Knowing when it’s time to change jobs a bit of an art. It’s a balance between always ensuring you’re striving for the next challenge, and ensuring you build longevity and commitment into your journey – proactively seeking out challenge, progression and having impact at each employer first.
I’m sure you’ve seen those motivational quotes:
“life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
“if you’re too comfortable, it’s time to move on”
and my personal favourite
“a ship is safe at harbour, but that is not why a ship was made”.
Love them or hate them, these quotes are meant to disrupt your day to day thinking, challenging you to ensure you’re always progressing and putting yourself in front of positive challenges and new situations. They can, and should, also be applied to your career.
Here are six key questions you should be asking yourself to help you work out if it’s time.
1. How long have I been comfortable?
The question rightly suggests that it is usual and beneficial to have peaks and troughs – moments of real challenge and moments where you bed down your experience. But if you’re comfortable too long – with no new challenge for months on end, then you can start to stagnate in your career and skills.
“I just want to make sure that I’m staying at the cutting edge and that I’m developing the right skills for the increasingly sophisticated nature of prof services marketing.”
2. When was I last given a project or responsibility that really stretched me? And have I been putting my hand up to take on more and seeking out where I can add more value to the business?
It’s important to be pro-active with your career development at your current employer. Opportunities won’t come to you unless you build your profile and offer to take things on.
3. Is it possible to organically grow the role I’m in further?
Keep in mind resourcing – there’s only so much more one person can take on without other aspects of their role being backfilled before they are stretched too thin and working all hours. This is one of the most common reasons Managers and Senior Managers come to use seeking a change.
“I want to be able to really focus on one part of the business and more deeply ingrain myself in a sector/client group / practice. I’m spread so thin I worry that I’m not adding the value I want to and that it will eventually affect my brand and reputation.”
4. Is there a promotion realistically on the horizon in the next 6-12 months?
Would that promotion rely on someone leaving? Would it be a competitive process and against how many others? Would that promotion offer genuine change to my day-to-day role – or would it be a title and salary change to reward experience and the level you can now operate at? As one candidate said to me recently
“I’d been waiting for a Senior Manager role for 2 years but the promise never eventuated. I should have asked more questions about what my promotion would be dependent on. I only wish I’d come to you sooner.”
5. Is now the right time personally?
Sometimes the following situations cause people to delay a move:
- Buying a property
- Spouse/partner changing jobs or setting up a business at the same time
- Family planning or age of young children. I am really pleased to have seen this one become much less of a barrier. The far increased level of flexibility now available at most professional services firms makes it a lot easier for new parents to change employer. This, along with improving parental leave policies, will likely mean we start to see less negative impact to women’s careers caused by feeling they needed to stay at one firm until they had finished building their family.
6. Is fear of the unknown and the safety of your current firm the only things holding you back?
“I’ve been at my firm for so long, I’m not even sure it’s possible to leave anymore – after 15 years here, would another firm want me?”
This is a conversation I had with someone last week and I was able to reassure them that it was absolutely still possible to leave. Importantly, this person had always progressed and taken on new projects and roles within the business. The size, scale and sophistication of some professional services firms now means that you can find genuine longevity of career path in some firms. However – there is a tipping point when you risk stagnation and becoming institutionalised. This person was right that it was time to go – but needed some encouragement and confidence to ‘take the leap’.
I think it’s time to change jobs – what’s next?
Most people who contact us are not certain whether or not they should move. Some are seeking our advice to help work through that, and sometimes we do tell people to stay put. Many candidates we work with never really consider themselves actively looking but the high achiever tendency to fear stagnation leads them to be ‘open’ to moving for the right role.
Even when some people have decided they are really motivated to move – they can be paralysed in inaction as the ‘To Do’ list item of “putting myself on the market” continues to wallow at the bottom of the list. What many people don’t realise is how easy and quick it is to take action. A 10-15 minute phone call/2 mins e-mail to us. We might have a coffee – we might wait until there’s a role that peaks your interest. That’s really all it takes. And you might get great insights into how your skills are perceived in the market and potential career paths available to you.
I recently placed a candidate exactly one year after our first informal coffee into a role which exactly matched the career strategy we discussed and it all started with an informal coffee with the client.
“I wasn’t ready to make a formal application. It felt like such an overwhelming step when I wasn’t even sure if I was ready to leave my current firm. Having an informal coffee as the first step – and being given time & space to consider throughout the process really helped. I’m so excited I accepted the role. I’m pleased I agreed to have coffee.”