I am not normally one to write these; that is what my blog is for. But I'm faced with a dilemma here, and E2 contains some of the brightest people I've ever met, so maybe someone can offer me some advice.

I work for an embedded systems contract company. We do projects for other companies that do not have the manpower, experience, and/or time to handle themselves. We are a modestly-sized company, with a casual atmosphere and a nice working environment, and I consider myself lucky to work here.

A few months back, a client that I have been doing work for approached me and hinted that they were looking to bring a new software engineer on board, and did I know anybody that might be interested? (*winkwink*) This was flattering, but not exactly proper business etiquette, as we have an "anti-fishing clause" that states that clients may not directly hire one of us until a period of time has elapsed since the end of their contract. (This stops clients from trying to cut out the overhead by hiring us on directly.) I figured they simply hadn't read that part of the contract, politely thanked them for their consideration, and went on my way, figuring they would hire someone else and that would be the end of it.

Two days ago, I was approached again -- this time by the boss of the people who originally spoke with me. The pitch was far more aggressive this time. I was told, straight out, that they wanted to hire me. I reminded them of the anti-fishing clause, and they said it didn't matter, they wanted to negotiate a compromise around the clause with my boss. They offered me more money than I make now, more vacation than I get now, and a "senior" title. I could not simply say "no thank you" and walk away from such a deal, so I said I would talk to my boss about it.

I really love the company I work for. I have worked here ever since I graduated. We have had our ups and downs, and I was even laid off for a year, but we have that small-company, "we all make a difference" feeling that I adore. I move from project to project, and get to work with something new and learn more each time. The down times have engendered within me a very fierce loyalty to my boss and the company, as we have struggled through difficulty and overcome adversity.

On the other hand, the client is a large company, stable, growing. They can probably offer me more opportunities for career advancement. They're international; employees there often attend seminars or meetings in Europe or Asia. And, last but not least, there is the added salary and vacation to consider.

All of my life, what was best for me just happened to also be what's best for my employer, and everything was alright. Now, for the first time, those two things might be different, and I'm torn between my loyalty to this place and the possibility of personal advancement and success (not to mention the ability to pay down the debt we acquired while I was out of work more quickly). One is never supposed to mix business and personal matters, but my boss is also my friend, and that makes it the most difficult of all.

By considering this offer, am I just doing what's right for myself? And if so, why do I hear this voice in my head, echoing "every man has his price"?

Update 11/29: I talked things over with my boss, and came to a realization: I like it here. I like the people, I like the atmosphere, and I like feeling like I personally make a difference. I know that my current employer will not be able to match a larger company in terms of benefits, but that is, I think, a small price to pay for being somewhere that I really like to work. The folks that work for my client always seem rushed and stressed out; I don't want to be that way all the time. So, for now, I will choose comfort over cash and stick with it here. I don't know if what I'm doing is the best choice over the long term, but that's my decision and I'm sticking to it.

Update waaaay later, 12/06/07: The folks that tried to fish me are all but gone. Meanwhile, my employer is doing excellent, and I'm in line to become a team lead engineer. Yeah... I think I made the right decision.