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Crossroads - For love or for money...
Old 06-21-2010, 03:29 PM   #1
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Crossroads - For love or for money...

A little background... I'm 22, Canadian, and will graduate in April with a bachelors in mechanical engineering and a net worth of about 30k. I'm finishing a year long internship with Megacorp, done in September.

So, fairly quickly (within a few months or so) I will be presented with a key choice... namely what career to pursue to accumulate enough to FIRE. I understand that careers are quite fluid these days and if I don't like where I work, I can start over somewhere else. But I'd rather get this right the first time, as every mistake puts off FIRE just a little bit longer...

Option A involves continuing with the consulting company where I am doing the internship. The work is somewhat interesting, and is project based so when you become a professional (in 4 or so years for me) you get complete autonomy over a project within the set deadlines. The hours are flexible (very rarely does anyone work over 40 hours a week and if they do, they charge handsome overtime) and the people I work with are all friendly and aren't all fighting for the next promotion. The company is still rapidly expanding, and I would have a bit of a headstart over my peers who may join this industry without any prior experience...

However, the retirement benefits suck (2% matched in terrible high MER mutuals, better than nothing I suppose) and the health benefits are mid-range to slightly better than average.

If I were to chase the money, however... I could go work in the oil industry. I live in oil town, come from an oil family, and there has never really been a big shortage of skilled oil engineers. The initial and potential compensation blows option A out of the water, but I have friends on internship there and all they do is reports, field inspections, youtube and homework (and get paid 20% more than me, ha). They often say they are jealous of the things I get to design, and that I can wear jeans to work, etc... but I always remind them they will make 2x what I will in 10 years, and they shut up

One other great thing about option A is that megacorp has offices in pretty much every developed country, and there are great opportunities to work abroad and travel on the company's dime. I could go work in Africa, or the UK, or Madrid... With oil, I would probably be stuck in concentration camps drilling sites while I earn my management stripes (then after, make 200k+ a year).

I ask the experienced and wise ones of this fantastic board, given the choice of working ~50% longer to reach FIRE, but having a tolerable job, vs retiring ludicrously early in a job you would probably not enjoy as much (but may not hate, either...) what would you choose?
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:49 PM   #2
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Ohhh... to be young again and making some decision...


When you said 'love or money', I was thinking of a SO... not a choice between jobs...

SOOO, since there is not another body here to think of... here is my advice.. You are thinking to short term.. the people you complain make 20% more WILL be getting something interesting eventually... and they MIGHT get to do something more interesting than you will ever get..

The problem with a mega is you have to START AT THE BOTTOM... and work your way up... where you happen to be (from what I read).. you are a hired gun... but you will 'peak' at a low level... I could be way off base, but it is what I am reading 'between the lines'...

Tell me what is possible in 15 years from now on both tracks...


BTW, are your friends working a lot longer hours Some people forget to factor this in when comparing... I can tell you when I was doing taxes for one of the major accounting firms... my wages were 'low' when you factored in all the OT I had to put in.. and I was even paid for this OT, just at regular rates... but I had no free time for a big chunk of my year...
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:59 PM   #3
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You won't really know until you actually try it. A nice working environment can make up for less than interesting work, and the reverse is definitely true as well, a crappy work environment will make even really interesting work feel toxic. It really doesn't matter how much money you are making if the work environment feels toxic, you will want out. Having some sort of ability to move around is important. Also, more money does make up for putting up with more crap, but it won't makeup for a toxic work environment.

Just keep in mind that your ability to put up with crap will probably decrease over time, so my advice would be, if you want a short career, try out the oil industry, if you want a long career, stick with what you are doing for sure.

Edit: Ah yes, also make sure you are accounting for hours worked properly. Getting paid 20% for working 50% more hours is a VERY BAD DEAL. Especially since it creates an exponentially increasing strain on you as you add hours past a somewhat normal work schedule.
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Old 06-21-2010, 04:09 PM   #4
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Sorry, I have a bad habit of making catchy, slightly misleading topic titles...

I probably am thinking quite short term, but in planning for FIRE in 20-30 years (preferably 20... that's why its Young Dreamers! ) it is pretty important.

I have no doubt my friends will eventually get challenging, interesting and rewarding projects... and there seems to be many engineers who enjoy the challenge of working in oil. I am drawn to the prospects of traveling and flexible hours... my 'per hour' wage in consulting would be probably higher than in oil because they often work 60 hours per week or more.

As far as 'peaking' goes, I would not likely hit a peak in either professions during my career. Theoretically, the peak in oil would take longer and be much better paid than the career peak in consulting, but both would happen only after at minimum 15-20 years experience.

The more I type, the more it feels like I've already made my choice and I am simply looking for external validation... but if anyone can poke any holes in my analysis I would be forever grateful
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Old 06-21-2010, 05:23 PM   #5
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OK... how is this...

Do YOU have to get your consulting gigs now

If not, WHEN will you be expected to get them


As an accountant who worked in one of the big firms, being in the partner spot was a LOT different than being in the staff spot.. I could handle the job that was expected of a manager... but after that it became more of a sales job than an accountant job... I did not want to (nor am I good at) a sales job..

How much does consulting rely on 'whatever'... IOW, what is the history of jobs not showing up and you have to survive a long downturn.. do you still get paid (I would think not.. but if you are in a place like Anderson Consulting you would... but then again, they do lay off people all the time)..

The option to get jobs in different countries sounds like a winner to me... but for some it is not... I know that my brother does it all the time and loves it.. I just found out that he is in China for a gig... and then he takes his vacation...

It is good to have a plan for retirement... but things change all the time.. let me give an example.. When I was 18 I actually had planned to 'retire' when I was 55 with $1 mill... I am 52 now.. already have the funds... but got married a couple of years ago and now have two kids to put through college and a wife to consider when retiring... so now my number has gone up and 55 is gone... but I am fine with it... I achieved part of my plan, but adjusted another... I think the FI is the big win in the planning... that gives you a lot of options...

But... enjoy what you do... and to tell the truth... that is more of an attitude IMO than most people want to admit.. I had to leave the big accounting firm to get a life... and also another job that wanted to suck the life out of me... I do not regret moving on from either...
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Old 06-21-2010, 06:37 PM   #6
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The advantage of the consulting job is that you will have exposure to many clients. There will probably be a lot of travel and hours BUT for the next 8 or so years that shouldn't be a problem. During that time evaluate these clients for long term employment.

Consulting ceases to be fun when you want a home life and time with family.
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Old 06-21-2010, 09:56 PM   #7
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Being on an old rig offshore Nigeria or in the Persian Gulf might not be a bed of roses either. I suspect that the family might prefer to wait it out back in Edmonton or Calgary or Houston.

ha
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:09 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Eager Beaver View Post
A little background... I'm 22, Canadian, and will graduate in April with a bachelors in mechanical engineering and a net worth of about 30k. I'm finishing a year long internship with Megacorp, done in September.

So, fairly quickly (within a few months or so) I will be presented with a key choice... namely what career to pursue to accumulate enough to FIRE. I understand that careers are quite fluid these days and if I don't like where I work, I can start over somewhere else. But I'd rather get this right the first time, as every mistake puts off FIRE just a little bit longer...
Something seems amiss here. You're 22, haven't started working in your field and already you're planning your departure? Why not plan (and hopefully enjoy) your working life. Find something you want to do and do it.

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Option A involves continuing with the consulting company where I am doing the internship. The work is somewhat interesting, and is project based so when you become a professional (in 4 or so years for me) you get complete autonomy over a project within the set deadlines.
Sounds like project management as opposed to "design" engineering. Which would you rather do?

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However, the retirement benefits suck (2% matched in terrible high MER mutuals, better than nothing I suppose) and the health benefits are mid-range to slightly better than average.
Retirement benefits are part of your pay package and you just reduce the "value" of your pay package if they are lacking. As far as "health benefits" go: you are in Canada, the difference between a good package and a bad one none is minimal. If you get sick or injured the basics are covered. Do you really care if you get a private room in a hospital or if mega-corp pays for your $50/year drugs? Remember, you're 22, if you were 63 it might matter.

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I ask the experienced and wise ones of this fantastic board, given the choice of working ~50% longer to reach FIRE, but having a tolerable job, vs retiring ludicrously early in a job you would probably not enjoy as much (but may not hate, either...) what would you choose?
For the first 6 years of my working life (I was a farmer) I loved my job. I might have done it for free. When I realized I was doing it (essentially) for free, I finished my degree and went into IT (CS or DP then). I loved that job too, even after having to put up with the BS that came with a senior management position. At 55 I was asked to form a new department in mega-corp (IT audit). It was fun for 2 years. At that point, I decided to leave but I didn't know it. Hung around another year.

The point is, find a career job you love. Do it. Leave it when YOU are ready. If I was hiring people and you (at age 22 with no experience) told me your ambition was to retire at 30, your resume would be at the bottom of the pile.At 22 you should be looking to find your "dream job", what you want to do, you're going to be doing it longer than you have been alive. Don't go for a "tolerable" job, go for one YOU WANT. Get one you think you'll like so much you'll die in harness.


Anecdote: DS graduated from "the U" this spring. My former mega-corp was interested (and their pay, retirement & other bennies are the best for miles). He chose to work for a local high tech small cap firm for about 70% of what mega-corp would pay. However, he got to do what he wanted to do, not what mega-corp needed people to do. I supported that decision, YMMV.


Disclaimer: I'm Canadian, have always worked in Canada and retired from a mega-corp that was, for a brief period, the most valuable company on the TSX. FWIW, I started working full time a month before my 18th birthday, finished at 58. That's 40 years.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:30 AM   #9
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go with the money... for a different set of reasons. you presented 2 options, but need to also consider option #3: your next job

you're 22.. the average retention rate for a new hire is less than 4 years. for a 22 year old is probably about 2 years. I give a 80% probability that you won't be in either job more than 4 years (or you'll want a change). the 4 year 'promise' of the first company probably reflects the attrition rate of new employees.

in my experience the best way to work with quality, nice people is more about demographics: education, age, family, service (military), and income. You'll get more out of your career if you can work with people who score high in all these categories.
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Old 06-22-2010, 08:16 AM   #10
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i'm not old and wise, and i am a bit biased, as i work for a huge oil company.

it seems to me that you really want to stick with your consulting firm. i can give you the benefits of my huge oil company...defined contribution rocks. defined benefit rocks. work is easy and gratifying (i'm strictly on a technical track, made clear to my superiors). when the clock hits the magic hour, i go home. i get every other friday off (most contractors i work with don't). int'l travel. that's a quick list.

and i wouldn't sell all the places oil companies work as trash. i have enjoyed bangkok (although, maybe not the enjoyable?). also, you want to know the best seafood and beach i have ever been to? angola, west africa. the shrimp were huge, the water clear and the sea breezes wonderful. my buddy also just left for a 6 month stint in kazakhstan and then he'll spend 2-3 years in london.

i've got DW convinced to go to nigeria and sit out in the compound for a couple of years (hopefully we get the opportunity). you virtually have no expenses. vacation time would double (to 6 weeks, big deal here in the states, getting vacation is like pulling teeth). two vacations a year are paid for to europe. trip back home is paid for. if we can stick it out there for 3 years - kids college would be paid for, could pay cash for a home when we get back to the states and i could shave a couple years off my retirement date. it's also an experience thing for me and DW, the money benefits are just lagniappe.

good luck. at least get in to your last year of school and generate options. jobs aren't like when i graduated where we would each get a couple of offers and then choose from there.
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Old 06-22-2010, 08:54 AM   #11
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A lot of varied responses... thanks for the insights, I've got a bit more to think about now.

One of the managers at megacorp has informally (as in, no writing yet) offered a job when I graduate, so I might have the option to abstain until January and see if I can get any other offers, or accept and have that job security through my last year... I just don't want to overreach, count all my chickens, and end up with neither after they hatch.

It's not hard to get ahead of myself here, as people have pointed out I am 22 with hardly any experience. One little voice tells me jobs are hard to come by these days, and I should take what I can get while its there (it took me over 6 months to land this gig)... the other tells me to go big or go home; take the risks and reap the rewards.

As Andrew Tobias said, there is a certain value in being chicken hearted
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Old 06-22-2010, 09:31 AM   #12
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A lot of varied responses... thanks for the insights, I've got a bit more to think about now.

One of the managers at megacorp has informally (as in, no writing yet) offered a job when I graduate, so I might have the option to abstain until January and see if I can get any other offers, or accept and have that job security through my last year... I just don't want to overreach, count all my chickens, and end up with neither after they hatch.

It's not hard to get ahead of myself here, as people have pointed out I am 22 with hardly any experience. One little voice tells me jobs are hard to come by these days, and I should take what I can get while its there (it took me over 6 months to land this gig)... the other tells me to go big or go home; take the risks and reap the rewards.

As Andrew Tobias said, there is a certain value in being chicken hearted

OK... let me comment on your fear of a job... when I graduated (and I am sure this applies to a lot of people on the forum) there was a major recession and the S&L crisis.. On the day of graduation we were all siting on the floor waiting for things to start... I had a job... someone next to me starting asking if anybody had a job... it was amazing... of the 50 or so people around me that spoke up I was the only one who had an offer. They were all worried that they never would get a job.. well, within a year all of the people who I knew who did not have a job finally got one.. most had one in 6 months. Being YOUNG and willing to do almost anything for very low dollars is what a lot of companies want.

My last boss in mega was a young lady with very little skills... she did not like managing 10 people who all had a lot more experience than her... so she started to lay off the old folks and hire young guns... the work got sloppier as more of the experienced people got laid off... and she had to hire at a rate of more than one new for one old... but the total cost was still less... so, there are many reason that you should not worry now about a job... it will come. The economy will improve and jobs will be plentiful... someday...
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Old 06-22-2010, 10:07 AM   #13
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Go with what you like to do: money and early retirement will follow or not. If it does great, if it doesn't, and there is no assurance any path at age 23 will lead to FIRE, you will not have hated the journey.

If you try to chase the spotlight all you succeed in doing is wasting a lot of time and energy and by the time you get to where you think the spotlight is shining... guess what... it has moved on.
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:43 PM   #14
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I would think of it like this: you'll be working for at least 20 years. Do you want to spend 40 hours a week doing something boring, or something that you love getting up for every day?

FIRE is a great goal, but you don't want to waste your life in the process. There is a balance between the "now" and the "future", and 20 years of "now" is a long time.

And, please remember, whatever you do now does not have to be permanent. You can always go work for mega-corp later after gaining years of experience, or go off in an entirely different direction. It is increasingly rare for people to spend their whole lives in one job. You are young - go for your passion now - you can reassess as needed every few years.
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Old 06-28-2010, 08:33 AM   #15
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I would think of it like this: you'll be working for at least 20 years. Do you want to spend 40 hours a week doing something boring, or something that you love getting up for every day?

FIRE is a great goal, but you don't want to waste your life in the process. There is a balance between the "now" and the "future", and 20 years of "now" is a long time.

And, please remember, whatever you do now does not have to be permanent. You can always go work for mega-corp later after gaining years of experience, or go off in an entirely different direction. It is increasingly rare for people to spend their whole lives in one job. You are young - go for your passion now - you can reassess as needed every few years.
Well said. I totally agree.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:07 AM   #16
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You won't really know until you actually try it. A nice working environment can make up for less than interesting work, and the reverse is definitely true as well, a crappy work environment will make even really interesting work feel toxic. It really doesn't matter how much money you are making if the work environment feels toxic, you will want out.
Amen to that! That was a lesson I fortunately learned at age 18.

Conversely, with the right group of people even an otherwise crappy job can be almost fun. I learned that the next year in a different job.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:12 AM   #17
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In addition to what's been said, I'd consider this: Which of these paths, if you did NOT choose it today, would be easier for you to go back and enter at a later time, and which opportunity would more likely disappear? If I was really on the fence about which of two doors to enter, I'd be a little more likely to enter the one that would permanently close if I chose the other one. You keep more options open that way.
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Old 06-28-2010, 09:26 AM   #18
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In addition to what's been said, I'd consider this: Which of these paths, if you did NOT choose it today, would be easier for you to go back and enter at a later time, and which opportunity would more likely disappear? If I was really on the fence about which of two doors to enter, I'd be a little more likely to enter the one that would permanently close if I chose the other one. You keep more options open that way.

Very good point... as examples... if you want to get in with one of the big accouting firms (and I believe law firms) you almost have to be hired right out of college.... if not, you change has gone... now, you can make yourself a name and in 10 or more years be hired in as a partner... but that is rare...
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Old 06-29-2010, 09:54 PM   #19
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I like your thinking, Ziggy thanks for the tip.

Indeed, most of my life up to this point has been a series of choices made in order to close as few doors as possible. Took all sciences in high school, volunteered with groups that look good on a resume for many industries, took Mechanical Engineering because the degree is used everywhere, and never tied myself down with big purchases that set back my financial or physical mobility. As of now, I still have all my options open and can pursue pretty much anything I want, within reason and ability.

However, the clock is ticking down, and now I find myself at the point where I must take one path over another, but each path at least partially obstructs the others. I would imagine the feeling is familiar to many of you, but these decisions ahead of me now are ones that you don't easily walk away from, and that is even before we start talking about marriage, kids, and the like (which, of course, scares the crap out of me! )

I supposed it's called fear of commitment and analysis paralysis, these days I feel I don't know myself well enough to make such commitments that I may regret down the road and find myself set back any number of years on my goals.

But that's part of the fun, isn't it? What fun would life be if everything went according to plan...

I think I'll stick with consulting. It's a little more glamorous, I can do it anywhere in the world and it opens up opportunities to self-employ after enough experience. Plus, it's all I know right now and it fits nicely in my comfort zone to stick with what I know, vs chasing those uncertain profits.
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Old 06-29-2010, 11:46 PM   #20
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Yo, Beav,

I am an engineer working in the consulting business in Canadistan (this week). I worked for several years in Fort MacMoney and Cowtown, AB.

Advice: Go Big Oil. You will quickly learn if you have a taste for it or not. You won't stay forever and you will end up in consulting anyway--with more choices. Don't start in consulting if you have a better choice. Consulting is an end, not a beginning. Get the most experience you can as fast as you can. You will see things in an operating company you will never see in a consulting company. AND consulting companies have work only when there are projects. Operating companies have steady work. There is very little chance of advancement in a consulting company. The sky is the limit in Big Oil. (I understand there is a high level opening at BP just now. ) You may actually learn more technology in an operating company, especially if you hang around the Inspection Dept. (Hint, hint!)

Since I was never head of the class, I have done well by being ready to go places where nobody wants to go and do things nobody wants to do.

My opinion of consulting companies in Canada is mixed. I grew up working for companies that owned or licensed special technologies. You learn something special and marketable there. There are few such companies in Canada. Outside of great operating experience, I have learned nothing new in Canada.

Where ever you go, you will run across a few people who really know their stuff and a lot who just sound good. Figure out the difference and pay close attention to the ones who really know.

Oh, yeah: Save your money and learn how to invest it. This business has booms and busts.

There is more, but never mind.

Cheers.
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