Interesting vs higher paying job

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TheTurtle
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Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by TheTurtle » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:00 am

Hello all,

This might be a question without a precise answer, but I wanted to get different perspectives. Really, I want to hear if anyone here has been in a similar position, and what actions they took.

I am a postdoctoral researcher in a STEM field , getting to the end of my project. I have two options for the immediate future. One is working for a research lab (federal or close enough) in HCOL areas . The other is silicon valley type job (VHCOL). The latter pays significantly higher (2x), but the work is not as interesting to me personally. Govt research job will not be permanent /guaranteed either. It is more technically challenging, but like all research, high risk high reward (the reward being a sense of accomplishment, not money). Taking option 2 would essentially change my career path away from basic research, and it's difficult to come back I guess.

My conundrum is that I am already mid 30s and having spent a lot of time in grad school and as a postdoc, am I just depressing my career trajectory by taking option 1? Still kinda living like a grad student, and at some point I need to think about increasing earnings. Currently with just slightly positive NW, renting and saving for future down-payment. So far always thought doing what I want/enjoy is primary goal, and resisted keeping up with the Joneses. But how does one hold steady when trusted friends and colleagues are saying that I should be realistic and get a real paying job like them. FYI, significant other has job that would not change in scope or pay in either location. Thought of living in silicon Valley is daunting though.Other than that, we're LBYM, and don't really aspire to million dollar mansions and yachts.
Thoughts?

jebmke
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by jebmke » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:08 am

I made a personal commitment early in my career to try to never take a position just for the money.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

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UpsetRaptor
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by UpsetRaptor » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:16 am

I'm the opposite of jebmke, whenever I have a career crossroads decision, I always take the money.
Last edited by UpsetRaptor on Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

thx1138
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by thx1138 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:17 am

The trade off between "interesting" and "not interesting" is of course a very personal thing. I think honestly though you probably need to look at it a bit differently. In my experience people attracted to basic science research have a tendency to overlook the fact that who you work with and the culture of that work environment is often a vastly more important factor in workplace happiness than "interesting" or not. A classic failure at the graduate level is ignoring the pathological tendencies of a potential advisor because they work in an "interesting" sub-field. Later in the career track this manifests itself by those not fortunate enough to have ended up on an upper tier career track to subject themselves to more and more abuse because the work is "interesting" despite the fact they get to do less and less of said "interesting" work and instead just absorb the glow of those nearby actually getting to do that "interesting" work. How severe this problem is (i.e. the percentage of career outcomes that end up on the abuse track) varies widely by STEM field - in some it is extremely bad.

In your case it sounds like you have two good choices, so hurray you are probably in a good career track in your field. I'd look more at the culture and people at the various government/semi-government labs you are interested in compared to the silicon valley options as opposed to just whether the work is "interesting" or not.

You might find that the government labs have a toxic work environment to go with the lower pay and thus the silicon valley option despite being less "interesting" offers a more pleasant work environment and better pay. Conversely you might find the silicon valley environment is just crazy both inside and outside the work place and the combination of less "interesting" work there makes it definitely not worth the additional pay.

I don't have any other specific advice, but I strongly encourage you to evaluate the people and culture of the candidate workplaces and be mindful to give that heavy weight in comparison to just how "interesting" the work is.

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mhc
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by mhc » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:36 am

Making more money doesn't necessarily mean "keeping up with the Joneses." It can also mean early retirement. Many people may think that they will work until they are 65, but a large number of people start losing the ability to work before then.

adamthesmythe
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by adamthesmythe » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:51 am

It sounds like the government job is as a contractor. It would be an easier choice if it was as regular staff. What are the chances of moving to staff?

The government job may be interesting, but the environment and bureaucracy can be soul-destroying.

On the other hand- if you take the other job do so with the personal commitment to find it interesting.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by forgeblast » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:15 am

pension vs non-pension...what would be more valuable.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by RickBoglehead » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:18 am

You need to think about the future as well as the present, and whether going into research will give you enough personal satisfaction to outweigh the earnings satisfaction.

Back when I entered the workforce, my future spouse worked for a major university as a research. My starting salary out of undergrad business school was higher than her boss' salary as head of 20 people after 20+ years in research at a major university...

When I went back to get my MBA, I strongly encouraged my wife to do the same, so that if I was gone she could earn a living. She did, and never looked back.

Ollie123
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by Ollie123 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:03 am

I'm an academic (PhD at a top private university). I routinely vacillate on this same issue, so can relate. Solidly in academia (assistant prof), but considering leaving. Others are right that the bureaucracy can be absolutely soul crushing. I don't really do science anymore. It just seems to be getting worse and worse. I do think we're going to see an implosion at some point with either universities/government research dramatically restructuring and reshaping how they do things or scientists leaving in droves and universities becoming more like extended high schools and not where research takes place. I'm hoping and expecting the former to be the case and reasonably confident this will happen in my lifetime. That said, there are major pros to sticking it out that I would be VERY unlikely to ever find in industry.

Ultimately, I think it boils down to: A) Your personal values; and B) How much you "need" to be satisfied. I'm comfortable with a pretty modest life. I'm in a field that pays fairly well if I succeed (full profs typically making anywhere from 180-300k). The ability to be self-directed and near-complete control over my research topics is worthwhile. The government gig may or may not provide it, but could come with other perks.

Anyways, not sure any of the above is helpful. Consider both present and future options. Generally, its easier to start in academia/government and move to industry than the reverse, though this is starting to change. You could also start in the higher-paying industry and then "slow down" at some point and move back into academia/government if you fend off lifestyle creep. Really just boils down to your goals.

Personally, as long as I'm earning "enough" to save sufficiently and live a life I'm happy with, I can't imagine taking money over interesting work. To each their own though.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by gowri » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:21 am

I rarely post on this site though I visit frequently. But I am compelled to answer this question as I have some experience in this.

I started working in a Mega Corp after my MS and it was interesting job. I stayed in that job for four years and I had consistent growth both in terms of money and responsibility. Then I wanted some other job (say B) which was more interesting. I used to respect people who were doing job B so much, I wanted to be like them one day. You know, working on cutting edge technology, applying for patents, presenting in big conferences. I just wanted all of it. So, it was not just interesting for me, I was crazy about it. I was willing to take a step down in my career to take that job (which meant, I had to spend time ramping on the new role and I was not getting any promotions or big salary increases during that time). I was willing to postpone having children till I get a foothold in that job, I was willing to stay away from my husband (he worked in a different city which was easy for me to move to). My husband willfully agreed to all this he could see how much I wanted it.

I took job B and it turned out to be move that almost devastated my career. It was one of the most toxic environment that I have worked in. Cutting edge technology meant project could be scrapped any time. People were terrified of losing their jobs. They would do anything to look good including sabotaging others. It was not the best ideas that won, it was the ideas of people who had access to upper management. There was so much politics, so many insider groups and they would systematically work to eliminate whoever was a threat to them. Most of the time was spent just doing CYA work and every one was always on the edge.

One Sunday evening, I started crying all of a sudden. I just didn't want to go to work on Monday. I left that job 1.5 years after working there. I didn't get promoted there, I didn't get readily promoted in the new team I joined (as there were already people who were in line for promotion), without promotion, I was just getting 1 - 2 % salary increased. I lost the seniority in my old team, I couldn't even thinking of having children in that stressful atmosphere and I lived away from my husband. My whole life regressed due to this decision. I got some serious PTSD from that I am still recovering from it, three years after I left job B.

Now, I look for balance. I need an interesting job, but how the team functions is very important for me. I would rather do some boring mind numbing job in a team with good people then some world changing job in a team of toxic people. I also have come out of the idea of sacrificing money for interesting work. I want work to be interesting and pay to be good. Those are not mutually exclusive. I don't want to end up in situation where the work is not what I think it is and money is below market for my skills.

I have the opportunity for Job B now again. Person from old team called me and said they are building a brand new team, for brand new project. Old me would jump at that opportunity, but new me is just neutral about that job.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:40 am

There's an interesting thing that happens with a higher monthly income. . . .
Things get more interesting across the board.
Options open up in other areas.
Life get's more interesting.

aloha,
j :D

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Pajamas
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by Pajamas » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:46 am

Seems like you have already decided that one job would be more "interesting" than the other. Based on what, exactly?

If you are fortunate enough to find work that you find very rewarding, do it. That's more important than money in the long run. You might also find yourself even more valuable in a few years that way.

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Smorgasbord
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by Smorgasbord » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:47 am

I'd say a lot depends on the actual salaries of the two jobs, and the higher they are the more I'd go for the interesting work. If the interesting job was $55,000 and the boring job was at $110,000, I'd take the boring job. If the interesting one was at $500k and the boring one was at a million, I'd take the interesting one.

gowri
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by gowri » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:49 am

thx1138 wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:17 am
The trade off between "interesting" and "not interesting" is of course a very personal thing. I think honestly though you probably need to look at it a bit differently. In my experience people attracted to basic science research have a tendency to overlook the fact that who you work with and the culture of that work environment is often a vastly more important factor in workplace happiness than "interesting" or not. A classic failure at the graduate level is ignoring the pathological tendencies of a potential advisor because they work in an "interesting" sub-field. Later in the career track this manifests itself by those not fortunate enough to have ended up on an upper tier career track to subject themselves to more and more abuse because the work is "interesting" despite the fact they get to do less and less of said "interesting" work and instead just absorb the glow of those nearby actually getting to do that "interesting" work. How severe this problem is (i.e. the percentage of career outcomes that end up on the abuse track) varies widely by STEM field - in some it is extremely bad.

In your case it sounds like you have two good choices, so hurray you are probably in a good career track in your field. I'd look more at the culture and people at the various government/semi-government labs you are interested in compared to the silicon valley options as opposed to just whether the work is "interesting" or not.

You might find that the government labs have a toxic work environment to go with the lower pay and thus the silicon valley option despite being less "interesting" offers a more pleasant work environment and better pay. Conversely you might find the silicon valley environment is just crazy both inside and outside the work place and the combination of less "interesting" work there makes it definitely not worth the additional pay.

I don't have any other specific advice, but I strongly encourage you to evaluate the people and culture of the candidate workplaces and be mindful to give that heavy weight in comparison to just how "interesting" the work is.
I should have found you to advice me before changing to an "interesting" job few years back. I would not have to learn it the hard way...

BFive55
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by BFive55 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:02 pm

The last few years at my job has enabled me to do a lot financially.

Before I started I was not in a good financial position.

I've been able to pay off $15,000 in student loans. I saved enough for a 20% down payment on my residence. I then went from low savings to having about 120% of my salary saved in various retirement accounts. Plus my savings account is very healthy (for renovations). I paid off my car a year early. My job also provides a really good pension I am vested in. I don't worry about money at all.

I want to leave. I want to stay in the field but will leave for another job that is more fulfilling in a few ways that it's not right now. I'm planning to leave so I've been saving a bit more than usual because I'll have to take a pay cut.

But the places I'm looking at are also lower cost of living so it might work out.

Money is important but if you can get the high $$$ for like 10-15 years and plan and save to eventually go to the less lucrative but more fulfilling and interesting job... why not?

bh7785
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by bh7785 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:10 pm

UpsetRaptor wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:16 am
I'm the opposite of jebmke, whenever I have a career crossroads decision, I always take the money.
I love your username and avatar! 8-)

Unlike these two, I try to find a middle ground between the money and general enjoyment of the position. Money is important, but I also don't want to be miserable at my job just to make it.

Murgatroyd
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by Murgatroyd » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:13 pm

Having moved 7 times to and from high/ low COL cities has taught us to be very careful. Until you look closely at real costs you may get misled on how much of that 2X salary gets eaten. Look carefully at local and state taxes. Also housing and insurance. To be specific, we moved from the Dallas area to the Chicago area 5 years ago. Same price and size house in a far burb of Chicago had 3000 less in realty taxes and a BIG surprise was 4500 less annually in gas/electric. Offset the state income tax....

Just suggesting a deeper look at finances may help you lean on way or the other.

financeidiot
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by financeidiot » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:25 pm

TheTurtle,

Why do you believe the lower-paying job would be more interesting? Would there be a way to recreate that spark in a higher-paying environment? If you take the lower paying job, how and when would you know it's not what you are expecting?

I'm not of the belief that making one decision early in your career slams the door on all future and potentially interesting opportunities down another path. If you work for one of these organizations for a year or two, and don't like it, you can probably find a similar job later and only lose the one or two years invested. If you go into jobs with open eyes and a curious mind, you'll find what you like, what you don't like, and begin putting together what you need for your perfect situation. Moving down or laterally isn't the end of the world if you do it purposefully.

That having been said, if you haven't spent much time in a professional environment and you're unsure of what's the best fit, go with the money. It's easier to change your mind to make less than to make more.

KlangFool
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by KlangFool » Fri Apr 20, 2018 12:40 pm

OP,

1) Talk to as many people that you can contact in both environments. Find out who will you work with. In most of these cases, the people and environment matter more than anything else.

2) For small decision, I go with my mind. For major decision, I go with my heart. My instincts and gut feeling tend to work a lot better in this kind of decision.

3) My gut feeling tells me that you want to go with job #1.

KlangFool

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by Traveler » Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:42 pm

I live in a MCOL city and earn a decent salary. There is no way I would take only 2X my current salary to move to a VHCOL city - it wouldn't be enough to cover the incremental costs so my lifestyle (and savings) would decrease. Not worth it to me.

golfCaddy
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by golfCaddy » Fri Apr 20, 2018 6:51 pm

I would follow the money.

dogagility
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by dogagility » Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:13 am

TheTurtle wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:00 am
This might be a question without a precise answer, but I wanted to get different perspectives. Really, I want to hear if anyone here has been in a similar position, and what actions they took.

I am a postdoctoral researcher in a STEM field , getting to the end of my project. I have two options for the immediate future. One is working for a research lab (federal or close enough) in HCOL areas . The other is silicon valley type job (VHCOL). The latter pays significantly higher (2x), but the work is not as interesting to me personally. Govt research job will not be permanent /guaranteed either. It is more technically challenging, but like all research, high risk high reward (the reward being a sense of accomplishment, not money). Taking option 2 would essentially change my career path away from basic research, and it's difficult to come back I guess.

My conundrum is that I am already mid 30s and having spent a lot of time in grad school and as a postdoc, am I just depressing my career trajectory by taking option 1? Still kinda living like a grad student, and at some point I need to think about increasing earnings. Currently with just slightly positive NW, renting and saving for future down-payment. So far always thought doing what I want/enjoy is primary goal, and resisted keeping up with the Joneses. But how does one hold steady when trusted friends and colleagues are saying that I should be realistic and get a real paying job like them. FYI, significant other has job that would not change in scope or pay in either location. Thought of living in silicon Valley is daunting though.Other than that, we're LBYM, and don't really aspire to million dollar mansions and yachts.
Thoughts?
Turtle, I was in your boat about 15 years ago so will offer my perspective. Keep in mind this is my experience, and these were my choices based upon my values. Yours may be much different.

Some thoughts:
1) I agree with others saying it is the people you work with (including those who report to you and those who are your leaders) that will have a major effect on how well you enjoy your position. Who will be your mentor and advocate/advise you in each position?

2) It sounds like you are at the soft money (i.e. grant funded position) vs hard money career decision point. I did the soft money thing for about 10 years. Was moderately successful at this but was very turned off by the day-to-day drone of the career... majority of my time was spent writing grants. This was not really the career I wanted and is much, much different than life as a post-doc. Did I have "independence"? Sure, but that independence was usurped by the grant writing.

About 5 years ago, a long-time friend working for MegaCorp lured me to a STEM position on the "dark side". I always envisioned I would have to sell my soul and would be "told what to do" when working in STEM for the man. That's what kept me in academia for so long.

For me, working for MegaCorp has been liberating. This is very specific to each person and may not be your experience. It is liberating because of the culture at my particular MegaCorp (collaborative, wanting to push the science, and smart, engaged coworkers). I don't miss the grant writing treadmill whatsoever. I don't feel intellectually shackled in my current position. Plus, the salary of nearly 2X what I was making in the soft money world is nice!

3) You mention that working for the silicon valley company will not be as interesting as the academic position. While this may be true in your specific situation, I wouldn't make this a blanket statement. While the projects may be different, there can be very challenging and rewarding STEM projects in the private sector. Accomplishments can feel just as good in the private sector as in academic research. Again, it depends on the specifics. I would just advice that you need not be a "drone" in all private sector positions... depends upon the company culture.

4) Whatever decision you make at this point will not be set in stone. You can change paths later too.

Hope this helps and Good Luck! :sharebeer
Taking "risk" since 1995.

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TheFIminator
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by TheFIminator » Sat Apr 21, 2018 5:50 am

You have got to ask yourself the question, what is the main reason I am working? If its to pay the bills and get ahead financially, the follow the higher paying job. If money is not that much of an issue/importance, then follow the interesting job.

It just depends on your motivation. Often people dont even know why they work in jobs they do. So its worth stepping back to figure out what your motivations are.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by MathIsMyWayr » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:16 pm

thx1138 wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:17 am
The trade off between "interesting" and "not interesting" is of course a very personal thing. I think honestly though you probably need to look at it a bit differently. In my experience people attracted to basic science research have a tendency to overlook the fact that who you work with and the culture of that work environment is often a vastly more important factor in workplace happiness than "interesting" or not. A classic failure at the graduate level is ignoring the pathological tendencies of a potential advisor because they work in an "interesting" sub-field. Later in the career track this manifests itself by those not fortunate enough to have ended up on an upper tier career track to subject themselves to more and more abuse because the work is "interesting" despite the fact they get to do less and less of said "interesting" work and instead just absorb the glow of those nearby actually getting to do that "interesting" work. How severe this problem is (i.e. the percentage of career outcomes that end up on the abuse track) varies widely by STEM field - in some it is extremely bad.

In your case it sounds like you have two good choices, so hurray you are probably in a good career track in your field. I'd look more at the culture and people at the various government/semi-government labs you are interested in compared to the silicon valley options as opposed to just whether the work is "interesting" or not.

You might find that the government labs have a toxic work environment to go with the lower pay and thus the silicon valley option despite being less "interesting" offers a more pleasant work environment and better pay. Conversely you might find the silicon valley environment is just crazy both inside and outside the work place and the combination of less "interesting" work there makes it definitely not worth the additional pay.

I don't have any other specific advice, but I strongly encourage you to evaluate the people and culture of the candidate workplaces and be mindful to give that heavy weight in comparison to just how "interesting" the work is.
This is an excellent advice. I've always been fixated on the subject itself while failing or ignoring to look around and beyond it, people and culture. What matters in life is not only the hard one, but also the soft one. I wish I had learned it long time ago.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by CurlyDave » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:33 pm

As a Ph.D. engineer I can tell you that I started out in basic research in school and thought that was a higher and better thing than industrial, applied research and development. But a lot of that was because I had never worked in industry.

Then I got a job in industry and over the years the applied part became more and more interesting to me.

And salaries tend to be "sticky". You do not want to be stuck at low pay for your entire career.

I would take the high paying job #2 and see if it really was a uninteresting. The worst thing that can happen is you will want to go back to basic research, and you will be able to do that in a few years, but at a higher salary than if you had stayed there to begin with. Or, you could decide you like the more applied world and want to stay with it.

quantAndHold
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by quantAndHold » Sat Apr 21, 2018 6:38 pm

What are your career goals? Do you have them? Are they realistic at this point in your life? Is the research job going to further your career, or are you just stalling for time until you eventually move on to something else?

You might read “My Life as a Quant,” by Emmanuel Derman. He’s a PhD physicist who never quite made it as a research scientist, but built an impressive career in finance, using the skills he learned as a scientist.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by jane1 » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:29 pm

I have done the PhD national lab permanent scientist thing as well as Silicon Valley gig and others in between. As others have written, it comes down to what you are passionate about, are you likely to stay engaged/passionate in the field through its ups and downs, do you close/open more doors (do you even care), do you respect the people you work with. It is such a personal choice. I have always chosen what I want to do. More money was never the consideration. For me, the "applied" work was more interesting, I got tired of government funding cycles and wanted to be live in a nicer weather place.
If you are LBYM, you can have a decent lifestyle in Bay Area without spending that much more. Housing and taxes are the largest change. Never looked back and no regrets about leaving the research job.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by VictoriaF » Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:57 pm

- "Interesting" is difficult to evaluate and compare.
- "Money" is easy to evaluate and compare.
==> Thus, if you follow the money, you know what you are getting and you are less likely to deceive yourself.

- An interesting job may turn out to be uninteresting. Or a job that is interesting in the beginning can become uninteresting soon afterwards.
- If you are making good money, the company is not likely to reduce your pay. And every time you change jobs, you can request ever higher pay. (You cannot request ever more interesting jobs.)
==> Thus, your long term prospects are better when you follow the money.

- Ideally, you are paid as much as you are worth. In reality, the amount you are paid is used to judge your worth.
==> Thus, if you take a higher paying job, you will project your higher worth and will be more valued.

- Higher paid employees have better working environments, e.g., private offices instead of shared offices, or offices instead of cubicles, or better cubicles.
==> Thus, with a higher pay, you will get some protection from the workplace stresses.

- Higher paying jobs give you more autonomy and control over your projects.
==> Thus, with a higher paying job, you will have access to more interesting projects.

- In private companies, including Federal contractors, your pay is the ultimate determinant.
- In Federal agencies and universities, lower pay is balanced by job security, health benefits and pensions.
==> Do not confuse Federal contractors with Federal employees! Federal contractors have to compete for contracts. When they don't win contracts they lay off their staff. In order to win contracts they provide low estimates that may make it difficult to meet contract obligations. Some large contractors have long-standing relationships with Federal agencies. But nothing is guaranteed and these relationships are frequently shaken.

My advice:
1. Take a high-paying job.
2. Look for ways to make your job interesting.
3. Continue living modestly and save as much as you can. When you become financially independent you will be able to work on the most interesting self-directed projects.

Victoria
WINNER of the 2015 Boglehead Contest. | Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by MathIsMyWayr » Sat Apr 21, 2018 11:42 pm

The problem OP is facing is, no doubt, a very difficult one. When I started a graduate school, one of the postdocs in our research group was a high energy theoretician. He told me that theoretical physics was like a first love whom he would never forget. Whenever he talked, his eyes were sad. Now, I see sad eyes every morning. When you are at a cross road, you should focus not on what you may gain, but on what you can give up.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by golfCaddy » Sun Apr 22, 2018 1:11 am

adamthesmythe wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:51 am
It sounds like the government job is as a contractor. It would be an easier choice if it was as regular staff. What are the chances of moving to staff?

The government job may be interesting, but the environment and bureaucracy can be soul-destroying.

On the other hand- if you take the other job do so with the personal commitment to find it interesting.
I don't know why anyone would want to be a government employee. Most of the interesting research work is done by contractors/FFRDCs, with the staff primarily functioning as project and contract managers. The pay is poor compared even to government contractors, much less SV industry jobs.

bogglizer
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by bogglizer » Sun Apr 22, 2018 1:13 am

Having gone from academia to industry and then to a job that is both (FFRDC), my suggestion is to go for the higher salary. Making a job interesting is up to you. Which environment is less toxic is something you probably can't find out ahead of time. Taking a lower salary is really just letting others take advantage of you, assuming the two positions require the same skill sets.

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msi
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by msi » Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:31 am

TheTurtle wrote:
Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:00 am
Hello all,

This might be a question without a precise answer, but I wanted to get different perspectives. Really, I want to hear if anyone here has been in a similar position, and what actions they took.

I am a postdoctoral researcher in a STEM field , getting to the end of my project. I have two options for the immediate future. One is working for a research lab (federal or close enough) in HCOL areas . The other is silicon valley type job (VHCOL). The latter pays significantly higher (2x), but the work is not as interesting to me personally. Govt research job will not be permanent /guaranteed either. It is more technically challenging, but like all research, high risk high reward (the reward being a sense of accomplishment, not money). Taking option 2 would essentially change my career path away from basic research, and it's difficult to come back I guess.

My conundrum is that I am already mid 30s and having spent a lot of time in grad school and as a postdoc, am I just depressing my career trajectory by taking option 1? Still kinda living like a grad student, and at some point I need to think about increasing earnings. Currently with just slightly positive NW, renting and saving for future down-payment. So far always thought doing what I want/enjoy is primary goal, and resisted keeping up with the Joneses. But how does one hold steady when trusted friends and colleagues are saying that I should be realistic and get a real paying job like them. FYI, significant other has job that would not change in scope or pay in either location. Thought of living in silicon Valley is daunting though.Other than that, we're LBYM, and don't really aspire to million dollar mansions and yachts.
Thoughts?
The silicon valley job is not AS interesting, or it's not interesting period? If you're going to hate the higher paying job, don't do it. But if it's still stimulating in at least some way, go for the higher paying option.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by J295 » Sun Apr 22, 2018 5:59 am

I didn’t have this choice to make, but if I did I would take interesting over the money.

One choice I did have when I was working, was taking time or money since I was paid in our professional partnership based upon receipts. I chose time and my time away from work was more interesting than my time at the work

student
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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by student » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:02 am

Just a data point. I picked a job that suited me more rather than a job that offered more over twenty years ago. However, I do not have a family to support so it makes things a bit more flexible.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by mouses » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:41 am

The one time I went with the money instead of interesting work, I subsequently regretted it. Life is short, enjoy it.

Besides, Silicon Valley culture has become toxic, from what I hear. Every worst aspect of the 1% from people so young that they have no empathy for others or care for the planet whatsoever.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by jminv » Sun Apr 22, 2018 6:50 am

Taking the money now allows you to save money and then compound it allowing you to do more interesting things later. This is exactly what I did. I'm at a point in my mid-30s where I don't have to work if I don't want to anymore. Alternatively, there are a lot of interesting things you can do with the extra money in the here and now. It's also nice to see how the 'real world' functions, which will probably make you more appreciative of whatever you do for fun in the future.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by plantingourpennies » Sun Apr 22, 2018 8:03 am

VictoriaF wrote:
Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:57 pm
- "Interesting" is difficult to evaluate and compare.
- "Money" is easy to evaluate and compare.
==> Thus, if you follow the money, you know what you are getting and you are less likely to deceive yourself.

My advice:
1. Take a high-paying job.
2. Look for ways to make your job interesting.
3. Continue living modestly and save as much as you can. When you become financially independent you will be able to work on the most interesting self-directed projects.

Victoria
Victoria's point is excellent. Get wealthy first (youth and vigor helps in the begining), and then follow your interests.

By putting off the higher salary until later in your career you'll lose the magic of compounding over time.

As my favorite late 20th century poet said-"Cash Rules Everything Around Me/Get the Money"

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by TheTurtle » Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:29 am

OP here,

Thanks everyone. I think I got a lot of earnest answers from many different perspectives. Did it give me THE ANSWER? No, but I think (as many of you have correctly pointed out) that this is something I need to figure out on my own. I do have a little time to decide so this conversation is extremely helpful. Some important points were brought up here, and I wanted to address them with what information i have right now. As Klangfool noted, I am leaning towards option1 for now. Maybe if it doesn't work out, in a couple of years I will be done with it and leave, but at least I would have tried. I know that I am in a fortunate position where I have the ability to take such a chance.

The work culture and the people matter. I know some of the people I will be working with in either job (this is common in small research communities) and they are reasonable people to work with. I know the culture of the research labs, and I am OK with it. A little slow-moving, but I get my independence. No first-hand experience of the MegaCorp/Silicon valley culture.

The $ differential is something like 90k in HCOL and 150K in Silicon Valley. That's face value, and I know that living in SV cuts the difference down significantly.

This is a very hard-to-quantify point, but I say the first job would be more interesting is because it would allow me to ATTEMPT something that has never been done before. It might fail. The company job would be to make a product that is very useful (not an app), but the challenge is more about making a system that is efficient, useful and marketable.

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by 6miths » Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:06 am

I spent the first half of my career in the 'interesting' job at a prestigious university and the second half in the less 'interesting' high paying job. It is safe to say that my career would have been longer in the 'interesting' job - I would have felt more challenged and satisfied and been in a much more stimulating environment but I also wouldn't have had the means to retire at 52 or been as wealthy money wise. It is hard to say which is better and it probably comes down to personality - do you thrive on being 'where the buck stops' and the Top Gun or do you want to be have the option to retire earlier and potentially have better work life balance (although this is not a given in the less interesting job). Retiring early has given me the option to do many interesting things when I feel the desire and frequently people are insisting that I take payment for doing these interesting things.
'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so!' Mark Twain

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by KlangFool » Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:18 am

TheTurtle wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:29 am

The $ differential is something like 90k in HCOL and 150K in Silicon Valley. That's face value, and I know that living in SV cuts the difference down significantly.

TheTurtle,

They do not pay you well enough to work in the Silicon Valley. So, between 90K versus 150K, you will make more money in the HCOL area.

KlangFool

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Re: Interesting vs higher paying job

Post by golfCaddy » Sun Apr 22, 2018 11:18 am

TheTurtle wrote:
Sun Apr 22, 2018 9:29 am
OP here,

The $ differential is something like 90k in HCOL and 150K in Silicon Valley. That's face value, and I know that living in SV cuts the difference down significantly.
Are those numbers straight salary or total comp, including possible bonuses, RSUs/options, and 401k matching? What's the difference in health care costs?

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