Would you sacrifice your career for a place?

I am an expat who moved with my family to Switzerland over 10 years ago for my job, and simply love the country, the people, and most importantly, the quality of life. It is a great life here. The downside is that it is a small country with a small job market, and in my particular field, my current employer is practically the only one in the country. And for this reason, many of the people who work in my company stay there a long time. There are just not many options outside of the company, and people don’t want to leave the country. This on its own has implications for career trajectory; with such little turnover, there is little chance to move up the ladder. But it is a nice place to work, so people don’t mind the status quo. Now however, we are about to experience major layoffs, and many of us, myself included, may soon be out of a job.

So I am evaluating my options. It is not very likely that I will find another job in my field in Switzerland, so my options really are 1) to become a full-time consultant, or 2) look for jobs in other countries. As I said, I (and my family) love Switzerland, and we cannot imagine having such a nice life anywhere else. My wife has a good job as well, and that at least is relatively stable. But if I take the full-time consulting route, it will likely mean some decrease in income. I know other people who have left the company and became full-time consultants, and most end up taking a 20-40% cut in income. We could live on that, but it would mean tightening our belts a bit. And although I have never been a consultant before, I have a feeling that I would not be as comfortable doing that as working in a company.

My decision will come down to how I weight living in a place that I love versus my career. I should mention that a good friend of mine, and former teammate, worked in the same company for 30 years, and because he placed such emphasis on his quality of life versus career advancement, he essentially stayed at the same level for the last 20 years of that time. Some people looked down on him for being so unambitious at work and a dinosaur, but many admired him for his very interesting and rich personal life. I admire him as well, though you can see him struggling a bit financially now in his retirement.

Anyway, I was wondering what experiences others had. Have you or would you make sacrifices to your career to be able to live in the place you love?

I should mention that I am a 45 yo male, at least 15 years until normal retirement age, and have two school-age children and a wife.

Why do you have to climb the ladder? As long as you’re making enough to cover your needs, why worry about it?

My feeling is see where you stand after the layoffs. If you can do some consulting on the side, try that, too. If you lose your job, by all means try to stay where you are, include taking a job in another field.

I am open to that, but my profession is quite specific, and only moderately transferable to other fields. I am already taking some classes to try to broaden my sectoral relevance, but it is still a bit of a long shot, especially at my age.

Have you explored what other companies are in the same field? Perhaps one of them is in a neighboring country, with a similar climate, culture or language, so that moving there isn’t as much of a culture shock as a bigger move would be.

Generally, consultants also travel significantly more. Having had a role where I traveled 40-50% of the time vs. my current role, where I travel about 10-15%, less travel is preferable to me.

The big things to me WRT my career are meaningful work that I enjoy, short commute, and quality of life where I live. There are plenty of locations around the world and in the US that could fulfill those requirements.

Don’t be afraid to broaden your view of yourself. Your specific occupation may be a very narrow niche, but you likely have other skills tangential to you actual job duties that would transfer well.

Exactly. In fact, this is part of the reason why people I have spoken to end up earning less as consultants; they are turning down gigs trying to keep the travel within manageable levels.

I ended up moving away from an area that I loved, and now we’re spending years working out a trajectory on how to get back.

I think happiness is worth some sacrifices in income.

You may be able to find somewhere else to live that you enjoy as much, so don’t rule that out while you are looking at options. Try making a list of the qualities that make your current situation so appealing to you, so you can honestly assess other situations.

Good luck.