Career Advice Tuesday: Should I stay or should I go?

May 3, 2011

Dear Infosec Leaders,

I have a really difficult dilemma. I just got offered the perfect job for me. It’s everything that would be the perfect next step in my career at this point. Not only that, I was tired of what I’ve been doing and I’m ready to make a change.

The problem is that the job is in another state and I really like where I live right now.

How do you make the decision between a job you like and a place that you want to live?

Torn Between Two Cities

I’ve certainly lived this one myself, Torn. Anybody who knows me is familiar with my tendency to hop between cities – at this point, my wife and I have lived in 7 different places in the 10 years that we’ve been together. (San Francisco, Myrtle Beach, Toronto, Portsmouth NH, Chicago, San Francisco (again) and Las Vegas). And, with the exception of Las Vegas (where we live now), all of them were motivated by the opportunity to take on a new challenge and move forward in one of our careers.

Given that backdrop, you might think that my advice would be an unequivocal “Pack your Bags!”. But it’s not quite that simple, Torn… you have to consider what you’re giving up on each side.

One of the things that Lee likes to talk about most often is that life is a series of tradeoffs and sacrifices. You can’t both be the Center Fielder for the Boston Red Sox and live a quiet life with no travel. You can’t say you want to be a penetration tester and also never learn anything new after you leave college.

In the same way, the decision you’re making has within it a bunch of tradeoffs. The place where you live probably has a lot to offer: a social network, familiar patterns, favorite experiences (e.g. your neighborhood coffee shop, favorite bar or restaurant, etc.) and life patterns that all combine to allow you to reduce your stress level.

We often discount this level of stress reduction when considering a move, yet the research shows that moving imparts a level of life stress that is behind only a divorce or a death of a loved one in terms of its physiological and psychological impact. Even if you want to move, it’s an exhausting and stressful experience that lasts long after the moving truck has left the door and the boxes are unpacked (if, unlike me, you ever GET the boxes unpacked).

When you move, you have to rebuild many of those familiar structures that I mentioned above – you have to create new social networks, new life patterns and rediscover those benchmark experiences that allow you to live life relatively unconsciously. And this costs you a great deal in terms of psychological energy.

All this while you’re starting a new job. There is nothing easy about this task.

That said, you need to weigh your own capacity for adaptation to this type of stress – some people (me included) thrive on it. The first few weeks after relocation are a time of great creative energy for me – the extra demands on me to learn new patterns spark a great deal of creativity in me.

I also have friends who don’t adapt to it well. They survive best when they know all of their neighbors and all of their local haunts – the lack of certainty about their support structures leads to a nearly paralyzing anxiety that severely impacts their ability to react to their environment in the first 3-6 months of their relocation process.

Which type of mover are you? Do you need to have long-term stability close at hand? If so, the move might be a much bigger impact on you than it would have been on me.

That said… you have to balance this against the opportunity at hand. Your question doesn’t indicate how many opportunities you have where you are – can you find just as cool an opportunity in the city you’re in? If not, perhaps it’s time to bite the bullet and get the move out of the way now. That was certainly the case for me – with each move, the opportunity was one that I couldn’t find where I was and the move was the right decision.

I hope that helps… and I hope that the move (if you make it) is an enjoyable and creative opportunity for you.

Mike (and Lee)

Posted by mmurray | Filed Under Career Advice Tuesday 

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