with that longer time horizon, think about what you might regret some day. I know this sounds like a bummer, but it’s just a thought exercise. I encourage you to lean into it: Think really expansively about what you might regret. The decisions you made, the decisions you didn’t make, all of it.
In your case I suspect what you need to look at most closely is how much you want to remain with your current employer, weighed against how much you might end up resenting your spouse if you sacrifice that because you believe she’d rather not move. Explore this. What if the move was just for a few years? How strongly does she really feel about that? How strongly do you really feel about it? How much of your apparent loyalty to this employer is tied up in the idea that you have a generations-long family relationship to it?
None of this is fun. But it’s better to confront these issues than to avoid them, with an eye toward minimizing everyone’s potential future regrets. (Note that I didn’t say “eliminate.” Spoiler alert: We are all going to have some regrets.)
To me, it seems most logical to take the new gig. Accept the longer commute, pick some new skills, and keep open to whatever might come next. I’m deeply skeptical that your current employer will ever reciprocate that generations-long sense of loyalty, but staying open to what comes next should include keeping up with your most supportive contacts at the company. It may be that five or ten years from now, you’ll be more attractive to them than ever—precisely because you took the risk to try out, and learn, new things.
Obviously you’ll have to weigh that against your own long term goals, and potential future regrets. Just keep reminding yourself that coming to a career crossroads isn’t such a bad thing. It may be a real opportunity.