A job dilemma- should I stay or should I go, now?

Okay, this is weird. For the first time in my life, I have a really great job, with great benefits, great pay, and I’m in a great location. Seriously, the stars have aligned. About time, too- I’ve had some really stinky jobs in the past.

The problem? I’m actually wondering if I should find another job.

I work in the computer game industry. I’ve gotten myself into a very specialized job- one which a lot of companies need, but few people do (and even fewer do well).

I’ve been at this company for almost a year-and-a-half. We’re just about to finish the game we’ve been working on. I’m well liked and well respected, here, and I’ve managed to set it up so that I’m effectively my own boss- I head my own division, and I’m the only IN that division. I love what I do, and- all modesty aside- I do a VERY good job at it. I’m well paid, and I just received a raise AND a promotion- so the company obviously appreciates me. Early previews of the game have specifically mentioned my work- always good for the ol’ ego. The town I live in is, simply put, wonderful- it’s a small town, with tons to do outside, and it’s very dog-friendly (which is good, as I have three).

However…

  1. I can’t afford a house. House prices are skyrocketing here- and, thanks to a relatively recent bankruptcy and the house that I still own (and am renting out, 'til the tenants get financing to buy) in my previous town, buying a house is going to be very, very difficult. We’re renting right now- but we have to move out in just a few months, and I’m fairly certain we’re going to have to move into another rental. I hate moving- and, if we’re able to buy a house later on during the year, we’ll have to move yet again. And house prices just keep climbing…

  2. My wife can’t find work. She’s tried ever since we moved here, but she just can’t find good work. She’s now going back to school.

  3. The game we’re working on, while an extremely good game, simply isn’t “sexy”. It’s no Halflife, or Doom, or Unreal Tournament. It is honestly below my ability, and won’t really help me with further job offers.

  4. I’ve pretty much hit the ceiling in this company- I could move into management, but my previous experience with that has told me that I really prefer to be down in the trenches. It’s always possible that they could give me some underlings… but, dammit, I like what I do, and I’d hate to have to manage rather than do.

So, anyway, I’m kind of uncertain as to what I should do. I’ve had so many bad jobs in the past, that my inner wageslave is saying, “What the hell are you doing!? Keep the good job!”… but my inner upwardly-mobile corporate climber is telling me, “You can do better! This is just a stepping stone!”

If I do leave, I’ll obviously wait 'til this project is done.

Pros:
Moving anywhere else, I’ll get a full moving package. House prices (unless I move to, say, LA) will be cheaper. I won’t move unless it’s a substantial pay increase. Moving on after the project is done means I won’t have to move into another rental house. My wife won’t have as much trouble finding a job. It’s very possible that I could be offered a job pretty much anywhere in the world- and I’d love to finally get to do the travelling I’ve never gotten to do.

Cons:
I haven’t been here that long- I don’t want to get known as a job-hopper. I love living here, and it’s unlikely that we’ll find another town we like quite as much. I think this company’s safe- I’ve worked for a lot of companies that were always on the edge of failure, and it’s possible that any of the other companies could downsize at any moment.

So… do I stay here where it’s safe, or do I take a chance? I realize it doesn’t hurt to look, so I’ll definitely be looking, either way… but how seriously do I look?

I’m in the console game industry. Here’s my 2 cents.

  1. Absolutely don’t leave before the game is finished. Leaving your team in the lurch is a good way to get a bad rep.

  2. Don’t worry about getting a rep as a job hopper. You have to switch a LOT in this industry for people to think ill of you. Changing jobs after EVERY game is bad, but there’s nothing wrong with only staying in a particular position long enough to do two or three games.

  3. It’s good that you’re thinking about each game as a stepping stone in your long-term career. You’re right that different games carry different amounts of cred in the industry. If the studio where you work is going to be doing more-of-the-same after this project then your instincts that you might want to make a switch eventually are probably correct.

  4. Most places where there are lots of game jobs (the Northwest, the Bay Area, Los Angeles) are expensive to live. True, there are game studios all over the country, but ideally you want to move someplace where there’s more than one or two companies so that you don’t have to move AGAIN the next time you switch jobs.

  5. There’s more to life than making games. If you really like the town and you’ve put down some roots there then you might be happier just staying and accepting that it’s going to limit your career somewhat. On the other hand, if your wife is really unhappy about her unemployment situation then maybe its not worth it to stay.

  6. Continue to resist the urge to move into management. I’ve spent a big chunk of my career rejecting promotions that would give me more authority. Being part of the creative team is more fun.

I’d say go ahead and put your resume out, but be choosy. You’ve got the luxury of waiting for a really great job to come along. Ideally you’ll get an offer so good that it makes your decision easy. And until then you can enjoy having a really good job.

Can I guess what you do? Sound / music engineer?

Nope, graphics. Specifically, special effects- I blow shit up real good for a living. Virtually, anyway. While nice, it means that I can’t ever talk about what I do if I happen to be, say, travelling on a plane. I like the work, but becoming this specialized has really blindsided me- before this job, I honestly had no idea that anyone would hire specifically for effects.

I see you’re in L.A… do you work for the Evil Alliance?

Thanks for the feedback. I’ve always figured it doesn’t hurt to look, and it’s always easier to do so when you’ve already got a job…

Thankfully, no. :wink: I’m a designer with Sony.

I was in a position similar to yours four years ago. I had topped out in a small developer in another part of the country. Fortunately my wife was offered her dream job here in L.A. which made our decision very easy.

Heh… small world, then. I’ve been wondering if Sony had other Dopers. :slight_smile:

I’ll interrupt the tea party to agree. I recently switched jobs because, while there wasn’t anything really wrong with my job, there wasn’t much right with it either. I sent out resumes and turned down a few interviews that weren’t really that interesting or weren’t any better than my previous job. My boss knew I was looking and was willing to be a reference. If you are thinking it is time to go, it probably is time to go. But, don’t go unless it is the right move to the right job because you can afford to be picky.

Sony, eh? I think I know what you’re working on. Yeah, it’s not Quake, but it’s a very solid, well-known franchise! I thought you might be slaving away coding a bingo simulator or something … .

If I’m guessing right about your current position then you really should be looking for your next step to be onto a AAA team – something like God of War or a Naughty Dog title. And that probably means having your resume out in circulation for a while.

I would also recommend against pitching yourself too narrowly. You should absolutely use your SFX experience as an example of the quality of your work. But unless you want to do just that one thing for the rest of your career you should emphasize the breadth of your experience as well as the depth.

(BTW, take everything I’ve said with a grain of salt. Looking at your web page it looks like we’ve both been in the industry about the same length of time. I’m no Tom Sloper or anything.)

It’s weird – I can’t believe we haven’t stumbled on each other in this board before … .