Career Advice Tuesday – “Making A Deal With the Devil?”

October 25, 2011

Dear Infosecleaders:

I would like to ask you a question about a current situation that I find myself in regarding making a possible job change.

I am currently gainfully employed as a network security engineer, working in a consulting capacity (full time), where I am working for a large company in the DC area.   I also hold a security clearance, which is valuable in this market. 

My current employer treats me well, and I have comfort in my job stability, however it is accepted that the company pays about 80-85% of what the market should bear for the skills that me and my fellow information security professionals possess.   In the past, that has been fine, but currently my bills are beginning to pile up.  I have new expenses that come with a growing family (clothes, school, youth sports, etc) where the extra $15,000-$20,000 would come in handy. 

A fellow information security pro and ex-coworker recently reached out to me about joining a company that would agree to pay about 10-15% more than market rates, for my skills.  This would translate to an increase of somewhere between 25-35% of  my current compensation (considering I am 15-20% below market), which would be very helpful.  

It sounds like a no brainer, but here comes the catch(es):

First of all, the company is only adding to its staff because it has won a new government contract and has overpromised resources that it cannot deliver.  The company has not ever performed work for the entity, so there is a chance that they will not be able to deliver to the clients satisfaction.  

Secondly,  I have done my due diligence on the owner of the new company, and what I have learned has not been favorable.  I have heard from more than 5 people who have worked with this person at previous company that there business practices are questionable.  This includes making snap decisions about firing employees, occasionally missing pay roll, and mistreating business partners.

Here lies my question -  I really could use the money, but something inside is telling me that this new situation is not a good one for me.   My fear is that I will leave my “safe” position, and in a short while I will find myself in a precarious situation.

I really feel that I am making a “deal with the devil”

Any advice.



Dear Faust:

The best advice that I can give you is to listen to your gut.  If your gut is telling you that there is danger ahead, and that you may be making a “deal with the devil” you most likely are.

It appears to me that you have a great deal of responsibility to your family, and as you progress in your career (and life) these responsibilities are increasing and they are causing financial pressure.  While it is a “no brainer” that $30,000 more per year will ease some of that burden, but you may want to think about what you are really signing up for.

In essence, you are not signing up for a position with career progression and professional development, you are signing up for a 1099 contract position with an employer that is only interested in hiring you because it benefits them financially.  If the new employer fails on this contract,  you are going to find yourself without a pay check, without employment, and a difficult event to explain on your resume – that may make others question your competency or your judgment.

However, if you do decide that the extra money is worth the risk, then I would ask you to take the following precautions and steps:

1)   Before you accept the position, you should sit down with your current employer who has been good to you, and let them know of your financial situation and your need.  I would give them the opportunity to provide you with the additional income, prior to joining this new company.   You never know, they may decide that your skills merit this type of increase.

2)   I would ask you to ask the new employer for some sort of severance plan, in case the contract is lost, not as a result of your performance.  I would figure that it would take about 45 days for you to find a new role in DC with a clearance (at your old pay) so ask them for 6 weeks, and negotiate down to 30 days.   There response should provide you with more information about how they may value their employees.

3)   If they balk at this request, and you still decide to take the job, what I want you to do is to live on your old compensation, for the first six months, and save the rest.  After about 6 months, you will have about 6 weeks of emergency money saved up, which will serve as the funding of your own severance plan.    This will give you some comfort, if things do not go according to plan.

Again, without knowing all the details I can’t provide you with a definitive answer, however I find in most cases that the character and reputation of your employers are generally earned – both positively and negatively.   You should not believe that your experience would be any different than others who have come before you.

Best of luck,

Lee and Mike

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


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