Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

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Redot
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Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Redot » Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:42 pm

I am a 35 year old, and my spouse and I have been working in corporate environment for last five years. My engineering job has gotten increasingly monotonous and stressful, and I am considering quitting my job. As I prepare to do this, I have a question that I could use advice on: I see two different paths in front of me from this point onwards. One is to look for a more research oriented job that is lower paying (atleast 40% lower), that “might” be more fulfilling but definitely less stressful. The other path is to quit altogether and plunge into my passion full time. This passion has more of an artistic bend of mind and I do not yet see it generating any money.

I apologize for the length of the post below, but it contains details to clarify the situation.

Background information for context:
My spouse and I both have PhDs in engineering and are both working in corporates with well paying and stressful jobs. We have a toddler as well.

-Emergency fund set with 3 months of expenses in cash.
-Double income household, with me being the higher earner by 20%, but we get all the benefits from my spouse.
-Retirement portfolio (80:20 - stocks:bonds) is at 30% of our final retirement target, not including our house equity. We max out all retirement accounts and save additionally in taxable currently
-College fund saved up to half of the target. We do not plan to add any more to this because we hope the growth will double it by the time the kid needs it.

The two options I am considering:

Option 1: If I quit altogether to follow my passion:
Pros:
-I work on something I love that stimulates a part of my brain I have put under wraps for last 20 years in pursuit of engineering.
-Nobody else but me gets to decide my day for me, which is becoming very important to me.
-I think that I will be in much better state of mind when I spend time with my child and spouse. I will also get to spend more time with my child during the growing years.
Cons
-We will only be able to max out our Roth’s and add about 6% to only one 401k ( with an additional 6% company match). My spouse will have likely need to work till 55 to hit our retirement portfolio target. My spouse is willing to work till 55 but not beyond.
-Putting all eggs in one employment basket and putting more financial responsibility on just my spouse rather than sharing it like it is now.
-Throwing away 15 years of engineering training and experience for some gut feeling.
-Might end up not being truly fulfilled even after following passion - which means I may want to go back to work and will now have an employment gap to justify. This is the main reason I am making this post.

Option 2: If I find a research oriented position that pays 40% less than now:
Pros:
-We both can work till 50 and retire.
-Continued earning albeit less from both should result in lesser financial stress on both than me quitting entirely.
-The education and experience that I have built up till now is put to use and sharpened further.
-Might actually stumble upon a job I like and then retirement age should not be a worry.
Cons:
-Will always wonder what if I had followed option 1. Life seems to be moving at breakneck speed and my artistic muscles are degenerating each year.
-There is no guarantee that this job or the next will be good, and I will have given up precious time that I could have given to my passion.

My questions:
a) At this stage of life, if I follow my passion as in option 1, is this fanciful thinking/shirking away from responsibility/being selfish?

b) Since our portfolio is at a good level, is follow option 2, which is a low paying but satisfying research job, necessary? I do realize that one has the option of always following their passions as a hobby on the side, to be fulfilled both at work and play. However I have yet to encounter a job that really allows time to nurture a hobby deeply, while also nurturing a child and a spouse.

c) In how many years can I turn to my passion full time?

Any advice or perspective is highly appreciated.

OldSport
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by OldSport » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:10 am

If you really dislike your current position, then I'd recommend Option 2 - the R&D position. You said it was less stressful and time consuming. With the extra time from the less stressful position, pursue your artistic passion on the side. I'd say give it a few years and see how it goes then re-evaluate. Some part-time gigs lead to full-time as you get more experience and make connections.

Option 1 seems like it would be really hard on your spouse, especially if it didn't work out.

sport
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by sport » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:06 am

OldSport has given you good advice.

BUBear29
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by BUBear29 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:46 am

OldSport wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:10 am
If you really dislike your current position, then I'd recommend Option 2 - the R&D position. You said it was less stressful and time consuming. With the extra time from the less stressful position, pursue your artistic passion on the side. I'd say give it a few years and see how it goes then re-evaluate. Some part-time gigs lead to full-time as you get more experience and make connections.

Option 1 seems like it would be really hard on your spouse, especially if it didn't work out.
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Taz
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Taz » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:12 am

Does option 1 allow you to be the stay-at-home parent? You would save on child care expenses, take on most of the home burdens, and reduce stress on your spouse. Could you consult on the side to add to savings?

Most importantly - does your spouse fully support option 1? If not, it would be a non-starter for me.

As far as the gap goes, my wife re-entered the engineering field after 11 years when we did a swap (retired from navy & became the stay-at-home dad). With a PhD, it wouldn't be too hard for you. Plus, having a "pursuing your dream" story might be compelling.
The destination matters.

chw
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by chw » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:52 am

sport wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:06 am
OldSport has given you good advice.
Agree. You can try Option 2 and if it doesn't work out, seek another job that does. Stress kills...

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Ditchwitch
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Ditchwitch » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:22 am

Redot wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:42 pm
I am a 35 year old, and my spouse and I have been working in corporate environment for last five years. My engineering job has gotten increasingly monotonous and stressful, and I am considering quitting my job. As I prepare to do this, I have a question that I could use advice on: I see two different paths in front of me from this point onwards. One is to look for a more research oriented job that is lower paying (atleast 40% lower), that “might” be more fulfilling but definitely less stressful. The other path is to quit altogether and plunge into my passion full time. This passion has more of an artistic bend of mind and I do not yet see it generating any money.

I apologize for the length of the post below, but it contains details to clarify the situation.

Background information for context:
My spouse and I both have PhDs in engineering and are both working in corporates with well paying and stressful jobs. We have a toddler as well.

-Emergency fund set with 3 months of expenses in cash.
-Double income household, with me being the higher earner by 20%, but we get all the benefits from my spouse.
-Retirement portfolio (80:20 - stocks:bonds) is at 30% of our final retirement target, not including our house equity. We max out all retirement accounts and save additionally in taxable currently
-College fund saved up to half of the target. We do not plan to add any more to this because we hope the growth will double it by the time the kid needs it.

The two options I am considering:

Option 1: If I quit altogether to follow my passion:
Pros:
-I work on something I love that stimulates a part of my brain I have put under wraps for last 20 years in pursuit of engineering.
-Nobody else but me gets to decide my day for me, which is becoming very important to me.
-I think that I will be in much better state of mind when I spend time with my child and spouse. I will also get to spend more time with my child during the growing years.
Cons
-We will only be able to max out our Roth’s and add about 6% to only one 401k ( with an additional 6% company match). My spouse will have likely need to work till 55 to hit our retirement portfolio target. My spouse is willing to work till 55 but not beyond.
-Putting all eggs in one employment basket and putting more financial responsibility on just my spouse rather than sharing it like it is now.
-Throwing away 15 years of engineering training and experience for some gut feeling.
-Might end up not being truly fulfilled even after following passion - which means I may want to go back to work and will now have an employment gap to justify. This is the main reason I am making this post.

Option 2: If I find a research oriented position that pays 40% less than now:
Pros:
-We both can work till 50 and retire.
-Continued earning albeit less from both should result in lesser financial stress on both than me quitting entirely.
-The education and experience that I have built up till now is put to use and sharpened further.
-Might actually stumble upon a job I like and then retirement age should not be a worry.
Cons:
-Will always wonder what if I had followed option 1. Life seems to be moving at breakneck speed and my artistic muscles are degenerating each year.
-There is no guarantee that this job or the next will be good, and I will have given up precious time that I could have given to my passion.

My questions:
a) At this stage of life, if I follow my passion as in option 1, is this fanciful thinking/shirking away from responsibility/being selfish?

b) Since our portfolio is at a good level, is follow option 2, which is a low paying but satisfying research job, necessary? I do realize that one has the option of always following their passions as a hobby on the side, to be fulfilled both at work and play. However I have yet to encounter a job that really allows time to nurture a hobby deeply, while also nurturing a child and a spouse.

c) In how many years can I turn to my passion full time?

Any advice or perspective is highly appreciated.
5 years (1st job?) doesn't sound like you have a lot of experience comparing different job situations. Engineering jobs are not inherently monotonous...look for a new job - including something more research oriented. Before you consider pursuing your "dreams" you should maybe try 1-2 more jobs at the least until say 40. After all there was a lot of education (PhD) and cost that went into preparing you for that field.

I wouldn't put the onus on the spouse to work until 55. It may create other stresses down the road that may not be immediately clear today. The dynamic of a relationship can and will change as your kids grow older.

Maybe you have also carefully already considered the above and still feel very passionate about "fulfilling your dreams". You will never know for sure unless you take the plunge. The better you can stably manage living on the income of your wife alone the more realistic this endeavor seems to me. Obviously, you could "give it a shot" for a few years and then try go back to your old job but it may be hard to explain that to employers. An employer interested hiring a very technical engineer may wonder why you "squandered" your PhD to pursue other dreams even though to most of us that may be a great thing to do.
Last edited by Ditchwitch on Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RRAAYY3
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by RRAAYY3 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:33 am

Option 2

Followed by Option 1 after a looooong conversation with your wife

Life’s short, if a job is doing this to you - it’s time to make a change. It sounds like you would still have more than enough money to make it

student
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by student » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:53 am

Do you know how easy is it to find such a R&D job?

Edit: Corrected a typo.
Last edited by student on Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:36 am, edited 2 times in total.

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JamesSFO
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by JamesSFO » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:54 am

Highly recommend reading the "book designing your life" (https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Your-L ... 01BJSRSEC/) by the Stanford profs who teach a course on how to help decide what to do for jobs/etc.

They provide a nice framework for thinking through these questions.

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StevieG72
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by StevieG72 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:57 am

Welcome to the forum.

Sounds like you need a vacation!

Another option may be to continue working and save / invest to fund an early retirement for you & your spouse.

Work on managing stress. You can’t control the potentially stressful events that will present themselves each day, but you can control how you react to them.

What about switching to another employer making the same or more money? Of course the grass only looks greener on the other side of the fence!

It may be a stretch to assume pursuing a hobby will materialize in to a significant income producing venture.

My career is about as fun as watching paint dry on the wall, and can be extremely stressful. I am 45 and looking forward to early retirement. My income, lifestyle, and investments will support this.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.

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Watty
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Watty » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:29 am

Redot wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:42 pm
This passion has more of an artistic bend of mind and I do not yet see it generating any money.
In other words you want to retire now.

In addition to loss of income there will likely also be a lot of expenses for classes and supplies in most artistic fields so be sure to budget for that.
Redot wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:42 pm
-I work on something I love that stimulates a part of my brain I have put under wraps for last 20 years in pursuit of engineering.
If this was truly a passion you would have figured out a way to do it in the evenings or weekends.

At this point it is just a daydream.

You don't even know if you are good at it and if doing it all day long would be something you actually enjoy.

I enjoy amature photography but know some profgessional photographers and that would drive me crazy since much of that involved things like wedding photography or commercial photography to the customers specifications. Professional photography can also be a high stress job since you are constantly judged on your results. Sometimes it is best not to make your passion your career since it can ruin your passion.

I would take option 1 off the table but start pursuing it as a hobby that you might expand some day.
Redot wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:42 pm
If I find a research oriented position that pays 40% less than now:
Another way of saying that is that your current job pays 66 more than the research job pays. If the research job would allow you to retire in 15 years when you are 50 then I would think that your current position would allow you to both to retire in your early 40's.

I would also question the assumption that the research job would be low stress. I know someone that was a researcher at a university and while he really likes his job there was a LOT of pressure to get papers published and to get the next research grant approved. A lot depends on your personality but some people would find that very stressful and a lot of research positions also involve putting up with a lot of office or university politics.

Instead of option 1 or 2 I would add an option 3, which would be to look for a more enjoyable job closer to your current level.

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Pajamas
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Pajamas » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:34 am

If you can find something to do that you enjoy and can earn a living doing, you will be much better off in the long run.

You said that your spouse is in a similar situation but didn't mention how she or he feels about it or how she or he feels about how you feel about it. Sounds like you both couldn't just quit your jobs for artistic or significantly lower-paying pursuits from a financial standpoint, so maybe you need to work out a solution together that will be best for each of you and both together.

letsgobobby
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by letsgobobby » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:35 am

a) yes . It is irresponsible and selfish.

CppCoder
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by CppCoder » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:43 am

Why do you assume that the research oriented position will pay 40% less? That might be true in switching to an academic job, but not necessarily true in corporate research. I have an engineering PhD and work in a mega corp research lab. I don't make 40% less than my peers in our operating units. In fact, I think I make more...

KlangFool
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by KlangFool » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:44 am

OP,

1) If you are willing to quit your current job, where is the stress? You could just say no to an unreasonable request. Then, the stress would be gone.

2) This is a common problem with a young engineer. You had only worked for 5 years. So, you qualify for this label. You do not know how to say no. You are the problem. It is not the job. If you do not solve this problem, you will face the same situation with job number #2, #3, and so on.

3) If you have a passion for something, you will find time to make it happen. This is independent of whatever else that is going on with your life.

IMHO, you are the problem. It has nothing to do with the job and so on. You need to know and stand up for what you want for your life and your job. You can redesign your job and your life if you choose to. You will not get 100% of what you want. But, you will get somewhere.

KlangFool

thefireguy
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by thefireguy » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:16 am

I think it's a balance of what some others have said-

Are you a generally positive person? If not I think that's the first step. Easier said then done, but try to let go of some of the stresses in your life. Don't stress about what you cannot control. Find something that can help with this whether it is exercise, meditation, etc.

Also on the financial side, have you run the numbers on how much your family spends annually? What does your nest egg look like in terms of multiples of annual expenses? There are all types of opinions out there for what is needed. Most conventional wisdom says 25x (4%) for typical retiree age - so with you being younger maybe it is a bit more.

You said your spouse is willing to work until 55, does she love what she does? I would really encourage you to try to dig and confirm if that this is the case. The question becomes for whatever money you need to cover annual expenses what can fill in that sand chart with active income vs. nest egg withdrawals.

I'd encourage to you read a little more about the concept of financial independence as it sounds like you want to be on that track. Google the term and there are some great blogs on the topic.

Also John Bogle's "Enough" is a great book. It makes you question what the end goal is. Why are you saving? For me it's not just about amassing wealth for the sake of seeing a big portfolio balance. It's more about having the flexibility to do what I want. It's taken a while but I'm finally getting my wife to understand this concept, so we have a similar mindset working towards the goal.

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KlingKlang
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by KlingKlang » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:46 am

You have gotten some great advice and perspectives from the previous posters. I have worked in Engineering Research, Manufacturing Engineering, and Engineering Consulting and didn't find any of these positions to be inherently more stressful that the others. For me the biggest stress factor was having management that believed in keeping employees under stress rather than supporting them. After being at your company for five years you should have enough contacts that you can start discretely putting out feelers to see if there are other departments where you might be more comfortable.

moshe
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by moshe » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:52 am

In true Boglehead fashion I am going to suggest that you do nothing for the next 6 months except take the time to determine what it is you really want out of life and i am not sure based on your posting that you do.

Some books you must read that will help:

What Matters Most : The Power of Living Your Values by Hyrum Smith
Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankle

Something you must do:
Take quiet time to think, really think. Be honest with yourself. What must you do to meet your needs as a wife, mother, economic value adder, cultural value adder. What is truly important to you?

These books and this reflection time changed my life. I read them when i was also working for a MegaCorp in an IT management high stress position and it was seriously affecting my health and home life (M + 2 rug rats). 15 years ago during our New Years celebration when we do a soul accounting i finally had clarity. To be truly happy I had to have courage and work for myself.

As soon as the holiday was over i paged my boss and gave my notice. This moment in time is something i remember with such personal pride. You will also.

Once you know what you want and what makes you happy you can then make good personal decisions. Do not do anything until you can answer these fundamental questions.

What do you need to do to be happy?
What do you need to do to meet your personal values?
What do you need to do to meet your personal needs?

The answers to these questions will be different for everyone.

I never thought i would earn as much money as I did working for MegaCorp but by going through this process I figured out that money was not what i valued most. I valued my family(husband + fatherhood) above all following by satisfying work where i could help others also succeed.

As it turns out I won on all accounts. You can also.

PM me if you want to talk.

~Moshe

** Edits, in bold, based on subsequent additional demographic information **
Last edited by moshe on Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My money has no emotions. ~Moshe | | I'm the world's greatest expert on my own opinion. ~Bruce Williams

Redot
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Redot » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:01 pm

Wow. I am amazed by the latitude of perspective in the responses. I really appreciate everybody taking time to think and answer about my problem.
There are a couple of clarifications / additional information that need to be stated to make things clearer.

1. I am the wife (lol). I’m not sure if this will change the advice in any way but I thought this must be stated.
2. My husband is well aware of my conflict and we have been at discussion for almost a year now. He is supportive of either path I take (yes I’m blessed!) but he thinks I am being quite impractical and idealistic, hence he introduced me to bogleheads!
3. My husband likes his area of work, and wants to work till atleast 50 regardless of my plans. I would not willfully take a decision that makes him unhappy or adds undue stress on him. That is why I am trying to analyze this situation in every way before making a plunge.
4. I started pursuing photography ten years back as a hobby. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and developed my own website for my portfolio and all was going well. But the last three years have gotten increasingly stressful at work, and time consuming at home with my baby. This has shoved out my energy, time and even frame of mind to pursue this when I do have the time.
5. I have four waking hours in the evening, three of which go for the kid and cooking cleaning etc with the help of my husband. I have in desperation started sketching and painting during my lunch hours in office. Yes, I close my door for 45-60 minutes and bring out my charcoal pencils and water colours and have created 6 pieces of decent work, and probably 40 others that are not so good. I have also spent some of my lunch hours on two of my wood working projects. But it has taken more than 6 months to get even two projects completed. My point is all of these pursuits have been in spurts when I can squeeze in an hour or two - and this is mighty frustrating. I see that many of you state that if I really had a passion I would find time for it. However regardless of making time for it, it is not a click button process to be able to switch frame of mind to pursue a passion when one is stressed out with office on a daily basis.
6. I do not claim a research job will be less stressful but I do hope it will be much more meaningful work and most importantly allow for more flexible timings. If I can get a stretch of 3-4 hours once or twice a week to dwell on my hobbies, then continuing a job would actually be a pleasure and I would gladly do it till 50. But very rarely do jobs allow for this. Even if the office work is completed, they want a warm body to occupy the chairs for eight hours a day. The hours that I could have spent working to create something that satisfies me.
7. Yes I have started going for yoga classes before sunrise for the last couple of months and started meditation recently to deal with the agitation. As you might already know, some days are exceptionally good while some days are ridiculously bad.
8. Somebody else said that not being able to say no is the root of my problem at work and I must learn how to say no, else this problem will always remain in any job. Brilliant insight! I agree completely. If I could train to say no, believe me I would! I think this is a wiring issue since birth. Lol. Yes I must deal with it - I understand but I cannot seem to implement it. But I am taking conscious effort to change this.

Thank you all for your time. This has been a great exposure and an enjoyable experience.

TG2
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by TG2 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:34 pm

5. I have four waking hours in the evening, three of which go for the kid and cooking cleaning etc.
Hire a maid service. Spend your cleaning time on yourself and your art. See how therapeutic that could be and if it's enough.
-Might end up not being truly fulfilled even after following passion - which means I may want to go back to work and will now have an employment gap to justify. This is the main reason I am making this post.
Reason enough not to just quit now.
a) At this stage of life, if I follow my passion as in option 1, is this fanciful thinking/shirking away from responsibility/being selfish?
Pretty much, yes. :)
Given your uncertainty, I would try to work through both issues simultaneously. You can devote more time to your passion without shortchanging either your family or your job. And it would give you a couple more years at least to discover who and what you really are.

KlangFool
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by KlangFool » Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:13 pm

OP,

1) Do you work 40 hours per week? If not, why are you working more than 40 hours per week?

2) Stressed at work? I am the only earner in the family. I cannot afford to be laid off. My ex-employer had 5% to 10% laid off every 3 months over 5 1/2 years. By the time that I was laid off, 80% of my co-workers were gone. This is a really stressful situation.

3) If you do not need the job, why do you choose to put yourself into a stressful job situation?

4) You are the source of your stress at work. Hence, you could solve the problem if you want to. You are in control.

KlangFool

domoi
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by domoi » Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:34 pm

As a full-time working mom with a highly demanding professional job, I sympathize :) However, many years later, I am very happy that I did not quit. It looks like your are simply burnt-out from the demands of carrying a challenging job and catering for your family needs. And you are willing to sacrifice 40% of your income to avoid the stress. Why don't you try to use this 40% income to make your situation more manageable now? The toddler will grow and it WILL get easier, but you would not lose any experience and would not fall behind on your career.

Can you negotiate any part time, or take a few months off, at least as a temporary solution? Check your benefits. Even if there is no official policy, talk to the HR - they may be able to help.

Can you switch to a consulting job with more flexible ' less demanding hours?

Can you hire home aid? Catering? Cleaning? Child care?

Can you pay to improve your well-being? Personal trainer? Psychotherapy?

Good luck!

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Sandtrap
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Sandtrap » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:41 pm

Option 2 full time
plus
Option 1 part time
There are 168 hours in a weak.

j :D

Redot
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Redot » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:05 pm

Once again thank you for your replies. I have some clarifications and conclusions based on our discussion.

-I currently work in a firm where overtime is compensated but working overtime is not a choice but a compulsion. This is where saying no is becoming extremely difficult.
-I need to be employed 40 hours a week for my visa status and do not have the luxury of going part time or taking some time off figure things out for a few months if I want to keep my employment visa.
-Both my spouse’s and my employer are laying off steadily for last three years every quarter at the rate of 3-5%.
-I realize a problem like this is a good problem to have - one has the luxury of thinking about the quality of life only when the “quantitative” targets are close to being met. We have seen very bad times and worked very hard to make the portfolio we have now.
-I am not staying around in my job any longer than I have to, but I need to look at my next step carefully. It appears that quitting to pursue my passions full time is not an option for a couple of more years. I hope a different job will make this wait not so difficult. In the meantime I need to continue honing my skills.
-Recognizing what makes you happy and having the courage to follow it in the face of complete uncertainty are two very different things. At the same time, waiting to reach the bullet proof savings account is like trying to touch the horizon. I think I need to revisit this only when I have the luxury of working part time. In the meantime I need to better manage my time and finances to provide a more relaxed atmosphere.

That is all I have for now. Thank you everybody, it has been an interesting discussion!

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by anoop » Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:55 pm

If you are prepared to quit now, you are in a position of strength. So why not try to negotiate terms with your current employer that are more favorable and make things less stressful. For example, you say working overtime is a compulsion. So you could refuse to do it and see what happens. If you are good at what you do, it is very unlikely they would lay you off because you choose to not do overtime.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Redot » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:21 pm

Since I am forced to stay eight hours a day in office, the work better be worth my while. I do not want to stay at my current place because the work is getting monotonous and repetitive while the career growth options are dim, and the politics are at a level beyond which my stomach can handle. The longer I stay here the more I get typecast in a role I have no interest in pursuing. That is why I am willing to look for a new job which will give me more meaningful and less stressful work at the cost of my salary of up to 40%. You give some to get some, right? Staying at my current job or similar paying job reduces my retirement age by 4 years but the quality of life is severely compromised. With our current savings rate we can retire at 46 with 3.5% withdrawal rate. With a lower paying job, this age changes to 50. If it is a difference of only four years - prefer doing meaningful work on a daily basis from now till 50 rather than stressful meaningless work from now till 46.

anoop
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by anoop » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:20 pm

The monotony is an issue but by itself should not cause stress. Less pay does not mean less politics and stress. Many people that work for non profits and in academia find this out the hard way. So while you may need to find something more interesting, I would try to get rid of the mindset “you got to give up something to get something”. You can find a more rewarding career that also pays more than you currently earn without necessarily having more stress. Try to imagine what that looks like and it will be easier to find it.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Sandtrap » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:36 pm

This might be really really "old school", probably is:
1
There are a lot of folks that work at lousy jobs to support their families and are grateful for every day they are employed, regardless of conditions -- be it another dark dusty day in the coal mine, a roller coaster stressed day as a floor trader, 10 hours under a hot Phoenix sun mopping hot roofing tar, or 12 hours under a deadline crunch as a IT Programmer with a migraine. :shock:
2
Some young man from the "Generation of Heroes" might have been cringing in a foxhole at Bastogne while under siege, his paycheck going home to feed a family --- and later be grateful for any job that could be had without bullets flying overhead. :shock:
3
Actionably: Take whatever "time off in paid leave or vacation or sick leave" you have saved up and get off my yourself and re-evaluate where you come from and where you are now. And, where you could have been (both really lousy or really great) if things had turned out differently. Often, it is good to step back from the trees and take a look at the forest and the mountains beyond. 8-)

Good luck in your endeavors.
j :D

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by veindoc » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:39 pm

If you are unemployed, how would that affect your visa status?

I would just quit and take 6 months off to re-set.
Financially this will not hurt you which means you can take your time.

Many years early on in my career I was unhappy. I became a new mom and started my career at the exact same time. It was very difficult for me. Kid was not sleeping, I was not sleeping and I missed him like crazy. But I had just started my career and felt like abandoning it now to take care of my kid full-time was not something I was ready to do. So I limped along but felt like I was failing at both tasks. Unlike you, my leaving was not entirely voluntary. It was a mutual understanding that I did not fit and that there was no future for me. But left to my own devices, I would have just hung in there being mediocre and barely present at the job. Best thing my ex-boss did for me was to ask me to leave and go find somewhere else to work. It was not a mandate but a suggestion. As in, we all know you are not going to be here long-term so just get a job where you will be long-term. He didn't detect much passion or interest from me. And he was right, there was none. I was startled but took his advice. Instead of languishing in a job where I was barely hanging on, it allowed me to make a clean break even though I did not feel ready to do so. After six months of head-clearing and realizing I most definitely did not want to be a stay at home mom, I was ready to look for another job. To my surprise I was quite in demand (apparently I interviewed well), but no job really grabbed me. I declined two job offers and took a part-time job peripherally related to what I had been trained to do. Not my dream job, but enough to get my feet wet. Enough to realize that I wanted to work at what I had studied but only part-time. When I was honest with what I wanted in life and my career, I basically cold-called my current employer. Being honest worked and I got my dream job. Time from leaving first job to getting my current job - two years! Total time unemployed was about 7 months.

Now 6.5 years later, I'm ready to move on to something new. Nervous as heck, but that last experience taught me that when your mind is in the right place, everything works out.

If you have an idea of what you would like to do in your field, I would interview now but tell them you are not available for another 3 months if that is acceptable to them. Sounds like you need a break from this job before your next one. If you are not really sold on the R&D part of engineering then just take a clean break as I stated above. This new passion of yours will either complete you or it won't. But you need the time to focus on it 100% to really know. Quitting and being a stay at home mom 100% of the time was enough time for me to appreciate the fact that I actually did enjoy my work. Six months prior, I felt like work was this awful thing that I was being subjected to. A punishment if you will and I carried myself at work as if it was. But taking that extended break made me grateful and happy to be working. It was a marked difference in my attitude.

Lyonsguy
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Lyonsguy » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:48 pm

Could you talk to your employer about reduced responsibilities or hours? Perhaps also telecommuting. Working 32 hours per week is still full time with 401k and medical benefits (I believe) but gives you an extra day a week to pursue your creative efforts or family efforts. Burnout is real and you’ll probably start doing as much in 32 hours as you currently are in 40 hours.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by bb » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:09 pm

If you need to be employed 40 hrs/wk due to VISA status then how can
you quit and pursue passion? If you are really prepared to quit engineering
then possibly just consider looking for another job that maximizes doing
something interesting vs salary. Not sure if that is practical or not. Seems
a little rash to chuck engineering based on one job. If you were smart
enough to get a PhD in engineering seems like you should be able to
find a more interesting job - and one would think being flexible on
salary would be really helpful.

After you said you were the spouse I had to laugh - amazing to read a post
and just make assumptions unconsciously.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:15 pm

I want to comment on Option 1, I was very good at art when I was younger, got special privilege from the principal to just paint instead of attending classes. But now I’m retired and has some time to really devote to painting, I’m glad I didn’t quit my career in engineering to become an artist. I’m just an average artist at best. I might vow my husband and other non artists, but not to make a living.

Regarding stress from job. Perhaps you can find way to de-stress by doing some painting or whatever art you like, I spent years doing ceramics too. One of my kids is actually doing that, painting by number, I think, it’s how she destress, her job is stressful, self employed. Find something you like in art to do besides your job to destress.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Carl53 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:09 am

Your visa status if you quit is the elephant in the room. Can we assume that your spouse is in a similar situation?

Several decades ago my spouse of five years and less than three years into a professional career that already nearly matched my engineering salary of several more years, decided to quit to be home with our then 6 month old first born. Went well for a couple of years, but after the second born, got a desire and offer by a friend to go start up a business. They did it for seven years. It was interesting but yielded probably less than a dollar an hour net to us. Never decided to get back into the professional career and has done volunteer and low paying part time gigs ever since. It probably added at least five years to my retirement age, ending up at 55. Do I regret it, not particularly, but then I was quite confident that my position would do well, if not be exceptional. Was I for it, not particularly, but did want what made her happy. The stay at home mom did not stress me, but the jumping into a startup business did which ate up far more time (for the both of us and the kids). We have lived a more conservative (spending) lifestyle than we would have without the second income. Would I prefer that our retirement funds were 3X what they are, sure, but we are blessed to have what we do.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by aj76er » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:09 pm

Look into the FIRE movement and the various blogs that cater to it. If you can get to a minimal FI state before quitting, then you will be better off. This will also, most likely, require living on a minimal budget; in essence "living like an artist". It will also reveal if that is a lifestyle that you really want forever.
"Buy-and-hold, long-term, all-market-index strategies, implemented at rock-bottom cost, are the surest of all routes to the accumulation of wealth" - John C. Bogle

jodydavis
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by jodydavis » Mon Jan 08, 2018 4:19 pm

Lots of good advice. Having a toddler with both parents working full time is extremely stressful and has a way of re-setting priorities. Couple of thoughts:

1. It gets better. As the kid gets older, things get easier every year. So be wary of making decisions based on how you feel now, as things will improve, and you might feel differently a few years from now.

2. That said, it sounds like you should look for a new job. Some of the advice so far has suggested that maybe it isn't so bad, it could be worse, or there are things you could do to improve your current situation. But taking what you say at face value, it sounds like you are unhappy with your current role, the demands/politics of the workplace, and the lack of advancement opportunity. If that's the case, start looking for another job. Maybe you can find a similar job with less stress/politics and more advancement. Maybe you can find a research job at 40% less pay and less stress. Either way, it's probably good to start looking.

3. Be very careful before pursuing option 1. Grass is greener, etc., and passions can quickly stop being passions when they become jobs. Explore the option methodically and thoroughly, just as you would any career project. Maybe do option 2, while devoting spare time to your passion, and seeing if you can make it work. Do your due diligence. Talk to professional artists and photographers, ask them about their day to day, the details of running a business, what the worst part of their job is, figure out how good your work really is, etc. Make sure you are comparing your current job with an accurate picture of what "pursuing your passion" really looks like.

Good luck!

WhyNotUs
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by WhyNotUs » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:02 pm

Redot wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:01 pm

7. Yes I have started going for yoga classes before sunrise for the last couple of months and started meditation recently to deal with the agitation. As you might already know, some days are exceptionally good while some days are ridiculously bad.
I have been meditating for almost 40 years and that is still the case, though much fewer and farther between.

FWIW, I would look for a 40 hour per week job. Makes a huge difference when one has more time to serve their needs and their family's needs. Sounds like retiring at 50 is not a hardship. A parent being able to make school events when that starts means a lot to children and helps them be successful.

FWIW, I have a couple friend who make a comfortable living at photography- one doing weddings and portraits and the other doing ads for outdoor products. Both do photo art in addition but that is not main source of income.

Best wishes
I own the next hot stock- VTSAX

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DaftInvestor
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by DaftInvestor » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:14 pm

"Stressful" is a relative term as its a feeling you have. What some find create stress others find creates excitement. What's odd to me is that you are using "Stressful" and "monotonous" together. Usually in engineering fields its one of these things or the other. And usually people don't get a PhD in something unless it is something they really want to do when they grow up.
Rather than take a 40% paycut or quit altogether to pursue something else have you considered trying to switch to a job in the same area that pays similar that you might find less monotonous?
You can also seek professional help to manage stress regardless of which path you choose.
I've gone through stressful periods at various jobs I've had in the past and there were certainly times I considered throwing in the towel - rather than do so I tried to seek something that wouldn't cause a pay cut and that I would find more rewarding. It has always worked for me.
(On the other hand I do know people who have changed careers and found happiness doing so - but I wouldn't count on it).

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by J295 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 5:17 pm

If it were my spouse and I we would pursue Option 1 (in fact we went from two earners to one early on in our career, raised three kids and they all graduated college with no debt, and I retired at 53 -- and then my spouse decided to start a new paying vocation even though we didn't need the $$$).

To all those with well meaning but naysayer type attitudes, only you can decide after filtering all of the responses. Remember, this isn't a dress rehearsal and "you can't follow your own path if you're on the road to another person's city."

You'll never know if the parachute works if you don't jump into the void.

Worst case .... you pursue Option 1, it doesn't work out, and then you re-load and do something else (including earning $$ if that's something your family needs/wants then). Best case -- over the moon.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by vested1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:37 pm

I would do some soul searching about your motives in pursuing option #1. If your conclusion exposes a need for stroking your ego then I would reexamine that motivation. You are a member of a team, comprised of you, your husband, and your toddler. How will your decision impact your team?

An analogy may be found in the movie "Field of Dreams", where an aspiring and talented athlete with unrealized dreams (Moonlight Graham), portrayed by an aged Burt Lancaster concludes that a long history of helping others was more satisfying than pursing his dreams of stardom on the baseball field. He sacrificed his personal dream for a higher purpose.

As an artist, all of your experiences, good and bad have an effect on how you express yourself. A delay in being able to devote more time to that expression can add to its fullness when finally realized. Age 50 or even 55 is not arriving at death's door. Many reach that age only to discover they are only half way there, and enter a new life with the freedom to pursue their dreams. Ask yourself if pursuing your dream now puts a damper on your husband's dreams. Only you can decide.

Personally, I would simply find another job.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Redot » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:20 pm

These are some great thinking points. Thank you for them! I have some things to add.

-many poeple are unable to understand why I want to quit after just five years work and a Phd. I think some people who have experienced it, understand burn out. It hits you based on your own personality and experiences. One person was kind enough to point out that the toddler years are tough. I think this has coincided with a spiraling job and I just want out. Since my art work has been the only refuge to proved some semblance of mental peace - I feel like turning to it full time when nothing else seems to make sense.
-yes given enough stress, one can fall out of love with a field when the work becomes drudgery. That is why I want to go back to research - to dig up the original interest. My current work is monotonous and also stressful whenever project deadlines appear - I do not mean just 12 hour workdays when deadlines approach on a biweekly basis but also a boss that cannot handle pressure and makes things extremely ugly on a daily basis. Add to this vacation and even sick time being frowned upon because of continuous deadlines, and things get stressful even if the work is easy/repetitive.
- my visa status and my husband’s is the same and we are each other’s safety net in this volatile job environment. But I am nearing the end of my mettle and was considering going on a dependent visa to work on my passions full time. However this is still just at a stage of analyzing my options. Yes - maybe a knee jerk reaction. But if something can bring one that much peace in chaos - shouldn’t it be pursued more seriously? I realize my visa situation limits my options considerably, and option 1 is just a day dream at this point. If I had the luxury I would have just taken a few months off to grasp all these changes and returned to the workforce. But this is not an option for me.
-rest assured I am aware and very grateful for evrything I have and I will not take any rash decisions. However being grateful does not mean I stop looking for avenues to be happy myself - else that is just a setup for resentment. At this point it appears like a selfish move because the only value addition anybody can account for is monetary - regardless of how that monetary input makes you unbearable or unhappy as a person.
- I think I need to consider a different job for starters.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Sandtrap » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:30 pm

Redot wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:20 pm
These are some great thinking points. Thank you for them! I have some things to add.

-many poeple are unable to understand why I want to quit after just five years work and a Phd. I think some people who have experienced it, understand burn out. It hits you based on your own personality and experiences. One person was kind enough to point out that the toddler years are tough. I think this has coincided with a spiraling job and I just want out. Since my art work has been the only refuge to proved some semblance of mental peace - I feel like turning to it full time when nothing else seems to make sense.
-yes given enough stress, one can fall out of love with a field when the work becomes drudgery. That is why I want to go back to research - to dig up the original interest. My current work is monotonous and also stressful whenever project deadlines appear - I do not mean just 12 hour workdays when deadlines approach on a biweekly basis but also a boss that cannot handle pressure and makes things extremely ugly on a daily basis. Add to this vacation and even sick time being frowned upon because of continuous deadlines, and things get stressful even if the work is easy/repetitive.
- my visa status and my husband’s is the same and we are each other’s safety net in this volatile job environment. But I am nearing the end of my mettle and was considering going on a dependent visa to work on my passions full time. However this is still just at a stage of analyzing my options. Yes - maybe a knee jerk reaction. But if something can bring one that much peace in chaos - shouldn’t it be pursued more seriously? I realize my visa situation limits my options considerably, and option 1 is just a day dream at this point. If I had the luxury I would have just taken a few months off to grasp all these changes and returned to the workforce. But this is not an option for me.
-rest assured I am aware and very grateful for evrything I have and I will not take any rash decisions. However being grateful does not mean I stop looking for avenues to be happy myself - else that is just a setup for resentment. At this point it appears like a selfish move because the only value addition anybody can account for is monetary - regardless of how that monetary input makes you unbearable or unhappy as a person.
- I think I need to consider a different job for starters.
Perfect :D
When will you start looking?
j

Redot
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Redot » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:33 pm

:D already started and applied for some.

Katietsu
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Katietsu » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:46 pm

I recall seeing several studies where job satisfaction was linked to how much control one had over their job. It seems like this lack of control along with a poor manager might be the greatest sources of stress in your job not the actual field.

rgs92
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by rgs92 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:54 pm

Why don't you just kind of Retire In Place at your current job?

Most if not all corporate IT jobs put you in a position where your job is basically impossible and no matter what you do you fail much of the time. You just have to get used to it and ignore it and get numb to it. I did this in telcom for 30 years and everyone there agrees with me. I know the feeling.

But if you just accept it, you can kind of make it into an intriguing game and see how you can go with the flow and be flexible and bend like the palm trees and not break.

There is solace in realizing everyone is in the same boat. Once you realize this you can find peace.
Running away is not the answer. You will be trading one kind of stress (work stress because is a bizarre, political, unproductive, unsupportive environment) for another (financial stress, which is terrible).

Fulfillment in life must come from other sources than work; work is often just a means to an end.

That's what work has become these days. (That's where Dilbert comes from.) But there is contentment in giving up on the ideal of a job you can be proud of and realizing the only goal is a paycheck and survival. But that is a noble goal.

If you are too idealistic, you will suffer terribly from the strain.

A good friend of mine just retired and and told me: it's the end of 40 years of crap. But he made it work and he is happy.

Just keep your head down, don't complain, relax, don't be under any illusion that you can change things, and basically Don't Worry Be Happy. Put a shell around yourself at work. It's just a job. And the job is what you make it.

Don't take it seriously. They don't care about you, and you shouldn't care about them. You are just toiling for the overlords.
Really, you sound like a good, thoughtful person, and you deserve to be good to yourself by prioritizing yourself (and family), and giving work the far lowest priority.

You worked like heck to get a doctorate. You've earned the right to be compensated for it by the corporation just for being there. That's the only attitude to have to survive and thrive. That's what it means to thrive in that environment. How would you feel if you worked really hard for decades there and then they walked you out with no notice? That's what happens very often. Just hang on and don't take it seriously and you will find personal peace and harmony.

And be very careful about the "better" job at lower pay, since all of these jobs can turn into something terrible for a million reasons. And then you have a terrible job AND lower pay and you will feel like you took the lower level job for nothing. The grass is always greener. You never know what the new job is like until you are there, and the job may change right under your feet.

Just forget about your deadlines and do what you can at your own pace and don't lose your cool. Don't be intimidated. Just ignore whomever yells at you. It's their problem, not yours.
Last edited by rgs92 on Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:13 pm, edited 8 times in total.

ge1
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by ge1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:59 pm

There seem to be a few different things going on here.

- Burnout: This seems to be the main issue. The only way to address this is to significantly reduce your workload, both at work and at home. Forget other people's expectations, even your spouse's. You have to keep taking stuff off your plate - until you reach a point where you can breathe again. This is hard and depending on where you are in the process, it may surprise you how little you can manage initially, before you can build up your strength again.

- Job: Its not clear to me if the job really is the problem, or if your exhaustion makes the job the problem. Be honest with yourself, there is obviously a lot in this field that you like otherwise you wouldn't have chosen it. Ideally you are able to decrease your workload within your existing job but I'm not sure if that's possible.

- Visa: I have to admit I don't fully grasp the visa situation. I assume it would be possible to change employers as long as a new employer would sponsor your visa?

Good luck

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by ge1 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:07 pm

rgs92 wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:54 pm
Why don't you just kind of Retire In Place at your current job?

Most if not all corporate IT jobs put you in a position where your job is basically impossible and no matter what you do you fail much of the time. You just have to get used to it and ignore it and get numb to it. I did this in telcom for 30 years and everyone there agrees with me.

But if you just accept it, you can kind of make it into an intriguing game and see how you can go with the flow and be flexible and bend like the palm trees and not break.

There is solace in realizing everyone is in the same boat.
Don't take this the wrong way but this is an incredibly depressing approach to work. I have worked for Mega Corps over 20 years in senior roles and other than 1 year which I hated, I think I pretty much enjoyed going to work every day. If you find something that you are good at and are surrounded by smart and capable people, work can be a very fulfilling place.

Quantumfizz
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by Quantumfizz » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:22 pm

Another thought - Interview a few places just for practice then try to get something you actually want after you are fine tuned (assume at same place for 5 years you have not done interviewing recently?) Use this to practice negotiating salary...you may be shocked to see how much more you can get and how much higher firms might be inclined to increase their offer after you say "no, not high enough." What would a 30% raise do for your retirement goals? Worth some thought maybe.

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rcjchicity
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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by rcjchicity » Mon Jan 08, 2018 10:50 pm

The OP's post resonates with me greatly. I, too, feel overwhelmed with the challenges of raising young children (a preschooler and toddler, in my case) while both of us parents work full-time. I would also describe my job as both monotonous and stressful - it's the same thing over and over, but every day we seem to operate in crisis mode.

My recommendation to the OP is, as many others have suggested, to look for a lower stress job that is more accommodating to your present family life, rather than trying to drop everything for a passion project.

In the past - pre- marriage and kids - I'd fantasized about the idea of ditching the career I'd spent years attaining, to pursue one based on my passions (singing, sommelier, etc.). Glad I never pursued them, as my prospects for making a career were marginal at best. And, as others have pointed out, passions can fade quickly when you depend on them for a paycheck. But, they make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. My 3 year old finds my rendition of "Let It Go" to be riveting, even if no one else ever will :D

Getting back to perspective on the job change option: I recently switched to a new position that I hope - after I get past the learning curve - should mesh better with my family life. But, I don't have any great expectations of it providing fulfillment. It's a paycheck and good benefits. My family and friends are where I derive meaning and purpose. I'm hoping in the near future that I can go part-time, which would even better align my time with my priorities.

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Re: Life at a crossroad: seeking advice

Post by TTBG » Mon Jan 08, 2018 11:07 pm

OP, I'm glad you decided to start looking for another job. There are better bosses out there. Just don't jump at the first thing that comes along; you can afford to take your time and try to find a company with a better culture and a more supportive boss.

Here are some suggestions that have worked for me when I'm trying to figure out if a potential job is a good fit for me:

- I am very suspicious of any company that doesn't have me interview with at least a few of my future co-workers, ie people who report to the same manager I would report to. They should have some say in who gets hired, and I want some idea of who I'll be working with.

- When interviewing w/ future co-workers, at the end I try to ask a few questions to get some insight into the company culture and my future manager. I ask open-ended questions like "what's something you really appreciate about <the manager>'s management style", or "what's the most frustrating thing about <whatever project they talked about in the interview>", etc.

- I always ask questions about the work-life balance thing too. "What's a typical crunch time like here and how often does it happen", "what are the work hours in a typical day", "is there any flexibility in work hours", etc. If they decide I'm not a good candidate because I don't want to work 50-60 hours week, that's ok, because they're right. I don't want to work 50-60 hours a week.

And of course, ask as many questions as you can think of about the technical aspects of the job. You're looking for less monotonous, more meaningful work, so ask questions to help you figure out if that's what they're offering (you could even make that one of your co-worker questions, "what do you find most meaningful about this job" :-) ).

Also, in my personal experience, the bigger the megacorp the more negative the corporate culture. YMMV.

Good luck in whatever you choose to do next!

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