Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Robert Johnson, Hire Me! (Re-Released)

I seem to be at another career crossroads. I have talked to the folks at BAE Systems and may be in line for a job as Senior Proposal Manager.

On the up side, I would get a “senior” in my title and there would be an immediate bump in pay – not much, but a bump nonetheless. I would work with some great people on important projects, and my office would be oh-so-much closer to home.

On the downside, I would be under the thumb of another Neal, and I’ll have to start at the bottom of the company totem pole yet again – not desirable! Plus, I would pretty much seal my fate as a proposal guy. That is, unless I eventually go for my own gig, I would be a proposal guy probably for the rest of my career. Of course, if I am going to be a proposal weenie, having the kind of government experience afforded by BAE would invaluable. They do hard-core DOD proposals, which would put me in good proposal stead anywhere.

On the other hand, what if I stay where I am? I expect a bump in pay in the next 6 months or so, bringing me to between 96K and 98K. I could also lobby for a bonus and maybe reel in an additional $500 or $1000. I work in a fun environment in a company that is going public within the next year or so, which presents many financial and perhaps also career opportunities, or so I am told.

The downside is that I see myself getting ever more pigeon-holed as a support guy rather than a leader, as administration rather than management. The commute is so-so: I have had worse, and it may even be better than SimplexGrinnell. I worry that I will never get a chance to move up and be a real corporate leader here. My lack of business experience and knowledge really sticks out here, as does my introverted temperament.

Yet, the longer I stay, the better chance I have of doing some great things, so long as I push for it. If I am silent, MBAs will come in and take the roles I want (whatever they are – I don’t even know!).

So, my choice boils down to: (a) stay and fight for more – a gamble – or (b) leave and resign myself to what I have. If I remain where I am, I have the chance to forge my own path and get the kind of cutting-edge business experience that may be very helpful later on. If I move to BAE, I have the chance to gain some useful experience and position myself as a real proposal manager, which is a position of strength.

The real issue is whether I am on a path to doing the work I want to do – the work that has the money, prestige and excitement I crave – or a path of repeated frustration in my career. Am I giving in to “grass is greener” syndrome and being foolish, or making a smart decision? This is what I cannot seem to resolve within myself. I am always and constantly dissatisfied with where I am, what my title is, how much money I make, what kind of authority I have. It’s a destructive mode of thinking. But let’s look at this objectively:
  1. Strength against strength: Senior-level and real government versus advancement potential and general business exposure. Advantage: Leave.
  2. Weakness against weakness: No autonomy and steady-state versus little authority and significant risk. Advantage: Stay.
  3. Strength against weakness: Senior-level and real government versus no autonomy and steady-state. Advantage: Stay.
  4. Wildcards: A $105K paycheck, more autonomy than I imagine, better benefits, a sense of future leadership.
Conclusion: I should move forward with an interview, full-speed, and get a better sense of the opportunity and the company. If it’s not right, I’ll stay where I am. But I should also start talking with Bob and getting more active in fashioning the role I want to play in the future.

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