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(CINDERS McLEOD FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
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NINE TO FIVE

Should I quit my cushy job for a challenging one? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

Let me start by saying I have “good problems” – a choice between two, full-time, permanent jobs. On the surface, the problem seems which to choose. But dig deeper and the real issue is a matter of principle.

After a rather difficult year, I took a leave from my career in media to try out media relations. I landed in a public service job with great benefits, a pension, perks and great people. But the work leaves me hollow. Days go by with nothing to show.

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My media gig, on the other hand – the one I have the option of returning to – is stressful to say the least, with less pay and perks. Plus, the people can be very cranky under all that pressure.

Some say I should relish the security of a stable, stress-free job. Others say I’m young enough to risk plunging back into an intense, unforgiving, but personally satisfying career.

Should we stand by our principles if it means giving up the solid and secure?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Pamela Jeffery

Founder, Women’s Executive Network, Toronto

I have to agree, you are in an enviable position of having to choose between two career paths. I’m not so sure, however, your struggle is a matter of principle. Without knowing how what you are doing today is different than what you used to do, it’s hard to know what principle it is you think you would be standing for if you were to return to your old job.

That said, the starting point for your decision lies with your reasons for leaving your previous job. Will the causes of that stress still be there should you choose to return? What has changed other than you now have had the experience of working in the public sector?

I encourage you to take a step back and think about what is important to you. . Put pen to paper and list the pros and cons of both jobs, as well as how those jobs align with your values and personal goals.

If this really is about a passion to work in media, then that’s great, but that doesn’t mean you have to return to a company that wasn’t a good personal fit. Start exploring other media companies that may provide a better work environment. The real benefit here is that you can start your job hunt from a place of financial security and with the knowledge of what it’s like to work on both sides of the media landscape.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Sheila Copps

Former deputy prime minister

In the current job climate, you are lucky to have these “good problems.” However, I am puzzled by a few aspects of your reflection. In your letter, you say you left your media job because of stress and cranky work colleagues. You characterized your former career choice as “unforgiving but personally satisfying.” You have not explained whether the circumstances which prompted your leave-taking have changed.

Before you give up a job that provides better pay, perks, pension and people, you need to try to enhance your current career challenges. If your daily routine leaves you empty, you need to tackle the narrow scope of your workload. Perhaps your supervisor is labouring under the impression that you already have enough on your plate.

Schedule a meeting with your boss to share your concerns. Speak frankly. Let him or her know that you are not just willing to take on more responsibility, you are itching for it. The public service wants to recruit and retain talented, ambitious employees. An early word to the wise could recalibrate your workload and future career path.

You might also enlist your boss’s support for some in-house professional development to enhance your skill sets, whatever your future plans.

If, at the end of one year, nothing has changed and you still feel bored, make the move. But I would caution you against simply returning to the job you previously abandoned. There are other media and public service opportunities that could offer positive, personal and professional enhancement.

A good job should fulfill you. And a decent employer should offer you interesting work and commensurate remuneration. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to mailto:ninetofive@globeandmail.com..

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