Thursday, March 27, 2008

Feeling Like Icarus

Since I had to explain this title to someone I know to be intelligent, I feel it necessary to remind anyone reading who Icarus was. Icarus was a young man who was given wings to fly, but they were attached with wax, so he was warned not to fly too close to the sun. He did anyway, and and fell. So, this week I have felt a little bit like Icarus.

When an opportunity comes along to do something new, something different, something that will help me grow in my experience and knowledge, I feel inclined to consider it. When that opportunity could mean greater wealth, more flexibility of schedule, and the chance to live anywhere I might want to, again I pause and think, "What if?"

I am not typically someone who always looks from greener pastures. I do not go through life whimsically changing to suit my fickle moods. No, I'm the guy who's had the same haircut since childhood (or at least since college depending on how narrowly one defines sameness). I'm the guy who buys two pairs of the same shoes whenever I find what I want so I won't have to shop for them again anytime soon. I prefer to keep my life relatively simple.

In other words, I am not the sort of person who religiously reads job listings. I have a great job, after all. I get to spend a lot of time with my family, and I make a good living doing things I enjoy. I am what some might call "fat and happy" or at least satisfied. Satisfaction, though, should never come to one so young. Clearly, I need to branch out.

Thus I find myself looking at some wings and considering what some would call an ill-fated flight. To further muddy the waters and digress from the supposed subject of this post, I must look back nearly six years. I felt a strong leading to go back to school at that time. I knew that I was supposed to go back after a strong sign came in the form of a high score on the GMAT, the "SAT" of graduate business school. So I returned, planning to get a fairly general degree that would broaden my marketability. I already had an accounting background, so I was determined to focus away from finance or accounting in my program. Then I heard two professors speak, and I knew why I had returned to school. The first was a finance professor who explained why everyone needed to take his class, and then finish the sequence in finance to fulfill the international component of the program. The second was a professor of entrepreneurship who explained how many businesses had started from his program and how many competitions his teams had won (more than several other top schools combined). I knew I had to take both sequences, along with consulting, to focus my degree on small business financial consulting. With the work I had already done, my accounting background, and this new degree, I knew I could help people improve their small businesses.

The problem with having a perfect job description for a career is that the job needs to exist. After graduate school, I found one such job opportunity, but I was deemed underqualified by the business school offering it - they needed someone to head up small business development center. I did not even get an interview, but instead a nice letter explaining how many others had applied. I realized the job market was poor, and my chance to use my new skills would not be found. I turned back to my former business, knowing I had a better chance to use my skills there than anything else I would find. Obviously it paid off, since I now own part of that business.

Then came the email at a time when my business was struggling. "Do you know anyone who would be interested in this position?" it asked innocently. I had read about the company my MBA classmate started in his regular company newsletters and often thought, "That sounds an awful lot like what I wanted to do with my MBA. Go figure." I never did more than take notice of it, though. After all, my job was secure and my life was good. Still, the email explained exactly what they were looking for, and if it had said "We were hoping to hire Robert" in the description of necessary skills, it could not have been more clearly made for me. CFO solutions for small business who cannot afford a full-time financial person sounds a lot like small business financial consulting to me. Knowing the owner of the company never hurts, especially when I know him to be honorable, ethical, and hard-working. He and I think a lot alike, in fact. The timing could not have been more right (or more wrong if I didn't want to rock the boat). So I emailed him to learn more. The pay sounds great, the chance to learn and grow is wonderful, the flexibility of the schedule seems ideal, and the fact I could do it from anywhere I want makes it hard to overlook. The training - especially the chance to help train other people when I'm older and want to share my knowledge - and benefits package put the icing on the cake.

Then comes the second guessing. Can I really make what he suggests? Would the schedule really be so perfect? Do the benefits matter? Is the risk that I fail worth the chance that I succeed? Am I discounting what I have too much and not discounting this opportunity enough? Is my life so bad that I even need to change? On and on it goes. And so I feel like Icarus. I have flown too close to the sun, or at least my eye is on the sky instead of down here on Earth, dealing with what is already on my plate.

-- Robert

P.S.: I do not mean for this post to sound depressing. I know it is great to have the opportunity to choose between to wonderful jobs, especially in such a market. I just wanted to vent.


Julie Pippert said...

Too much or too little of anything can be a challenge...and change (even good) can be stressful. It sounds like two good opportunities, one new and one continued. Good luck choosing.

Robert said...

Thanks. I could be in a much worse position. I have reasons to lean the way I am leaning right now, and when I decide, I'll disclose what I will be doing.

Melissa said...

I know a few people who do that here in Austin and they absolutely love it. Good luck with deciding.

Robert said...


That sounds very hopeful. I would very much love to make a living doing it. It's just hard to pick up and move, but I would rather not do it where I am because there are several better towns for me to do it in. As you can see, I'm quite torn.