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Balancing Career/Family Decisions


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#1 YMZ PE

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 05:58 AM

For those of you who've made a career decision in the interest of your family, I'd like your thoughts on how you came to the decision that you did, e.g. what questions you asked prospective employers, values you considered most important in your life, external factors that influenced your decision, etc. Also the consequences of that decision.

My own situation is that I currently have a very satisfying career at a major consulting firm, but I recently got an offer from a government agency. The job (and government pacing) doesn't exactly appeal to me, but my husband insists I get into the public sector so I can be less stressed and "be there more" our two little ones as they get older. He's a consulting engineer as well. Anyway, I'm not asking for advice on my situation, just want to know the thought process that other people in similar situations have gone through.

#2 frazil

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 12:08 PM

It bothers me that your husband "insists" you change jobs when you're very happy with the one you have. Would it be possible to cut back your hours and remain at the same job?


#3 envirotex

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 01:54 PM

I don't see how taking a government job would give you more freedom and flexibility...Usually (and in my case), consulting allows more flex-time than rigid schedules set by government jobs. Private consulting also allows more custom tailoring of benefits...say you want to work from home 2 days a week, there's probably a way you can bargain with your employer to get that (give a part of your raise, or just asking could do the trick). With the government job, that might not even be allowed in the discussion.

Granted the stability of the 8-5 everyday plus holidays is easy to plan around, but again in my case I have enjoyed the ability to say "I can't make the 3:15 meeting because I'm carving pumpkins with my kid at school" or "I am driving to Podunk to watch my kid play football."

If you have a different perspective, I'd be interested in hearing it...

#4 snickerd3

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 02:10 PM

unless you get an understanding boss, public sector work is quite rigid. There really isn't that much flexibility, just routine.

think about what makes you happy. because you will be doing the same thing day in and day out.

#5 kevo_55

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 02:17 PM

I work in the consulting world and I totally agree that you have the ability to change your working schedule a bit more than working in the public sector.

Maybe I'm reading into this more than what is really going on but why are you being asked to change jobs?

#6 VTEnviro

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 02:36 PM

As for less stressed, I don't see it. Consulting work has the stress of having to pull some long nights and weekends to make deadlines and keep the clients happy, I'll grant you that. I knew people that went into the public sector after college. If you just wanted to skate by and coast along, it was fine. But if you were a hard worker and had new ideas how to do things differently, you ended up seeing no rewwards for it and having your ideas squashed. I knew a lot of people that were mierable doing public work.

Plus there is no guarantee public sector work won't downsize just like the private sector.

Is your husband subconsciously worried you will make more money than him?

#7 willsee

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:12 PM

I could never work public sector. My wife on the other hand loves it due to the rules and rigid structure (she grew up the daughter of USPS workers)

#8 knight1fox3

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:27 PM

frazil, envirotex, snickerd3, kevo_55, VT_Enviro, willsee -------> AGREED! Well said. :thumbs:

- private sector worker

#9 YMZ PE

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:29 PM

I gave a very brief description of my situation which, reading back on it, makes my hubby sound like a jerk. That's not it at all; I just tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and he thinks a different type of environment would help me relax more and not put work ahead of the family, which i sometimes do.

Thanks for your input so far. Has anyone else made a decision like this before?

#10 willsee

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:37 PM

I gave a very brief description of my situation which, reading back on it, makes my hubby sound like a jerk. That's not it at all; I just tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and he thinks a different type of environment would help me relax more and not put work ahead of the family, which i sometimes do.

Thanks for your input so far. Has anyone else made a decision like this before?


I don't think switching jobs will change that. It sounds like that is just your personality (as it is most people on this board). My wife is like that and has worked 6 different jobs since we've been married (only married 3 years) and she is the same at all of them (high stress). She is just wired that way.

#11 Peele1

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 04:27 PM

There are pros and cons each way. If you are quantitative, make a pros/cons list for each.
Here in the DC area, gov jobs are quite flexible, with flex Fridays, alternating/shifting schedules, telework and such. For just about any snow these days, they declare liberal leave and liberal telework. Some departments have mandatory telework days. Given that rush hour is 6-9 AM and 3-7PM, and traffic is terrible from 9am-3pm, just about every business has flexible scheduling.

You may find that your holidays and vacation and sick leave days increase a lot with the government. Also, the gov generally doesn't have as wide of anti-competitive and no-compete work clauses, so you could continue to do consulting. I work at a university, and I can consult with no issues on the no-compete clauses.

#12 Dexman PE

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 05:00 PM

I started my career as a field engineer for a heavy highway contractor. It was fine as long as it was only me and my wife, as the "typical" workload was 12hrs per day, 6 days a week. Once my son was born, I switched to a private consulting firm. I had to take a paycut to make this switch, but I was able to provide the "face time" for my new family.

At the private consulting firm, I had a very flexible schedule, typically a 8-4, M-F type job. The work was "feast or famine" in that some weeks would be spent entirely on eb.com spamming with nothing else productive going on and others would be long hours, weekend, insane deadlines, etc. Once the land development side of things really started to slow down and even the publicworks jobs slowed down, more and more time was spent on the "famine" side where several of us were on the verge of being laid off. Honestly, the lack of work provided more stress than when we had the insane deadlines largely due to the uncertainty of where my income would be coming from in the coming weeks.

Luckily I ended up finding a great position with a quasi-govt job. Here I do the construction management that I love, without the insane hours. Plus because it's govt, it comes with the stability of hours and work schedule and stable benefits. The field office I work in has provided a ton of flexibility so that I can still go to my kids' school activities. I know this position is even harder to find than a "typical" govt job, but I know they're out there.

Each of my decisions to change jobs were based on being able to provide for my family. Whether that change was to provide more face time, or to provide better benefits and stability (less stress). It's not to say I don't still get stressed from time to time, but I really do enjoy the stability my govt job provides.

#13 EnvEngineer

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 08:39 PM

I am in a similar situation with my wife, I have not insisted that she find another job, since I know it is a issue with her and not the job. I feel that she spend too much time at her work (public sector job) at the expense of our family. I can see why that is so attractive, at work she is highly respected and her time is in great demand. At home we love her but she is mom.

What I would say if your workplace (and it is really your workplace) is impacting your family life then a job change may be in order. But if you are causing this impact, then you will probably need to seek another solution.

I am not sure how much flack I will get with the following statement but here it is. I personally (that is me not you) have never never worked with anyone (over 28 years as a engineer) that was considered a workaholic, that had a good family life. My personal feeling is they wanted to be in the office more than at home and arranged their life that way.

#14 frazil

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 08:59 PM

I am not sure how much flack I will get with the following statement but here it is. I personally (that is me not you) have never never worked with anyone (over 28 years as a engineer) that was considered a workaholic, that had a good family life. My personal feeling is they wanted to be in the office more than at home and arranged their life that way.

At first when I read this I thought of some "Workaholics" I know, and completely agreed (A-type, always stressed, constantly travelling, never home). But then I thought of a lot of other people I work with who are absolutely dedicated to their jobs, love the work they do and put a lot of time into it, who have also managed to create a very good work-life balance. So I don't think loving your job necessarily means having to (or wanting to!) avoid your family.

this is a good thread, and it's been brought up here before. It's a very tough thing to sort out, particularly when the kids are young. When I graduated I had two offers: one for a public sector engineering job, and one for a business consulting job (which paid about $20K more). I chose the engineering job because I didn't want to travel every week and work 60-80 hours and I was ready to start a family. (Also because I wasn't interested in business) But mostly I chose this job because I was really excited about the work. If you like your job now, and are not excited about the new job then it doesn't seem like a good fit to me.

#15 ptatohed

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 09:20 AM

For those of you who've made a career decision in the interest of your family, I'd like your thoughts on how you came to the decision that you did, e.g. what questions you asked prospective employers, values you considered most important in your life, external factors that influenced your decision, etc. Also the consequences of that decision.

My own situation is that I currently have a very satisfying career at a major consulting firm, but I recently got an offer from a government agency. The job (and government pacing) doesn't exactly appeal to me, but my husband insists I get into the public sector so I can be less stressed and "be there more" our two little ones as they get older. He's a consulting engineer as well. Anyway, I'm not asking for advice on my situation, just want to know the thought process that other people in similar situations have gone through.


I would pick the job (or make the possible changes) that would allow you to be with your family more (or less stressed so that you are "there" when you are there), as possible. Your kids/family are #1. Just my opinion. Good luck.

#16 YMZ PE

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 12:36 PM

Thanks again for your input everyone. Especially Dexman, I'm glad to hear there are government jobs out there that break the mold. In the end, I decided to accept the government job after talking with their hiring manager and finding out the position is much more suited to my taste than my first impression. This was after my current employer offered me a promotion, big pay raise, and the opportunity to telework. The fact is, I feel more accomplished from sleeping, spending time with the kids, and cleaning the house than from any major proposal or report I've ever submitted.

Plus I just got off work at 4am for the second time this week. That didn't do my current company any favors.

#17 ptatohed

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Posted 14 January 2012 - 08:28 PM

Thanks again for your input everyone. Especially Dexman, I'm glad to hear there are government jobs out there that break the mold. In the end, I decided to accept the government job after talking with their hiring manager and finding out the position is much more suited to my taste than my first impression. This was after my current employer offered me a promotion, big pay raise, and the opportunity to telework. The fact is, I feel more accomplished from sleeping, spending time with the kids, and cleaning the house than from any major proposal or report I've ever submitted.

Plus I just got off work at 4am for the second time this week. That didn't do my current company any favors.


Good for you MZ.




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