Looking for some career advice -- I’m basically torn between leaving my current state government job (a job I got right out of college) and going into the private sector / consulting. I’m located in the US, on the west coast. As far as the reason why – mostly just to see if the grass is greener on the other side, but also just for new challenges. Just looking for some perspective from those that have been faced with similar choices.
A little information about me to start:
- Bachelor degree in CS
- Mid-30s (career switch)
- About four years into my career
- Job description is a basically a DBA/Database Developer/.NET developer, predominately on the database side of things
My instincts say that I have a pretty good gig where I’m at. It does seem like job salaries out there in the private sector for this work can be gaudier, but I’m not sure it outweighs the other benefits.
What I consider the ‘perks’ of my current job:
- 40 hour work week; I work 50 hours in a week maybe a few times a year (and it’s paid to me in vacation time, hour for hour over 40hrs)
- Very flexible schedule (can work four 10 hour shifts, four 9 hour shifts and a 4, whatever).
- Good co-workers, talented and not lazy (for the most part – definitely some older, cantankerous folks and some others I wonder how they got in the door)
- Not a pressure cooker, things move at a good clip, but rarely do I go home stressed out. Not expected to be married to your phone after 5pm (though I do commonly check emails and sometimes perform maintenance tasks off hours).
- Very little travel
- Full medical/dental/vision, pay about $15/month of the $1400 a month premium (and lots of Union pressure to keep it low)
- Defined Benefit Plan (Pension): it’ll cover 45% of my final salary (guaranteed, for life) if I work 30 years for the government (I’m 6 in), another piece of that covering 15% - 20% (can vary – I contribute monthly, no match) and an opportunity to make my own contributions (403b plan) to supplement the rest.
- 11 paid holidays, 15 paid vacation days, 12 paid sick days – and not very much drama or resistance to utilizing it. Vacation accrual rate goes up every five years of employment.
- Strong union, protects job and benefits, advocates for upward mobility in wages
- Wage growth based on tenure, all salary increase contracted up front. Typically about a 2% - 4% cost of living increase each year to help keep pace with inflation.
I am making about 70k four years into my career. That seems pretty good, but I see jobs with comparable amounts of experience (though mostly in more desirable areas) paying 90k+. As I said, wage growth is based on tenure , so there is really no negotiating a higher salary, but unless you’re really messing up they have to give you that bump each year until you top out at your position.
My current position if I just stayed in it would top out at about 94k in four years – after which I’d receive cost of living increases (maybe 2% to 4% a year) until I retire (not actually guaranteed, but historically paid in most years). I fully expect to move up into the higher senior positions in the next year or two, where best case scenario, I’d top out at about $113k in 4 years based on modest estimates and then receive those cost of living increases after that.
Am I an idiot to even be thinking of looking elsewhere? Could I find even find another job with a 40 hour work week that pays 80k – 100k? Do salaries in the private sector keep pace with inflation over a long period of time/supplemented through mechanisms like bonuses? Will those cost of living adjustments cancel out any salary gains in the private sector in the long-run?