Change in Job, Should I go out on a limb?

chrisk327January 21, 2008

My job.

Right now I'm an auditor in a large public accounting firm. I'm a manager, just made it with 5 years in. I make a good salary, public accounting has been doing very well the last 5 years and I've reaped the benefits.

I thought about leaving, and decided I'm going to actively pursue another job in the spring. I work very hard and spend a lot of time at work each week. In general on a slow week I'm in the office for 50 hrs. When I'm busy anywhere from 60-80 mostly January and Feb are like that. I'm tired, tired of no free time, tired of running many errands all weekend, b/c everything is closed during the week when I get home, tired of having dinner with my wife 2 days a week, tired of working for a couple of hours every weekend to play catch up. etc etc.

I feel I want one of two things:

A finance job that pays significantly more, working similar hours (I may be qualified for, maybe not, I have a finance degree in addition to my accounting degree and CPA)

Or an easier accounting job, or other job that pays decently but fewer hours for more quality time with my wife, eventually kids, and for myself, actually gets a hobby etc.

I have an opportunity to do something different. I took the Nassau county police department test in 2003, one of approx 15,000 people to take the test for about 3-400 positions over a series of 5 years, never thought I'd hear from it. I received a letter this weekend, calling me to start the process, background check etc. Now, most people throughout the country who don't know this PD would think I'm nuts, but it is the second highest paying department in the country. People around here consider the job equivalent to winning the lottery, its about as likely to happen. Pay starts low, but jumps significantly each year.

Starting is about 1/3 of my current salary. Lets assume it would be very painful for the first year or two, but possible to take the job.

In 5 years my base salary at the PD would be about equal to current salary. Plus there is OT shift differential that add up, which can put you in the low to mid 100s

Benefits, though are 36 hrs work week, working only 3 days. Overtime at time and a half, shift differential, pension at 50% salary and OT after 20 years. Full medical through retirement.

Am I nuts to consider this? I'm interested in police work, and I want to change my job, perhaps my profession.

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I don't think it's nuts if it's what you really want to do and you have the means to take a position that will pay 1/3 of what you make now. Can you be 100% certain that your compensation really would increase that much in five years? Is OT for sure - no chance of salary freezes due to budget constraints - etc?

Life's too short to work so much you let it pass you by - or spend most of your waking hours doing something you don't enjoy - if you have the flexibility to make a change. And for most people I think making a change gets harder the longer you wait - especially if your expenses have grown to consume your income and you have to take a pay cut.

I changed careers about 25 years ago - took a substantial cut to do so - it was kind of a necessity since DH relocated and I had to wait 11 months to get licensed for my profession in that state. It was the greatest thing that could have happened - not sure when I ever would have taken the plunge had I not been kind of forced to do so.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 7:14PM
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Chrisk, No, I don't think you're nuts at all. I'm in a similar situation. I have a BA and MBA in finance and work in risk management at a brokerage firm. I work 50-60 hrs per week in a normal week, too. A few years ago, my original employer was purchased by a NYC based brokerage firm. Now my job is being moved to NY and I got the word last fall that I'm being severed.

About 2 years ago, I was getting to the point of being sick of my industry, sick of my company and sick of the hours so I started a transition plan. I did some schooling and then I got a part time job in the industry I'm heading toward to make sure I liked it. I finally made the decision to leave anyway in 2008 and this severance package came just in time. Getting it prompted me to shout Hoorah!!! from the rooftops. It defined the timing of leaving for me.

I'm totally changing careers and will be going into a field where I'll be lucky to earn 1/4-1/3 of what I was earning. Part of what's making this work for our family, though, is that I'm not the only wage earner.

Bottom line - I think you really have to soul search and figure out what is going to work for your family and you. Yes, getting some of your life back is priceless. But there will definitely be sacrifices - are you truly willing to make them? If you end up deciding to stay in accounting, get on with a corporation and head up a staff accounting area - the hours will definitely be less, money won't be a huge amount less. If you go the PD route, why are you counting the OT shift differential? Aren't OT hours self-defeating given what you've said about your current workweek?

Think it through, make a plan and then act. And, no matter what, don't beat yourself up whatever you choose! Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 8:04PM
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Auditor in accounting firm to PD? An unusual transition--like Clark Kent to Superman. But it sounds like that's where you'd like to be, or you wouldn't have taken the test in the first place. All I can say is this. If its really what you want, do it now. So much easier for a couple to sacrifice now for the long term, than once you have children to support. Sandy

    Bookmark   January 21, 2008 at 11:21PM
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I do think though, that in these very uncertain financial times, you truly examine what you want from the switch apart from a different schedule, etc. (that can change too in the new job). Have you talked lately to any officers in the department about what it's really like to work there? What will be expected of you on a daily basis? Where you'll be in 6 mos.- 1 yr. if you decide you don't like it after all (can you go back to what you've been doing?). I'm not saying not to do it, but be sure of the realities involved, vs just your having itchy feet in your present company (where you've obviously done so well).

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 6:43AM
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I feel like i won't have many opportunities to change career paths so significantly. Without going back to school, which doesn't seem that possible without selling the house, I don't see much other good paying jobs that are completely different from what I'm doing.

Basically, as of now, the job market in my current industry is great so returning to the industry I don't think would be a problem in a year if need be.

How much do you guys think a pension and full medical until death, are worth?
After thought on my side, I think its huge. I have money in my 401k but even if you max it out per year, I'm feeling I'm going to come up short. I know discussion on retirement plans is a full thread in itself.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 9:57AM
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That's great, but you're still thinking like an accountant. Money isn't everything! You're going to be doing a very different job, and if it turns out that you hate the things you do, or the people you do it with, money isn't going to help at all (honestly - been there, etc..). You must stop thinking only about the money and look at the day to day stuff you're going to have to live with (which is not to say you might not love it all, of course).

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 2:06PM
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I've done quite a few career changes but never one as drastic as you're contemplating. There are some things you probably should mull over.

1. Police work will likely pay less than accounting in a large accounting firm. Often, with overtime, policemen can make a nice income but I wouldn't bet on it.

2. Seriously consider the impact of a recession on local government. There is a thread on the effects of a recession on ordinary people. One major effect on local and state governments is reduced revenue and that means fewer services (e.g., layoff or RIFs). In the last recession (1990's), I worked for a major local school system in the DC metro area - they laid off 1000s of people. Out of four planners, one was cut (lucky for her, I decided to go to grad school so she moved into my position). Usually the newest hires are the first cut (seniority system).

3. Always do what you truly want to do and accept responsibility for your actions. If you want to do police work, then accept that you may have to accept a harder retirement (lower payout in your later years) and a lower income level. If you get more income than you expected, hey! that's great!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 5:10PM
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To answer your question, I think a pension and full medical for life are great---until they change. DH worked for a company that was known for its excellent benefits. Now there are 3 plans (so far), depending on the year you retired. 401K's replaced pensions and weren't too healthy at the time he was downsized and retired. And health bennies aren't as solid as the old timers got, but better than the newer retirees. Sandy

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 9:50PM
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Chris, Getting that job with Nassau County PD would be great. My husband retired from there in 2002, he had great benefits beyond his salary, including health and dental insurance for our family he carried over after he retired. Follow your heart and you will not be sorry. Good luck in whatever you choose.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2008 at 10:39AM
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Yeah, I do still think a bit like an accountant. it is one of my shortcomings.

I will definately make more money as an accountant, there is no question about that. And if I'm smart, I could still put away enough for retirement to equal the pension.

My real benefit I am looking at is that it is a different kind of work, I want to change what I'm doing, I wasn't thinking this drasticly until the opportunity came along, but I am going to get a different job in the spring doing something different in accounting or finance.

This is something that has interested me in the past. I get to be outside, which maybe isn't all its cracked up to be, but right now seems great, considering I sit in a confrence room with no windows 12 hours a day now. I get to work less, and when I work overtime I get paid. Granted now I guess that is "factored in" to my salary.

I've talked to family and friends who are interested, or working on the periphary of law enforcement, I think I need to talk to a few officers. We know a few indirectly, someone's husband, someone's daughter etc etc. I need a legitamate picture of the day to day.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 12:25PM
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No one has said this, so I will:

Don't forget that as a policeman, you could get shot at.

Are you ready for that? Is your wife? All the TV shows portray police wives as living w/ the daily dread of having the doorbell ring and an officer be there to give the bad news. Granted that's TV, but it's also reality. Fewer cops are killed nowadays (in NYC anyway) than in the bad old days of the 70s, but it still happens. Long Island isn't without crime.

Also, 'being outside' is great in May. Not so much in January. Better when it's sunny than rainy. And i've always thought it must get REALLY hot under those bulletproof vests in July.

Do you have any physical issues that might make 12 hours on your feet walking a beat, or 12 hours driving around in a car, painful? Plus NYC cops carry what looks like 20 pounds of crap on their belts. That itself would send me to the chiropractor. Maybe it's different in Nassau, or maybe not.

You definitely need to talk to some cops. Maybe even see if you could do a ride-along one day.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 12:59PM
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Yeah, I was thinking all along.. you could get shot at! However, I've worked at the Post Office, and "Going Postal" is a reality... with nowhere near the stress of high finance!

I'd put the 60 hours in one hand, 36 hours in the other hand to balance, and decide if you could shoot the bad guys if need be.

I know which hand would raise in my situation!!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 8:14PM
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New poster here but wanted to add my two cents:

My DH is a police officer and has been for nearly eight years now. It was a drastic change from his previous job where he was a microbiologist in a lab, but he is so happy now and gets to do plenty of variety in his job. Plus he gets paid extra due to his two college degrees and the schools that he has taken.

He earns a healthy income and yes, he might get shot at but that is beyond my control so I don't worry about it. At the beginning, you will probably get the crappy shifts (evenings/flex/nights), but you get used to these and as your seniority builds up, your options change.

A lot depends on your police chief and how big the department is though. My husband works for a pretty big department so it is well funded and with no risk of RIFs or anything like that. Plus he can earn overtime whenever he wants to do.

Additionally, he is on SWAT and gets all these super gadgets! :-)

I say - go for it. My husband doesn't regret it in any way and neither do I. He is a happy camper now.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 11:42AM
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Hi again.. NOT trying to discourage you believe it or not, but two more things to consider that DO come up a lot and not on TV... rousting drunks who puke on your shoes (known it to happen to officer friends), plus dealing with all that car crashes entail - not pretty at all... how's your stomach?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 3:09PM
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As of now I think I'm going for it. I am a little concerned about car accidents, my stomach isn't as strong as others. However, I think its a great opportunity.

I spoke to an Officer and she was very helpful and it seems that the job is really flexable and most of my concerns on quality of life were alleaved.

I am concerned if I can get in shape to get in the acadamy, whether I will be bored, and the blood guts and gore.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 8:38PM
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Hey, good luck, and please come back and tell us what happened!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 10:47PM
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Well, I went to the backround interview. I'm doing well. Things are progressing. However, surprisingly their "fast" would mean a start in July.

As of now I think I'm planning on going through with it and taking the police job

    Bookmark   February 15, 2008 at 2:36PM
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Good for you chrisk! I have a nephew that will soon retire from Texas state police. He loves his job and never had any serious close calls. He has not liked the politics in the office the last few years. But there are politics everywhere from time to time.
I'm a retired EMT and i can tell you the blood and gore wont bother you as much as you think.You're too busy doing your job to have time to think about it. When you're through and the adrenalin rush is gone you're to tired to think about it.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2008 at 7:06PM
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Good for you! I too am working on a career change, but not a police officer. I graduated the first time from college almost 15 years ago and now I'm back again. I am working on an education degree to teach secondary science - chemistry and biology. I'm in the science field, but I am just SO tired of the corporate bs. Yes, it will be a huge pay cut, but my other half is very supportive. I officially jump off the cliff and go full time to class in May - I've been taking classes and working right now - but it will be worth it, maybe not paycheck wise, but quality of life and not missing much more of my kids lives because I'm gone traveling (I travel 2-4 nights a week). PLus, I feel better about the group of "clients" I'll have.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2008 at 3:11PM
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