Thursday, February 01, 2007

Big Career Choices Ahead

My wife and I discussed the career choices before us.
My office is in Chicago, although I expect to be travelling nationally for work.
My wife's job is in North Carolina.
As a family, we would like to be together when I am not travelling - which favors the family moving to Chicago.
My wife would have to quite her job and take a new one.
We will have to sell our house and buy a new one.
We will have to move cross country.

She is in final negotations with a company in the Chicagoland area - again in healthcare industry. It's a decent executive position, but it would entail a salary reduction from her current earnings. The first year would be 20% than now, the second year would be 13% less than now, and the third year would reverse the trend going 20% - 35% more than now on a go forward basis.

The firm hiring her handled contract negotations very poorly. Our attorney requested quite a few changes to their contract - most were designed to make it both stronger and more evenly balanced. Initially the employer didn't want to even read the list, the next day they read it, discussed it with my wife and agreed to nearly all the terms. This lack of integrity bothers my wife quite a bit - she now questions if she wants to join them - even if they give her everything she asks for.

This leads to serious questions: If she does not join this company, should she look at positions in other geographies? My boss at Big Company indicated he would work with me geographically, especially if I was outside of Chicago most of the time - why live there?

On top of everything my wife is due a promotion very soon. Her current employer has not discussed it at all -- very poor leadership skills. If she receives the promotion and a juicy equity package -- should she stay where she is not happy?

Our options are evolving to the following:

  1. Move to Chicago - take a chance that my wife will like the company she joins
  2. Move to Virginia - more expensive than NC, but more urban and fulfilling personally and for our family needs
  3. Move to Atlanta - my wife could join a better run company and Hatfield may have more direct flights

We don't believe staying where we are is acceptible. As much as we like our house, the resources available are insufficient, our children do not have playmates and we have too few friends (of course our work schedules do not help this). However, the promotion may change things - however so much of it depends upon her confidence she will be allowed to make major improvements in her current organization - barring that, staying might be very frustrating.

How does all this effect the travelling husband (me)?

I miss my family. I may be able to influence my schedule somewhat - most likely to work from my home location / office location 2 days a week and probably travel 3 days a week. If my home and office are at the same location, then I see my family. If they are separate, I might be able to work from home 2 days, but certainly one day.

With little children and a wife, do I want to be away 4 days a week or 3 days a week? What will happen to my children if I'm gone that much? Will we grow apart? Will they grow-up without discipline? Will it effect their adult relationships or view of family? Will I be there when they need me? I am certain I can live with 3 days on the road. Right now I'm on the road 5 days every other week - it's too long, I should be able to reduce it soon. Four days a week - that I'm not sure about. I have a feeling I'll find out soon, though.

Ultimately, if my family is in Chicago or I push for more responsibility out of Chicago I can reduce travel to three days a week (ideally). But, if my family is not in Chicago, and most of my responsibililities are there, I'll be gone 4 days a week. It's very difficult to imagine how things will turn out.

I do know for a fact that any position at my level will require substantial travel - at least 50%. And I'm certain I cannot find anything suitable without moving or having a job based in another city.

What would you do? Move to Chicago and have my wife take a chance with her prospective employer; move to Atlanta and risk 4 days a week away from my family and my wife joins a well run company; move to Virginia and risk the 4 days a week away, with less convenient air routes (more 2 segment flights) and my wife would have a similar employment situation as now (flawed leadership).

Your thoughts are welcome.

Regards, makingourway


Anonymous said...

I'm strictly answering your question, "What would you do?" ... I think I'd move to Virgina.
a) Atlanta is not a good family place, and not the kind of atmosphere you want to raise your kids in (either exposed to a lot of extremely negative behavior, or living in a "have/have nots" world, which is also not beneficial). Not to mention the southern accent they'd pick up(sorry if that's stepping on your toes).
b) It sounds as though your employment situation could change down the road if a better offer or a position even better suited to your skills turned up.
c) Northern Virgina is a decent place to live (if a bit pricey) considering weather, cultural opportunities for kids, etc.
d) Three days home a week is pretty good, though not ideal. My father was a nuclear research physicist at Ames Research Base for NASA (San Francisco Bay area), and he was only home (in the foothills of the Sierras) 2 days a week for about 7 years. It worked well, and all my siblings and I have grown up very close to him. These days, with phone, WebCams, instant messaging, etc., you could be even more "present".

Just ideas - an extremely complex situation. How come we have all this good software for comparing retirement portfolios and not for other big life decisions?!?

Good luck as you work it through ...

Anonymous said...

From the way you describe it the issue with the new company your wife is applying to sounds as if they have a bad HR dept. Bad HR is not the same as bad company. It could still be a good place to work especially since they agreed to her conditions. The problem with bad leadership where she is now is that that doesn't change unless a major re-org happens and it's been my experience that bad mgrs always seem to survive. Unless your kids are in school or some sort of play group at a library or gym place it's unlikely they are going to have friends. Hanging out at the local playground on weekends is a good way to meet kids. Once they start pre-school, it's the parents that do the bonding and encourage the playdates but that's hard to do when you are both working full schedules. I passed up a job offer with a $50K pay increase when my 2nd kid was born and I don't regret a moment of it. I can't get back watching the first time she rolled over or walked, and video isn't the same thing. Good luck.

mOOm said...

I don;t see the travelling on business as a problem as long as your office and home base are in one and the same place. I wouldn't be able to handle more craziness than that personally. But then some people can be CEOs too :) If you are never in the office home base that might be disadvantageous for your career at your company. If the issues with your wife's potential employer are coming out of an HR department then don't worry about them. HR just cause trouble IMO. Probably there are other jobs for her in Chicago if this one doesn't work out?