Stay or go?

Hi All,

I will spare the details on this and get to the point.

I’m in a situation where the current job I have has not been working out at all (for several reasons). I’ve spent a few years at this company to give it time to see if things improve but they have not. I’ve also tried several strategies to improve the situation. This is not the case of having some bad days. I would say 5% of the time I feel good about my job, while the remaining 95% I feel miserable about my job. This has also been impacting my life outside of work. I currently own a home in this city (only for one year) and there are no Industrial Design opportunities in this city as well.

I see two options to this:

  1. Stay put, due to the fact I own a home and be miserable. Possibly have to change careers due to no ID in the city.
  2. Leave the job, city, and home despite the financial impact…

Has anyone been in a similar situation?

I am grateful that I have a job and am not trying to “complain.” I’m simply looking for others who have been in this situation to comment (bad job, own a home, no other ID options in city). What did you do? Was it a good decision? What would you have done differently? Are there other options to this problem that I am not seeing?


If your 5/95 ratio is accurate I would have to say go, at least from your job. Once you start throwing the word miserable around (especially impacting your free time outside of work) I think you have to ask yourself what’s the point?

If owning a home is truly an anchor and relocation is not an option than what is the harm for looking for work outside of the ID industry? What’s more important, your unwavering commitment to ID or your happiness?

If relocation is an option (both financially and from a family point of view) than I would suggest exploring that. Sometimes a change of scenery isn’t all that bad. Do you have any solid ID leads in different regions?

I’ve never been in your exact situation but I have relocated three times for a job (all ID). Two to different states and last one to a different country. Haven’t regretted any of them. Each one has offered new challenges, broadening my comfort zone allowing me to progress not only in my professional life but personal as well.

I think a lot comes down to how averse you are to change. I know some folks that would never leave their little bubble for anything because change is scarier than a dead end job. I am obviously in the opposite camp, I see change as opportunity.

If it were me, I’d put the house on the market this weekend. Sell it as fast as possible. Move into a cheap apartment while you stick it out in the job and try to get a new position at a company in a new city. From what I read in the post above it seems like you know that is the right decision.

I decided to leave Nike, and awesome job I loved, and took a risk to go to frog to explore a possibility. I had a great house I loved in a city I loved and I sold it in the middle of the recession because I knew if I didn’t go to frog I’d always wonder. People sell houses and move all the time. What matters more to you?

It sounds like the job has run it’s course. Just make a plan before you leave.

Last time I changed jobs, I opened a line of credit and started saving what I could for a few months. I didn’t end up needing it, but it gave me peace of mind.

Life is too short to be perpetually miserable. It’s one thing to have ups and downs, but when you spend that much time living in the down then it’s time for a change.

Do you have kids or wife/husband? That can add to the stress of the decision.

If not, follow Michael’s advice and split. Go on the offensive immediately and find yourself a better situation.

I have a girlfriend that I’ve been dating for a long time and two dogs. Also the house (financial anchor). This job was suppose to be the one I stayed at for a long time. Its a shame it has worked out this way. It seems ID is a profession where you are constantly jumping from place A to B, to city A to city B… A lot of moving. For my next move it may be best to find something in a ID heavy area such as California for example. Perhaps that would allow me to build a life long term and move from company to company in the same area if need be or this could be an opportunity to take something overseas? If the move is going to be this challenging due to my home, maybe a once in a lifetime experience outside the states would be worth it?

I have a girlfriend that I’ve been dating for a long time and two dogs. Also the house (my financial burden)…

I do agree. It is time to move on. Life is too short and I am not the same person I once was.

Maybe it is best to find a new job in an ID heavy area such as California? It would allow me to build a life longer term and move from company to company if a have to.

Or take something overseas? A once in a lifetime experience. Since I would be taking a financial hit from the house, maybe that would make it worth while?


Thanks everyone.

International experience can be valuable especially if you are interested in a senior leadership position one day. You will often see this as a desired trait in executive level job descriptions. Never too early to plan for the future.

Depending on your local housing market and how long you’ve been making payments home ownership can be a real anchor.

I bought my first house while working at a job that was going really well and a few years later it was going very badly (economy, layoffs, friends leaving, paycuts, awful CEO, etc.), I owed more on it than I could sell it for and didn’t have the savings to offset the loss so I was stuck. I stuck it out and the job gradually improved over time, years actually.

Since I couldn’t sell the house I paid extra principal every month to get it down to where I could eventually break even or make some return. This also got me to start saving a lot more in general with an initial goal to save a year’s worth of mortgage payments or to live off of for 6-12 months if I did sell the house, in which case I could just bail job or no job.

I’m grateful that my employer gave me the job, but I earned it, it wasn’t out of charity, and I don’t feel guilty or lucky about it. Saying you’re grateful even though you’re clearly un-happy implies you’re willing to put up with it for some reason. If your employer has made mention to you or other employees that they’re lucky to have a job and should be grateful then that is red flag numero uno to get out of there ASAP.

  1. You could always try to rent the house, especially if you have dependable friends that could take a peak every so often to make sure it doesn’t become a grow-op.

  2. Your last post makes it sound like you are having a mid-life crisis. Don’t underestimate the power of good talk therapy.

Agree with the above. When kids are put in the picture things get a bit more complicated. A house is a house. Trust me I love my house and know how complicated or how much of a headache it can be selling a house, but its still just a house. I have put a ton of work into it but know I can always dump it and find a great place in another city.

I would suggest however that you start discussing this with your girlfriend. Making a move for one persons career and not for the other can be a sticky situation depending on the other’s job. My wife and I have an understanding that my career will always have the chance of taking us to new places. She is cool with this and we have agreed that we are willing to move for my career. Luckily she is an HR manager and has skills that can apply to most organizations.

Hope this helps.


I see two options to this:

  1. Stay put, due to the fact I own a home and be miserable. Possibly have to change careers due to no ID in the city.
  2. Leave the job, city, and home despite the financial impact…

Has anyone been in a similar situation?

You asked.

In 1974 I was working for a consumer electronics manufacturer in southern Indiana: my first job out of school. A year and a half later I moved to central Illinois to accept a position with a motorcycle accessories manufacturer. Soon thereafter the owner decided to open a west coast R&D facility, along with expanded manufacturing capabilities, and I was transferred to San Luis Obispo in 1978; five miles from the Pacific coast, 250 miles from LA, 250 miles to SF; a virtual island of industrial design in the middle of rural BFE California. Getting paid to ride my BMW, in California, wow, dream job.

My wife and I were able to buy our first house in 1981 with the financial assistance of the husband of one of her co-workers who was a successful a real estate broker. On paper making the mortgage payments was no problem, we just didn’t have a down payment to get us in the door. He “gave” us $15,000 for three weeks, while the mortgage company paperwork cleared; an literally un-repayable debt of kindness (other than the 6% he made on the sale…). A few months later my wife landed a job with the Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) and our income, overnight, more than doubled. I was 30, she was 26, and we were in heaven; living in California, homeowners, great jobs, and financial security.

But within one month of my wife starting her new job, and completely out of the blue, the owner of the company that I was employed by announced that the plant was to be closed and the design department was being returned to Illinois. Not too unpredictably, to a man, no one returned to Illinois.

So, what to do… sell the house, which we wouldn’t have been able to replace (with only sixty days of ownership there was no equity) and follow my job back to Illinois, where her prospects for making even one third of what her income was were nil? Or keep the house (her job paid better than mine, so no problem keeping it) and eventually be able to improve our lot in life?

We decided to stay put, I’d look for “other” work. Which I have done since 1982. She’s now into her thirty-third year with AAA and we’re on our third house. I’ve covered a lot of bases since '81; from industrial designer, to mechanical engineer, to independent industrial design consultant, to nuclear power plant tech, to heavy equipment operator, and now, cartographer.

But if you want to pursue your design career in industrial design, sell the house, especially if you are young. And for what it’s worth, pursue the job, not the locale. At the time I had been doing some unique work in the motorcycle industry that might have led to a position in Milwaukee at a strategically opportune time. Unlike my co-worker at the time, Robert Clarke, I’ll never know, I didn’t follow my dream.

Carpe diem Brother!

FWIW, I’m still “living the dream” as they say where I work. I am in a nearly identical situation, in fact, for a second I thought I wrote your post! :laughing: Also like you I have tried a few things to try to bring a design process into the mix only to hit ten foot, concrete, razor wire, (not so)corporate walls. Unlike you, I also have a Wife & Kids. The small town I live in does not have a lot of “ID” as it were (as in basically none), however it does have a substantial amount of non-creative engineering. Unfortunately, I love the town, but the art & design community is growing.

My personal strategy is to stay and look for a lateral as a stop-gap, if only for better pay and a change of scenery. At this point in my career I want to be pretty selective as to my next move as far as out of town and doing the whole house-selling uprooting thing, because, like you, I’m thankful to have a job at least sort-of related to ID. For example, a week or two ago a recruiter contacted me about (what I’m 97% sure was) the Hunter Fan job in Memphis. I turned him down. Why? I couldn’t see how moving to an arguably worse city for equal or likely less pay and a higher COL was worth it just because the company has a recognized name.

If there’s a silver lining to this job, it’s that I’ve gotten to know myself a little better. A few things I have learned: I don’t want to sit around all day bloviating about styles, trends, patterns and textures. Not that those things aren’t important in certain contexts, but do I want to do that for products of questionable quality & reputation? Sorry, no. I would rather work on solving real problems and cool, cutting edge products. However, something else I have learned is that my portfolio will not earn me a job like that. That’s fine, I’ve come to grips with that. I have also learned that I’m not what employers are looking for. I have come to live with that also. On the bright side, I have lots and lots and lots and lots of my own ideas. That inverse/upside-down umbrella on the front page of c77 the other day? That was my [2007] senior project, except I guess I took the easy way out by making it look different. That kind of thing happens to me on a bi-monthly basis. I have nearly a decade’s worth of ideas between then and now. I’m trying to work on some of them in my “spare time”. Some of them are nearly finished, some are sort of mid-way, and some of them are in the very beginning stages. And those are just the BIG projects.

You may not have the problem I have of ideas driving you insane 24/7/365. I hope you don’t. In some ways it is a curse.

Maybe I’m a hack. Maybe I have an inflated sense of self worth. I really don’t know at this point. One thing I think I do know at this point is that an employer would have to offer me a pretty sweet deal to get me to relocate, provided I even had the portfolio and personality to merit such a situation. Maybe I’ll die in my garage; none of my dozens of ideas ever finished. But at least I will have tried.

In this waning gold rush of the internet, I feel like I have an opportunity to be an independent designer, which is what I think I want. Who knows, maybe I’m just cut out to get told how to pee and make square chip racks. I’ll never know unless I try though.

And I don’t know know if that’s what you want to do, but I do know one thing you do need to do: Do whatever it takes to get away from that job. Otherwise every day will be more miserable than the last. Your relationships will suffer. You’ll probably start drinking too much if you don’t already. Whatever people say to you will be taken the wrong way. You will start to doubt your abilities. You will start so doubt your life choices. You will start to wonder if you were supposed to be a designer in the first place.

But be wise. Don’t just jump on any opportunity just because. Make sure it’s going to be on the road you want to go down. If you have to work on your portfolio, do it. If you have to change your personality to be a cool, well dressed, nonchalant, gushy designer bro, do it, if that’s what you want to do. But get out any way you can. as soon as you can. It might be a month, it might be a year, and you’re going to have to be patient and maintain a good attitude, as hard as that’s going to be to do. But you’ve got to do it.

No wife or kids…sell the house, take the financial hit and move on. You won’t be the first or last person to have to start from scratch. At least you can do it on your own terms.
Maybe do a one year plan where you save money for 6 months then you list the house and at the same time start looking for another job. Be upfront with your gf, maybe she can help you think things through and help you in your decision.
Other options are:
A) Hire a rental property company to rent your house
B) Maybe lease your house with an option to buy in 1 or 2 years. This will give you some flexibility. Talk to RE brokers.
Not ideal, but a plan would be better than staying just because of the house. If you do move, make sure move to a heavy ID area to make it worth it.

Good luck

Wow Lew,
This many years on the board and I am just now finding out you worked in Rantoul…

Craig shared photos with our class at. UIUC when I was a sophomore, looked like you guys must have had a pretty great time.

to the OP
any update?