So the past couple of weeks have been interesting for me regarding career options. Perhaps that’s not the right phrase, my career is the same (Software Development, or as we real mean in the trenches say, Programming), the difference is for whom I will be shilling (and I mean that in only the loving-est of ways )
But first, a little background. For the past 3 years I have been a contract developer (with the exception of a six moth stint at a marketing company that was a bad fit for me.) Some of that time I did some Independent contracting, but the rest is W2 work from various consulting companies in the vein of temp work (e.g. I was not an in house employee, there was no bench, I was on site at a client for them or I was in the unemployment line looking for the next opportunity.)
It’s not a bad life, however it also isn’t awesome. It used to be, most jobs in my field were full time permanent employee jobs and contractors were called in for special skill sets or to help out with important things that were time sensitive. You might only work eight out of twelve months, but you would charge a premium rate to hold you over when the contract ran out. With the economy as it is these days (years?) many of the permanent positions were removed and replaced with contractors. Of course this flooded the contracting scene and it’s hard to ask for $100 / hour when there are 20 other guys who want to eat and will do it for $30.
Don’t get me wrong, there are specialty contracting gigs that pay very very well, however you need to be a specialist in whatever sector that is. Specialization can improve your bottom line, but can also remove a lot of options because you only do one thing, albeit you do it very well.
I am what I consider to be a Programming “Generalist”. I know a lot of programming languages and technology and can get the job done across the board. Having said that however, I am not the guy you call when you want a security system for million concurrent users architected (although I could implement it given a designed system )
At any rate, very recently I received not one, not two, but three different offers from three different employers, and get this, all on the same day. I have never been in this position before. Hell, I have never been in a position with two offers in the same general time period that would have been close enough for me to actually pick one over the other. I have been very fortunate in being able to keep my unemployed time low, but never have I had to choose. I tend to work a job until I’m fed up and quit or downsized.
Well at first I was quite thrilled, it’s nice to have options. So I did what any analytical person does. I fired up excel and ran the numbers. So far so good, there is a clear winner.
Then came the hard part. The non-financial pros and cons lists. The creation of the lists is not really that hard. The difficulty is really having to weigh and prioritize what is important to your happiness and well being and then deciding the risk value of having to take up a con or give up a pro.
For example, maybe you need time flexibility to be able to get your kids where they need to be, maybe their mother could pick up the slack and it’s a non-issue. Maybe you like a longer commute to allow you to decompress after a day of working, maybe you would rather work from home.
Sometimes when comparing two pros and cons list, some of these items cancel each other out. When they don’t you have to decide what makes it worth while to you to overcome the risk of not having it.
And finally, the hardest part of all, actually picking one. I guess that I had come to rely on not having to make a choice and accepting whatever came my way because I have responsibilities I need to honor, and obligations to keep and it is easier accept what you need when you need it then it is to blame yourself for making a bad choice.
In the end, making a bad choice is fine, it happens, it is how we learn. Don’t be afraid of it, do the math, make the lists, make a call and move on. Maybe you’ll need to change course at some point down the line, but that is life. Rest easy knowing you’ve done your due diligence and did the best you could. The rest is the adventure!
I think my friend George hits the nail on the head with this blog post OODA Loop