Job Change – When Is It Right?

Mary Rosenbaum | March 17th, 2014

How do you know when it’s time to change jobs?

When I was an executive recruiter I remember working with a particular candidate who was reluctant to make a job change. He had been in his position for over 5 years, had friends at work, felt he knew what was expected of him, knew the lay of the land, and didn’t want to “create any waves” in his life. He wanted to stay put even though the opportunity I presented would be more challenging, career enhancing, and to top it off, would pay more than what he was earning.

His reluctance to move stemmed from a normal fear of the unknown that blinded him to all the reasons why he should move.

Changing jobs is one of the top ten stress-inducing life events, right up there with death, illness, marriage, divorce, having children, and going to jail.

So it’s easy to understand anyone’s reluctance to change jobs willingly when there appears to be no real need.

Yet, there are often signs that go unnoticed just so we can maintain the status quo and not cause any ripples in our lives. And those signs, if they exist, often lead to a more stressful life situation as work becomes less rewarding – personally, professionally, and financially.

I am not advocating job change and in fact often counsel clients that changing their situation at work should be the first step in improving and taking control of their careers. If that doesn’t work, then a job change might be in order.

Reasons for considering a job change fall into two basic categories: Improving an already positive situation and extricating yourself from a limiting situation.

Improving an already positive situation:

As with my example above, you can be in a job and a company that seems to working just fine. But then along comes an opportunity that could shake things up. What do you do?

If you are successful where you are and have been able to hone your skills and talents, you may be able to leverage this experience and accelerate your career by moving to another firm or even another industry.  Companies look for talented professionals who can introduce alternative solutions for new and recurring problems. An outsider’s viewpoint can be a great way for companies to enhance their existing talent pool.

And oftentimes, it’s a great way for you to move into a more senior role faster than if you stay where you are.

Another positive reason to make a change would be to gain broader exposure to how other companies and industries operate – it expands your knowledge base and makes you even more marketable in the future. It’s a great way to move away from “we have always done it this way” to having a greater variety of options and skills in your toolbox.

In both of these situations, it goes without saying that this works best if you have specific skills and talents that have been developed over a number of years. Job hopping simply to improve your positioning without the requisite depth of experience will not prove to be a successful career maneuver.

Extricating yourself from a limiting situation:

Although it would be great if we could all decide to change jobs because we want to improve an already good situation rather than because we are unhappy where we are. But the reality so many of us find ourselves in situations that limit our career path and make us miserable at work.

Here are a few that should galvanize you into doing something:

- You have been passed over for promotions, choice projects, and other opportunities that would expand your area of expertise.

- You are no longer being challenged by the work – it’s feels more repetitive, less creative, and consequently you feel less motivated.

- You no longer enjoy the work you do – it doesn’t fit with your values or your interests, you no longer feel engaged and it’s harder to get up in the morning.

- You cannot deepen or broaden your sphere of influence – there is a lack of cross-functional exposure, it’s not a collaborative culture, there’s too much internal competition.

- Management does not provide adequate support for the work that needs to be done – staffing, systems, consultants.

- Management sets artificial deadlines as a way of managing their employees creating stress and an unhealthy departmental attitude.

- There seems to be no clear career path – there’s no budget for professional development, they often recruit from outside, there’s a lack of visibility with senior management.

Any of these situations should cause a red light to go off. Your first step should be to try to work on improving your current situation. If that fails, then it might be time to move on.

As for the candidate I was trying to place with my client – he ultimately took the job we were offering and I’m glad to say, he “lived happily ever after.”

Need help assessing your career? Contact me.

Let us know if you have any other reasons that changing jobs might be the right way to go.

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