Help please! Making a good choice between two jobs

post by cjb230 · 2013-07-10T11:23:31.177Z · score: 2 (9 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 32 comments

After about three months of unemployment, today I have been told I will receive two different job offers. Obviously I want to make a decision that maximises my utility, but there are some difficult-to-quantify factors involved. Can anyone suggest a useful or clarifying perspective on the choice? What questions should I be asking myself?

As background, I'm a 36-year old male techie based in the UK. What I would really like to do is build my own startup, or join a startup that I think has good prospects. However, having done that twice, and nearly bankrupted myself twice, I need to get a financial cushion under myself before trying again. For the sake of my CV, I think I need to stay in my next role for at least 18 months. After that, I hope to be able to try something entrepreneurial again, but I want to stay employable in technology as a financial safeguard. 

One job is in London, and will certainly pay more. I have many friends there, and a social network I can get back in to straight away. The pool of women I am interested in dating is much bigger there. The job itself will allow me to improve my skills, but probably not broaden them; there are very skilled people there that I can learn from. With this job, I fear being bored, and getting more and more specialised in a skill that is getting less popular.

The other job is in Glasgow. It will pay less, probably by about £15k. The cost of living difference, after tax, will probably be bigger than this - I expect I will have more money in my pocket with this job than with the London job. I only know two people living in Glasgow, so I will need to make new friends and get a new social life. Dating prospects are probably less good, but I don't know by how much. The job itself looks more interesting, and I can broaden my skills. The job market I am in will probably be more open to me after I take this job. With this job, I fear getting depressed due to isolation, and also the long-term effect of accepting a pay cut - if I worked in London again later, would I be able to negotiate my salary back up?

Cost aside, London is a better location. It has more of everything I am interested in (including a LW meetup group!). Location and pay aside, the job in Glasgow is better. I expect it will be more interesting, and will make it less likely that I'll be unemployed in the future.

I don't know how to weight these factors up properly. What mistakes in judgement do I need to avoid? What approaches can I take to make the decision easier to make correctly?

32 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-07-10T11:53:54.300Z · score: 28 (30 votes) · LW · GW

The obvious choice is London.

Also this: Nf n svefg ernpgvba, qvq frrvat guvf nafjre znqr lbh unccl be haunccl? Vs vg znqr lbh unccl, gur nafjre vf Ybaqba. Vs vg znqr lbh haunccl, gur nafjre vf Tynftbj.

comment by Benito · 2013-07-10T16:39:27.045Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

I was wondering how you could possibly have written anything that required rot13.

Thanks for surprising me.

comment by cjb230 · 2013-07-10T12:41:26.125Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

You make a good point.

I am more scared of the Glasgow job, as it seems to be the higher-risk, higher-reward option. That also means that I can regret it to a disproportionate degree, by concentrating on the potential rewards without properly factoring the risks in. Sometimes I hate my brain.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-14T01:04:43.462Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sometimes I do do the ‘flip a coin, then decide based on how you feel about the outcome’ thing, but I feel indifferent or ambivalent even after seeing what the coin says, in which case I default to obeying it.

comment by ThisSpaceAvailable · 2013-07-16T05:05:36.576Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If anyone is torn between curiosity and worrying that there might be a good reason for the rot13, the justification for it applies mainly to cjb230.

comment by elharo · 2013-07-10T15:40:46.061Z · score: 13 (13 votes) · LW · GW

If you're seriously considering Glasgow, tell them you have a better offer and they need to beat it.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-10T20:12:01.574Z · score: 10 (10 votes) · LW · GW

See also Patrick McKenzie's post on salary negotiation for engineers.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2013-07-10T21:43:20.750Z · score: 14 (14 votes) · LW · GW

Remember that what you say during your salary negotiation has probably more impact on your future salary than all the great stuff you will do during the following ten years. Sometimes one sentence can increase your salary by 100%.

Or you can work extra hard during the whole year to finally increase your salary by 1-2%. Your choice.

comment by buybuydandavis · 2013-07-11T02:21:16.859Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Good point. With two offers that you're actually indifferent between, you should ask for more money from at least one of them.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-10T19:36:14.900Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

He could tell London this too, not too much difference there. Asking for more money is expected of one when given a job offer(In the United States anyway, I doubt it is different in the UK.).

comment by bentarm · 2013-07-10T18:08:33.767Z · score: 9 (11 votes) · LW · GW

Will you able to be able to live near where you work in London? In Glasgow, you will almost certainly be able to afford to live in a nice place in the city centre where you can walk to work. People usually underestimate how much effect a long commute will have on their happiness (see e.g. here).

Also, you might consider trying this. If you're still unsure, chances are the expected value of the two options is pretty close, and you shouldn't worry too much about how you make the decision.

Disclaimer: I am in Glasgow, and would like to increase the population of LW-type people looking to make new friends who are here, so I'm probably biased.

comment by John_Maxwell_IV · 2013-07-11T04:18:47.502Z · score: 4 (6 votes) · LW · GW

People usually underestimate how much effect a long commute will have on their happiness (see e.g. here).

I've started studying Anki cards on my commute, which seems to be working well.

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2013-07-11T20:14:45.544Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This. I get most of my studying done on the train. The detrimental commute is driving (though it can be much ameliorated with audiobooks). A nice train commute is an asset enough for me to prefer it over no commute (however it is expensive).

comment by Morendil · 2013-07-12T10:18:03.799Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

A nice train commute is an asset enough for me to prefer it over no commute (however it is expensive).

You prefer X minutes of your time that you are forced to spend in the company of strangers, aboard a moving vehicle, over spending the same X minutes in the comfort of your own home doing the same activity?

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2013-07-12T17:18:21.919Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Yes.

  • The train is probably nicer than you imagine.

  • I have 3 active little boys in the house. I love them, but they are hard to concentrate around.

  • Being aboard a moving vehicle might have a positive mental effect. I hear Tolstoy used to work on trains. I believe there were some well known physicists who did likewise, but can not recall the names.

comment by bentarm · 2013-07-12T22:21:59.227Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The detrimental commute is driving

Is this actually true? I asked on this month's open thread, but didn't get a response. Has it been properly studied?

comment by Dr_Manhattan · 2013-07-13T00:37:20.468Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I'm sorry I might have overstated my case a bit. Crowded subway commute is not fun either. My basic point is "it depends" and usually enough value rides on these decisions to look into details. Long car commutes generally suck (until we go driverless). Trains can be good or bad.

comment by cjb230 · 2014-11-02T01:06:12.137Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I came to Glasgow, but forgot about this thread... Do you want to do a micro-meetup? I'm cjamesb230@googlemail.com, or james.barton14 on Skype.

comment by [deleted] · 2013-07-10T13:40:48.589Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Every job is the job before the next job. The age of careers is long gone. My grandfather and my father got jobs (singular) and toughed them out for decades. I am not able to list all the jobs I've had. Technology jobs are all the more mercurial. Some of the best opportunities in life come from being in the right place to have semi-random encounters (see The Luck Factor PDF). If these claims are not false, the choice might be more clear to you now.

comment by palladias · 2013-07-10T17:50:00.381Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Personally, I strongly weight city/friends in job decisions. The job is 8hrs of my life. The environs and people I enjoy it with influence all the other time (less sleeping). Having friends in the area is a multiplier for all the things I could enjoy myself (theatre, costume parties, etc) and is a good filter for hearing about other things I'll enjoy.

You can, of course, make new friends wherever you go, but I really like keeping the norm of maintaining particularly close friendships instead of having a bunch of one-to-two year connections. You can try to keep up close connections long distance but, outside view, you won't.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-07-10T11:58:19.170Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I'm in a similar demographic to you with similar goals. Move to London. It is a qualitatively different experience to living and working in other locations (based on a personal sample size of 4). You will be able to build a much more useful network, both professionally and socially, than if you attempted the same in Glasgow. Regardless of whether you move onto a startup or another job, you will be in a much better position to accomplish either of these in London.

I am massively, massively biased and have never lived or worked in Glasgow, but based on what you've said, unless you're acutely agoraphobic, I can't imagine Glasgow being the better option.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-07-10T19:52:11.488Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

London is Ankh-Morpork - it's a smelly expensive dump, but the world is here.

comment by afterburger · 2013-07-12T03:46:44.663Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Stay in London, and study in the evenings if you want. Benjamin Franklin said "three removes is as bad as a fire", meaning there's a high cost to rebuilding your social network. I'd guess it would take you about 18 months to fully build new friendships. I moved to a non-ideal city for work (twice!) and it set my career back by a couple of years. The cost of living in Glasgow is lower because people are happier living in London.

If you want to fully maximize utility, you're making a false choice by just looking at the two jobs. Get back in grad school and work as hard as possible until you're in the top half of the class at a top school (or otherwise meet the "great hacker" criteria that Paul Graham describes on his website). Then, start a fast-growing startup with one or two other outstanding hackers. When it stops growing after two to ten years, sell out. Then, you should be in a really high-utility space where you can do massive good and/or enjoy novel luxuries.

comment by Petruchio · 2013-07-11T12:07:09.815Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Besides Viliam_Bur's comment, I would say do the math. Assign a numerical value to each aspect to the location, weigh them accordingly, and compare the final values. After this is done, toss it all out and go with your (informed) gut instinct.

comment by ThisSpaceAvailable · 2013-07-16T05:29:18.923Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

If one assumes that economic conditions are the result of reaching an equilibrium in which the "average" person is indifferent to the options (and there are valid issues as whether this is an accurate assumption), then the question reduces to whether you are more or less likely than the average person to prefer the Glasgow job to the London job. Not that this question is not necessarily easier to answer.

comment by oooo · 2013-07-14T00:09:49.219Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You have three conflicting goals that only you can weight accordingly:

  • Work at a successful startup (fame, fortune, culture or vision)
  • Find a mate / companionship
  • Employment market desirability hedge (what-if...)

What I would really like to do is build my own startup, or join a startup that I think has good prospects.

Winner: London.

The pool of women I am interested in dating is much bigger there. Dating prospects are probably less good [...]

Winner: London.

[...] and also the long-term effect of accepting a pay cut - if I worked in London again later, would I be able to negotiate my salary back up?

Winner: London.

Everything else sounds like noise, or sounds like they should be assigned lower weightings than the three concerns above. Another factor that you only can answer is how much extra time you'll carve out to keep up desirable startup skills (designer? developer? business?) while in London, as you mentioned that the London job will only allow you to specialize in an unattractive skill. This statement alone makes me wonder exactly what your previous two startup roles were -- if your skillset was good enough to join two prior startups, why would 18months of another skill diminish your existing desirability, both to startups and larger organizations in general?

Until you can provide weightings on the above, London sounds like the better choice due to the flexibility it offers you in the future, provided you have enough motivation and discipline to (a) stay actively engaged in the (presumably) larger London startup/tech scene; (b) spend (some) spare time on side projects to remain desirable to both future large employers and startups; (c) find a mate.

One counterpoint that you already mentioned was that Glasgow would give you more money after-tax. If the Glasgow vs. London after-tax income delta is large, and if your true primary 18mo goal is to "[...] get a financial cushion under myself before trying again", then clearly Glasgow is the way to go. Also, quick Google searches show that there seems to be more interest in boosting the Scottish tech scene in Glasgow and Edinburough. Depends on how serious you are about jumping back into the startup scene after 18 months.

comment by EvelynM · 2013-07-11T17:47:58.620Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can start a Less Wrong Meetup in Glasgow, or plan to travel to the London one once in a while.

Which one of these opportunities will give you more good choices in 5 years?

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-13T16:52:42.493Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The other job is in Glasgow. It will pay less, probably by about £15k. The cost of living difference, after tax, will probably be bigger than this - I expect I will have more money in my pocket with this job than with the London job

Did you mean to say that the job in Glasgow pays £15k more?

comment by ThisSpaceAvailable · 2013-07-16T05:22:54.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I understood it to mean that the "cost of living adjustment" is more than £15k. Once one takes cost of living into consideration, the effective salary of the Glasgow job is larger.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-07-16T08:09:51.504Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The reason for going to Glasgow seems to be money. As such it would be important for us to know "how much money".

comment by Dorikka · 2013-07-12T03:54:26.665Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Relevant

(Also, don't count this as a personal recommendation for (or against) the London LW group. I'm just posting the link because it is a relevant community event in one of the cities that you are considering -- just a clarification.)

Edited for Markdown fail.

comment by Petruchio · 2013-07-11T12:06:16.130Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Besides Viliam_Bur's comment, I would say do the math. Assign a numerical value to each aspect to the location, wiegh them accordingly, compare the final values. After this is done, toss it all out and go with your (informed) gut intinct.