Q. I was laid off 18 months ago from a job in the financial services industry, and have been looking for a full time position ever since. After months of looking, I took a contract position for 24-hours a week at a start up in a new industry and continued my job search. Part time seems to work for me even with the loss of almost half my paycheck; I have lots of flexibility, and can work from home or the office, which helps with child care issues. This summer I interviewed with a financial services company for a job a bit more junior to the one I had. The company said they liked me, but wanted to bring me in at a more senior level when that job opened up. I wasn’t even sure if I should believe that, and I continued my job search, and to contract. Well, the financial services company did mean it, and after five interviews, they offered me a full time position. So why am I confused about what I really want to do now and whether I should take the offer?
A. Congratulations are in order, no matter what you decide to do! Getting an offer is terrific, and finding a good contract also shows you have developed skills to sell yourself to hiring managers. You had a goal 18 months ago, and that was to replace what you lost – a full time job in an industry you knew. Being a resourceful and resilient person, when that goal couldn’t be met in the right timeframe, you added an interim goal – earn money! Many people have added that very same goal, and have found interim opportunities. Some of these opportunities have more to offer than others, and many job seekers are continuing to re-evaluate their initial career goals as the market changes as they gain new experiences.
As you look at where you are today, have your personal and career goals changed? You wanted secure work in the financial services sector. You wanted to replace your compensation. You had hoped to cut down your commute. At that time, those goals were so significant that you may not have thought much about alternatives, but when you were forced to rethink your situation; you came up with what you believed were short term goals, until your real goals started to work out. In the meantime your life and work experience changed. You have gained experience in a new industry whose outlook seems more promising to you. You find that you can cope with the loss of part of your income – which you were sure was not realistic, and the benefits of a flexible schedule seem to be better than you could have imagined. You are in the enviable position to have benefits through your spouse, and the loss of your retirement account, while significant, can be contributed to in other ways.
Now is the time to develop new goals, and test out a new reality. Some people look at their personal and professional goals on an annual basis. Others revise them based on life events, and still others see their goals after they meet them – or don’t. So after you develop these goals, evaluate the reality of your situation to see if what it offers can meet your goals.
How secure is your contract? How long do you anticipate the organization continuing to use your services? Do you anticipate a greater need for your services? Is there another way they might find to meet the responsibilities you currently cover? Job security is defined in many ways, and the more accurate information you have from your contract employer, the better. You may not want to turn down an offer without knowing what the longer term potential is for your contract. How long can you cope with the reduced income? In an accurate budget, have you forecast the number of months or years until something changes and your need for a greater income will materialize? Try to figure out what the circumstances would be that might make you regret either decision, and realistically assess the timeframe. The job outlook is improving slowly. Perhaps you are willing to take the risk that the contract offers you a more challenging future, and meets your current goals.
The options are here, and the choice is yours. Different people, based on their own personal goals and needs would most likely make different choices – all of them are right ones.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.