Career Advice Tuesday – “Sub-Prime” Employment

May 10, 2011

Dear InfoSec Leaders:

About a year ago, I accepted an information security position that included a relocation package. The relocation package was quite comprehensive, and the total amount is equal to about $60,000 (which is about 50% of my salary). In order to accept the relocation package, I had to agree to a two year recovery clause on the relocation money. At the time, I thought that this was fair – especially considering that the company helped me get out from under a bad mortgage in a declining real estate market.

However, now that I am about 10 months into my new job, I am regretting the decision.

The company and the position that I am in has changed dramatically over the last six month due to some new leadership. My role that was designed to do one thing – has now been shifted to perform tasks that I am generally bored with, and accomplished three years ago.

I have a dilemma. I can’t afford to pay back the relocation money – and I can’t stay here 14 months without going crazy. If I leave after 2 months (my year anniversary) – I will still have to pay back $30,000.

Do you have any advice for me? How can I get out of this bind?


“Sub Prime” Employment

Dear “Sub-Prime”,

The only way to answer your question is to be blunt – you are in a bad situation. The best advice that we can give is to try to make the best out of it and arrive at a decision that you can live with.

The way we look at it, you have two choices – the first is that you can figure out a way to justify swallowing the $30,000 that you owe your current employer and find a new job. The next is that you come to peace with the fact you will be at your current role for 14 more months – and make the best of it.

There is a third option –which is to become so disruptive that they “ask you to leave” and one condition of you agreeing not to “pursue legal action” is for them to release you from your obligation. We do not recommend this – but it is definitely an option.

We think that you have to view this problem as two fold – first in a financial way, next is from a career perspective. $30,000 is not a small amount of money, but in the course of a career, it is really not all that much ($1,000 per year for 30 years of working) . The fact that you would have owed this money on your home – had the new company not rescued you from the housing crisis, you should look at this as “found money”.

What you need to think about is if your “happiness” and “job satisfaction” is worth $30,000? That is a question that only you can answer.

From a career perspective, you need to really understand if you can “afford” working in a role where your skills are regressing. The opportunity cost of working in a position where you stagnate your professional development could cost you considerably more than $30,000 over the course of your remaining career- in terms of promotions or competing for new opportunities. You should figure out in the context of your current role if there are skills that you can build as you bide your time over the next year. It is quite possible the framework of this opportunity could enable you to develop a weakness or to find extra time to attend additional education or make career investments that can augment your current skills. If the opportunity does not provide you with this – you have to sit down and think if you can financially afford to take the hit and write the check.

Remember, the cash that you owe your employer is post tax (disclosure – we are not accountants), you will need to come up with roughly $40-45K in cash to pay for the 30K that you owe.

You have a difficult decision to make. Good luck as you attempt to find the best solution that works for you and your career.

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

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


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