Career Advice Tuesday – “Do I Take The Job, or The Severance?”

December 21, 2010

Dear Infosecleaders:

I have been working in the same company for the past 8 years in an information security capacity.  The current role that I am in, is more of a generalist, where I focus on areas that include risk assessments, compliance, governance and training.  In addition to these tasks, I also have a background in Information Systems Audit and I hold a CISA Certification.  My CISSP is currently pending, but  I have yet to be notified if I have passed the exam.

About 2 weeks ago, I was told that my position has been eliminated and that the company was going to sell the business unit that I am assigned to.  At the same time that I received a notification, I was told that I would have thirty days to look for new employment within the company or I could elect to receive a severance package that was equal to about 35K ( 4 months of my salary).  In addition, I am part of a two income family and my spouse has a job that pays well, which provides me with piece of mind, but the income is not enough to support our lifestyle.

Since being notified I have interviewed both internally and externally.  Internally I have been offered an opportunity in another business unit in the company that is similar to my current/past role, but it is not that exciting, and I do not have faith in the company’s future.  Externally I have found a couple of potential opportunities that hold a good amount of promise.  One of the positions allows me to combine both my Information Security and Information Systems Audit skills, and the other is to serve as the CISO (highest ranking security pro) in a non-profit organization.

I have been on initial interviews with both companies and have been notified that I will be invited for second interviews.  However these interviews will not take place until after I am forced to make a decision about my current role.   I have asked the external companies if they could expedite their interview process, but due to both the timing of the year and the depth of the candidate pool, they said this would be impossible.

Do you have any advice?  I think that I have made up my mind to leave my current role and keep the 35k, but I am afraid that I could be unemployed for quite some time if these positions do not come to fruition.

Should I Take The Money and Run?


“Steve Miller”

Dear Steve:

I think that it is good that you have some options and I believe that you have a good handle on the consequences of whatever decision you make.  It is very good to hear that you have a supportive spouse at home, who is producing a meaningful income.  Having this cushion is helpful, and really provides you with the opportunity to create your destiny – however that can be both a blessing and a curse.

Ultimately, you have to answer the questions – “How much risk are you willing to accept?  and “How much risk can you really handle – mentally, physically, and emotionally”  You also need to figure out if you should play it safe (and take the job) or aspire for greatness (and pursue the unknown)?  The answer to these questions really depends on you – where you are in your life, and what you aspire to become in your career as an information security professional.

I will not provide you with an answer but I will provide you with a couple of insights that you may want to consider – that may help you arrive at your conclusion:

1) How would you feel if neither of these two external positions worked out? – The reason for asking yourself this is that it is most likely that they will not – you are pretty early in the interview process, and although you have cleared an initial hurdle – there are going to be many variables and competition.  The combination – InfoSec/InfoSys Audit job sounds like something that yoy maybe well matched – but the CISO role may be a stretch, especially if you wind up competing with others who have more experience.

2) Take the 35K out of the equation -  Money clouds our judgment – and this amount – 4 months worth of salary, is not significant enough to seriously impact your decision.  Four months is not a long time, and although 35K is nothing to sneeze at, it is not going to change your life in the long term.   You should make your decision independent of this.

3) Do you think you have a future if you accept the internal position? – When I ask this question is that it appears that you are not being challenged enough and you are searching for opportunities for growth.  The internal position sounds safe (for now) but ultimately it sounds like a dead end role, without much room for advancement.  If this is the case, you may only be delaying the inevitable.   You have to make sure that your new position allows you the opportunity to grow skills, so that you can compete in the future.

The last thing that I can leave you with is to please try to not let this happen again to you.  You need to make sure that you remain proactive in your career and stay aware of things that may be happening to the organization around you.  Try your best to develop a career contingency plan, so that you can prevent a repeat of this situation.

Hope this helps you “Fly Like An Eagle”  (Sorry -  I could not help it)

Mike and Lee

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday, Compensation, Interviewing, Planning 


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