Career Advice Tuesday – “Rolling The Dice”

December 15, 2009

Dear Infosecleaders:

Here is my situation.  I began working as an information security consultant about five years ago.  In that time, I have worked for 3 different companies, and have developed some good consulting skills.   Although I am good at my job, it is not the direction that I would like for my career to head.  I would like to work in a corporate information security function, and one day hold an information security leadership role, where I would be in a position to hire someone like myself.

I have some really solid relationships with my clients and I believe that they have opportunities in their organization where they could utilize someone with the very skills that I currently provide them (on a full time basis). 

My question is, how do I approach these customers about considering me for employment, without damaging the relationship with my current employer?  I feel that I would be taking a huge gamble, and placing my current position in great jeopardy, if my idea backfires.


“Should I Roll The Dice”

Dear “Dice Roller”;

I think that any professional gambler would tell you that the best bets are the ones that have the greatest probability of a producing a pay off.  However, “Rolling The Dice” with your career, could be a dangerous proposition and can lead to unforeseen consequences if you do not take the right steps.

The first thing that I would recommend would be to speak with your clients about true employment potential and if they are actively seeking someone with your skills and more importantly have the ability to hire.   Many companies have budgets to employ consultants (even at higher hourly rates) but they do not have the ability to hire full time employees.   Before you decide to “Roll The Dice”, make sure that your gamble can actually pay off.

If they do tell you that they have headcount and they think you would be a good fit for the company and their team, figure out if you are willing to accept both the position and  financial terms that are being offered.  ( It is common for consultants to be compensated at a premium over their counterparts in end user organizations).

At this time, if the above are affirmative you have to decide whether or not you would like to speak with your manager (current employer) before you fully engage in an interview process.   This is truly the biggest gamble, because until you actually have the conversation, you will not truly know how your employer will react.

In general, my hope would be that you currently share a level of mutual respect with your employer, and that they would be supportive of your desire to pursue different professional interests.    However, I know that this is not always the case.

My advice would be to invite your manager to an off site meeting (where you can speak uninterrupted) and you can share your overall career intentions with them, and gauge their response and reaction.   At this meeting, I would not speak about specific opportunities, but your career in general.  You can also ask them for some advice and professional guidance.  (As a rule, managers typically like when you ask them for advice.  It is a sign of respect and courtesy.) 

In addition, I would also explain to your manager that your life has had some changes (in personal obligations - family, children) and you will most likely need to cut down on the traveling and uncertain schedule that traditionally accompanies consulting.  In general, if you speak about family – two things work in your favor – no one can make a good argument that work is more important than family, and your manager may have a spouse/family at home and maybe able to relate to your situation on a personal level. 

After this meeting, you will understand if  indeed ” the odds are in your favor.”  You will either leave with a good understanding of how your manager will react and how receptive they will be to your decision, or you will be able to tell that they believe your only option is to continue to work for them.

If they believe the latter, you have an issue.  You will have to keep your job search hidden and make sure that it does not get out that you are considering employment at one of your current customers.   On the other hand, if your manager is supportive, they may even help broker the relationship between you and your customer, in the hopes of gaining more consulting business and having an inside ally at the client, that could potentially help steer work to your former employer.

Best advice here is to try to get the best read possible before you decide to “throw your career on the crap table.”   You may figure out that when you are straightforward about your intentions, it is not necessary to gamble.

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 


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