I'm the only software developer (and office trainer once a week) at a German-owned Portuguese pharmaceutical company.
I see a dead end in my career here. I'm becoming overwhelmed by sticky projects. What should I do now? Where should I head to? I earn 25,000€: Is that good? Thank you very much for your advice!
First, assuming you're not a native English speaker, my compliments on your English. You've done a nice job of presenting your situation, your skills and your concerns in a clear and succinct manner. 25,000€ may be good in your market (I don't know much about compensation in Portugal). For what I know in the U.S., however, the equivalent in dollars would be almost $31,000 a year. That's a very low rate of compensation for someone with your string of credentials; in fact, in recent salary surveys, somebody with your credentials and experience would be likely to earn at least twice that amount, if not more, yearly. Believing that the cost of living differential is not as high as 200% (except perhaps in major metropolitan areas of the U.S. like New York City, San Francisco and so forth) I'd have to recommend that you start looking around for other options and see what presents itself.
I may also have some good news for you: With your string of certifications and background, you should have little difficulty in finding a reputable placement firm to help you find your next job. At minimum, I'd suggest that you make some discreet inquiries with one or two such firms right away and ask for feedback on your current situation and on your prospects for other employment. This will provide a quick reality check on whether or not my suspicion that you're underpaid at present is true or false and also give you a feel as to other prospects that might (or might not) be available to you.
If you do decide to seek other employment, you should indeed work with a placement firm, but don't let that limit your job search strategy, either. Use your personal network, check the online job sites, read and respond to job postings online and in print (and be sure to check trade publications as well as newspapers), and do all the things you would normally do if you were looking for work. A placement firm may indeed find you your next job, but I don't think it's smart to leave your future entirely in somebody else's hands.
HTH, and good luck with your investigation and decision making,
This was first published in October 2004