Career Advisor by Edgar Saadi

Regretting your job change, moving beyond your job title, and avoiding the ruins of wishful thinking

This month: A Boston bilingual who's blue for Brazil, a troubleshooter who's stuck in development, and a Unix administrator who's reached his salary cap and longs for a life in consulting

March  1998
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Edgar offers advice about sticking it out for a little while, even if your new job isn't so great; how to break through those steel walls you or your boss may have created; and making a career move that won't land you in the occupational gutter. (1,200 words)

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Dear Edgar,

Until recently, I had a job in the booming telecommunications industry in Brazil. It was a wonderful opportunity with a company I really liked.

They trained me well. I earned enough certificates and experience that now I can compete with a pretty technical crowd. Then I relocated and took what seemed like another great job, but admittedly one of the first that came along. Now I miss speaking Portuguese, traveling to Brazil, and working with the teams from Latin America. Honestly, the cultural aspect was my true love. Now that I've abandoned it, I don't see a way out. It seems there aren't as many opportunities for bilingual people in the Northeast as there were in the South, and I'm afraid to leave my current job too soon for fear I'll appear unstable.

Any thoughts?

Sleepless in Boston

Dear Sleepless,

Whenever you start a new job, there is some regret for aspects of the life you've left behind. You happen to miss the language and culture. Sometimes it's the people, Casual Fridays, or the short commute. Try to focus on what you do like at this new place. After four, five, or six months you'll know if it's truly not for you.

So, stick it out for a little while. See what this job has to offer. Pick up some skills, try to advance your position, and make an effort to move forward. You seem pretty sure that the current situation isn't what you want, but try to make it into something that you like.

If finding a position that entails speaking Portuguese and involving yourself with Latin American culture is really not feasible in Boston, and you've determined that's your true love, you may indeed have to find a job in a different region and relocate. In that case, you will have to begin looking elsewhere, talking to friends, and perhaps talking with a headhunter. Just be careful that this dissatisfaction doesn't obsess you and reflect itself in the quality of your work. The work you do today will be crucial in gaining you the next position you want.

Good luck.


Moving beyond your job description

Dear Edgar,

I've been developing applications in Unix and C for almost five years. Now, I'm interested in making a career for myself in systems security, firewalls, networking, etc. I've done a little sysadmin work, and I like troubleshooting the best.

I asked my manager if I could make the switch, but he said I'm a programmer, and the company has enough qualified sysadmins right now. Sometimes, I think I should just stay put.

Please advise.

Troubleshooter at heart

Dear Troubleshooter,

When I was a young man, I worked as a waiter, but I really wanted to tend bar. I liked chatting with the clientele and mixing drinks. When I asked management about it, however, they said I was hired to wait tables, and they had enough people working the bar.

I asked one of the bartenders there -- a friend of mine -- and he said, "The best way to do the kind of work you want to do is to just do it." It sounded simplistic and unrealistic at the time, but slowly sunk in.

I began arriving early to help stock the bar and cut fruit. When times were slow, I'd ask how to make a certain drink. And whenever there were private parties or an extra bartender was needed, I let it be known that I was available. I was finally given a couple shifts and performed well. Soon, regulars were asking why I wasn't behind the bar. Not long after that, I was.

Who's doing security and troubleshooting at your company? Have you met them? Are there ever openings in that department? Do you study up on security issues in your own time?

Most companies have pretty clear agendas when it comes to their employees: they want them to do what they were hired for and what they're good at doing. But if you have initiative, there are no steel walls binding your job description. If you get in there and show your abilities and enthusiasm in the area that really interests you, down the line they may not have any other choice but to change your title.

"Make yourself indispensable," my friend said, "and they'll have no choice."

False hopes?

Dear Edgar,

I'm a Unix administrator in a medium-size Midwestern metro area. I have an EE degree and am three years out of school. I feel that I've hit a salary cap at $60,000. I need to strike out on my own if I'm to continue advancing.

I recently became friends with a professor at a local university. He has tentatively offered me a position as a part-time instructor. This professor also runs a thriving consulting business on the side, and I'm hoping that he will be my mentor in augmenting or replacing my day job with my own consulting work.

However, the money from the position is negligible compared to the value of my time. I also despise working with unmotivated students.

I'm in a quandary. Is this the logical next step or a tangent that will harm my career?

In a quandary

Dear Quandary,

Taking the teaching job based on the hope that it will lead to a job in the professor's consulting business is a risky move and may very well lead you down a blind alley.

Contact the professor and mention your interest in going into consulting. It's best that you apply directly for the job you want. If he says that he would like to work with you first and suggests that it may lead to a consulting position, perhaps you can manage to do the part-time job in the evenings, and not quit your current job. Let him know what you're looking for and where you would like to go.

Without a clear path into your next position, you could find yourself with a part-time, low-paying teaching position and no immediate prospects for the future -- just the ruins of wishful thinking.


About the author
[Edgar Saadi's photo] Edgar Saadi is senior vice president of Pencom Systems Inc., the largest open systems/advanced systems recruiting firm in the U.S. He specializes in guiding advanced systems careers and helping employees explore all staffing alternatives. Reach Edgar at

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