This is the second part of a post about potentially leaving my job – the first part in which I detailed the reasons I should stay in my current position is here.
It has taken me a while to finish off this post. I’ve been busy with work of course, and Christmas, and planning for my time away in January and February next year. And I’ve also been seeing someone who has taken up a lot of my free time (I’m not complaining!). I’ve also found myself reading up about an area of psychology called ‘attachment theory’ which has been something of a revelation for me. But perhaps that’s a subject for a later time.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. Should I quit my job? I’m not financially independent yet, and I’m not really sure I’d be able to support myself in a self-employed fashion (apart from perhaps as a contractor if you count that as self-employed), so I would really need to find employment with a company. The complication arises in that there are multiple options for what I could do, each with their own pros and cons. So I will look at those, but first, what are my reasons why I might want to leave?
(One final note before I press ahead – this is all very specific to my work situation, and I realise it might be a little rambling in places, apologies if so. I have to admit I’m mainly writing this all out for fairly selfish reasons, to try and make sense in my head of what is quite a complex decision.)
Should I Go? Arguments in Favour of Leaving:
1. Potential for higher salary. Fairly obviously, if I’m taking in more money then I should be able to get to financial independence quicker. If I could double my salary then that could halve my time before I can retire.
As mentioned in my last post, the salary is probably going to have to be quite a bit higher to justify moving because I’d probably lose my (fairly awesome) pension scheme and I’d have to commute further and/or move to be closer to the new place. I also have to bear in mind the tax implications of a higher salary – it’s possible I could siphon any extra pay off into a SIPP (personal pension) and avoid the tax that way but I’m painfully aware that if I did that I wouldn’t be able to access that money until I’m at least 55 years old – currently I’m 32 and hope to retire in my early forties (if not before). So a higher salary could convince me to move jobs but it’s going to have be quite a bit higher I think, probably at least £15k higher, maybe more.
2. Potential for long holidays in a contracting scenario. If I go contracting I could potentially take off a few months each year which would be far more satisfying than the 1 or 2 weeks at a time I currently get. It’s a double-edged sword – I wouldn’t be getting paid for that time and it might affect my ability to find another contract. And if I’m unemployed involuntarily than I would probably be more worried about finding another contract than about enjoying a holiday. There is also the hope that I might start a family at some point in the next 3 to 5 years so it’s not like I’ll want to go on big travelling holidays when that time comes. Still it’s a potential gain and I’ll look at contracting a bit more below.
3. Potential for career growth and new learning. This is probably the main draw for me in terms of moving to another role. I’ve pretty much learned everything there is to learn in the 5 years I’ve spent in my current position, and I feel like I’ve stagnated and got a little bored over the last 2/3 years of that. I’m not necessarily that interested in taking on more management type roles – I’ve done that before and I don’t enjoy it that much – but I would like to expand my skill base and learn about other technologies. And if I’m going to be working a long time then I ought to keep learning new things to stay relevant.
Having said that, the closer I get to financial independence the less I’m concerned about staying relevant. And actually in my current role it looks like we’re going to be taught about some new technologies that are coming in, so perhaps if I just sit tight I’ll learn new things anyway.
4. Loyalty doesn’t pay. It doesn’t seem there is any way to negotiate a higher salary if I stay in the same role – I do get a small increase each year but I get what I’m given. I know people who have tried asking for a salary increase and hit a brick wall with human resources. As far as I can tell the only way to get a significant pay rise is to quit and go somewhere else and then come back at a later date. It seems ridiculous that a company wouldn’t want to retain the talent it has by paying them more, but then I guess as a general policy it must work for them – they’re effectively calling people’s bluff and perhaps most people stay after all things are considered.
5. How do I know the grass isn’t greener elsewhere? I quite like my current job, the people I work with, and the work/life balance, but there are times when I don’t enjoy it so much and perhaps things could be so much better somewhere else? This is probably the weakest reason for leaving, at least for me anyway – I guess I’m fairly risk averse at heart. I can see that things might be better elsewhere but then, it’s also possible I might move somewhere and then get made redundant 6 months later, or I might go somewhere and not get on with my new boss or colleagues. I’ve had crappy jobs in the past (I used to work in retail) and so I’m actually quite appreciative of my current work/life balance, security, working relationships and so on.
So to summarise, the case for leaving my current role is this:
- Better pay
- Long holidays (in the contracting scenario)
- Career and learning growth
- Better pay
- The grass could be greener.
(I’ve realised that 1 and 4 are basically the same but hey ho!)
Are there any other reasons to leave that I should consider? I can’t really think of any at the moment, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
Of course it’s complicated because there are multiple options for what I could do if I left, and I have to consider location too. As far as I can see there are three main options open to me – an external move to another permanent role, an external move to a contracting role, or an internal move.
An External Move to another Permanent Role
A move to a permanent role in another company is a possibility, but I have to admit I’m least excited about this particular option. I wouldn’t necessarily get paid much more than I currently do, and if I did it would have to pay quite a bit more because I probably wouldn’t get a pension nearly as good as my current one.
The main problem however is that I have a fairly particular skill set involving the use of database languages like SAS and SQL, and while these jobs pay reasonably well, there aren’t that many of them around. There are a lot in London and dotted around throughout the country, but it’s not like I could easily find another one in Northampton where I live and have my properties. There is a large financial company based in Milton Keynes that I could probably find a job at (and I know someone who did go there), so that is a possibility, though it would also more than double my commute which carries with it time and transport costs.
I do know people who commute to London but that is a very unappealing option to me – I’ve made that commute enough times (half my team is based in Canary Wharf after all), and I cannot stand the London Underground. There’s nothing that makes me think ‘Rat Race’ more than shuffling along in a faceless mass of people to try and squeeze onto a hot and sweaty tube train. Eugh. I have friends who live in London, and some of them have even tried to convince me to move there, but I can’t see the appeal. That pizza place in Soho that does 20 inch pizzas is nice though…
An External Move to a Contracting Role
I am seriously considering going contracting. In my team we have two contractors, and we’ve had a few others in the time I’ve worked at my current company. They are by definition not permanent – they usually have a 3, 6, or 9 month contracts – but in practice those contracts are always being extended, and often once they’ve been away a month or so they’ll come back and start another contract. They don’t get sick pay or holiday pay – if they’re off they don’t get paid. They have to sort out their own pensions and they don’t get any other corporate perks. And of course they could be unemployed for any length of time if they can’t find another contract.
They do of course get significantly higher pay. I’m talking double the pay, and probably more, depending on the circumstances. My old boss used to say that contractors often still work out cheaper for the company because it doesn’t have to pay all the other costs involved with hiring permanent staff, though I’m not so sure myself. I’m always amazed by how much more contractors get, and the ones I’ve spoken to have all said I should do it too. Jason from The Matrix Experiment puts it quite succinctly:
“Being an employee effectively means having your salary reduced by (perhaps roughly) half to take into account your employer’s additional overheads for PAYE staff: employer’s NI, holiday pay, sick pay, company car, company mobile, time off for training, the cost of training itself, paternity leave, maternity leave, employer pension contributions, the cost of inflexibility (needing to keep an employee even if their job isn’t really needed or paying redundancy) and other benefits. Even if you as an employee never take any time off sick or you don’t have a shiny BMW company car, you’re effectively paying for your colleagues that do.”
I have personal experience of this – I worked with someone who was off sick for the best part of two years before he eventually left the company. It was quite annoying really, the rest of the team had to pick up the slack, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually sick (seeing him tagged smiling on a holiday in Mauritius may have had something to do with it). But the company has to pay and that means the rest of us get a lower salary. What can the company do? Nothing really, apart from follow the correct legal process, and possibly try and catch him out.
There is always the possibility that I might get sick (or injured etc) and no longer be able to work for a chunk of time. And I suppose there are things like paternity pay to consider (though that won’t happen for a little while yet and probably won’t amount to much anyway). And of course I might go and do a contract somewhere else and then not be able to find another one afterwards.
With immaculate timing The Escape Artist has written about just this subject here. His point is that staying in permanent employment vs taking a contracting role is like taking out an incredibly expensive insurance policy, potentially a £40k a year insurance policy. It sounds pretty crazy when you put it in those terms. The problem I guess for me is that I might not be able to get another contracting job in the same area (unlike TEA’s example of a plumber), and so might have to travel a lot or go live somewhere else for 6-12 months at a time. He’s probably still right though, it’s a very expensive insurance policy, I may be able to stay where I am, the extra money would make it worthwhile and I would reach FI significantly quicker.
I’m not sure how my mortgages would be affected by being a contractor. I’ve heard that most mortgage providers need at least a year’s worth of accounts, and some require up to 3 years. This would obviously mess things up on the housing front, especially as I own 2 houses. Maybe I’m worrying too much about this though. Next year both of my mortgages are up for renewal, so perhaps I’ll look for longer fix terms, say 3 or more years, and that would give me time to go contracting without the worry of a remortgage coming up.
An Internal Move
Another option I’m considering fairly seriously is to stay with the same company and move to a different role internally. Within my current team it’s pretty unlikely I’ll be able to get promoted further, but I work in an office of about 3000 people and there are usually a fair few openings in other teams. It may well be that an internal move would be a sideways move as opposed to a promotion, but it would allow me to learn new things and open up other avenues for promotion.
The main advantage of an internal move is that I’d still keep all my current benefits – the pension, the corporate perks, security, the easy commute, and so on. The downside I suppose is that I’d still be using most of the same systems, doing the same kind of work, and so I don’t know how much more I’d learn really. And the likelihood is that I wouldn’t get paid that much more than I’m on now.
I did actually apply for another role internally a couple of years back and didn’t get it. I’m not sure why I didn’t get it, they offered to give me feedback but when I asked for it they never gave me anything. I really should have chased this up… It’s a bit late now unfortunately.
But perhaps I should give an internal move another shot. I may end up learning some new things by moving – other teams I’ve heard are taking on new technologies quicker than my team, and there are other aspects of my company that it would be useful to learn about – credit risk for example.
Well it’s obviously not an open and shut case. The funny thing is, if you’d told me 6 or 7 years ago I’d be earning what I am now, I’d have bitten your hand off. I’d have said, yes, I will happily take that and won’t ask for a penny more. But now I’m earning what I am, I can imagine earning more and that sounds pretty good to me.
I’ve got a lot of thinking to do, and a lot of time to do it as I won’t be making any decisions until probably April at the earliest next year. I’m going to be away from work for January and February, and in March I will (hopefully) get my bonus so there’s no point doing anything before that. I could start to look at internal moves from April, but if I’m looking to go contracting then I think it’s probably best to wait until after my two house remortgages which are in April and August.
There is also the possibility that I might be able to release some equity from my first house in April, and that might mean I could buy a third house next year. Whether that’s another rental property, or a more modest property to live in myself I’m not sure. Either way, that could take up a significant amount of time, in terms of planning, buying, renovating, and so on. And if that’s the case then I’ll probably want to stay in the same role at work so I can keep the same work/life balance and so I’m not too stressed out.
What do you think, am I being ungrateful, unambitious, other? Are you in a similar situation? I’d love to hear about it.
As always thanks for reading,