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Strategic Considerations for Changing Jobs

admin | 14.06.2012

Changing jobs gives you a broader base of experience: After about three years, you’ve learned most of what you’re going to know about how to do your job. Therefore, over a ten year period, you gain more experience from “three times 90 percent” than “one times 100 percent.”

Many professionals stay within their current employer organizations due to some false sense of security or loyalty. Many of these same professionals may have very justifiable reasons to do so, however many others will never know simply due to their careers being managed by such emotions as fear of change, personal loyalties or an inherent need for security. The laws of business dictate that your employer run the organization efficiently and profitably. An employer must make decisions that concern the overall health and welfare of the organization, not individual interests. You as a professional should also view your career as an entity or organization that needs to be run efficiently and profitably. You have to view yourself as an enterprise within a vast market of employers that need your services.

From this premise, we believe there are many deeply personal reasons to change your employment situation. We recommend that such change be made with much thought, study and introspection. From a purely strategic point of view, there are four good reasons to change jobs within the same (or similar) industry three times during your first ten years of employment:

Reason #1:

Changing jobs gives you a broader base of experience: After about three years, you’ve learned most of what you’re going to know about how to do your job. Therefore, over a ten year period, you gain more experience from “three times 90 percent” than “one times 100 percent.”

Reason #2:

A more varied background creates a greater demand for your skills: Depth of experience means you’re more valuable to a larger number of employers. You’re not only familiar with your current company’s product, service, procedures, quality programs, inventory system, and so forth; you bring with you the expertise you’ve gained from your prior employment with other companies.

Reason #3:

A job change results in an accelerated promotion cycle: Each time you make a change, you bump up a notch on the promotion ladder. You jump, for example, from project engineer to senior project engineer; or national sales manager to vice president of sales and marketing.

Reason #4:

More responsibility leads to greater earning power: A promotion is usually accompanied by a salary increase. And since you’re being promoted faster, your salary grows at a quicker pace.

Many people view a job change as a way of promoting themselves to a better position. And in most cases, we would agree. However, you should always be sure your new job offers you the means to satisfy your values and career goals. While there’s no denying the strategic virtues of selective job changing for the purpose of career leverage, you want to make sure the path you take will lead you where you really want to go. For instance, there’s no reason to change jobs for more money if it’ll make you unhappy to the point of distraction. In fact, we have found that money usually has no influence on a career decision unless it materially affects your lifestyle or self-identity. We believe that the “best” job is one in which your values and goals are being satisfied most effectively. If career growth and advancement are your primary goals, and they’re represented by how much you earn, then the job that pays the most money is the “better” job.

It Pays to Diversify

If you were an investor, would you dump your life savings—every single dollar—into a single stock? Most likely not; it is far too risky to put all your eggs in one investment basket.

And yet, you’d be surprised how many people manage their careers with a single-stock mindset. They toil away, year after year, investing their talents in a narrow field of interest. Until recently, this approach made a lot of sense. Conventional wisdom dictates that if you do one thing really well, you’ll never be out of a job. But times have changed, and so have strategies. While it’s still true that a solid career is built on a foundation of position-specific expertise, it’s become increasingly important to maintain a balanced portfolio of knowledge and experience. When employers look for talent, they typically settle for people with the proficiency to perform certain tasks. But what they really want—especially in today’s hyper-competitive market—is an adaptable professional, one whose broad-based set of skills crosses over into a variety of disciplines and provides he or she with a long runway of growth ahead of them. Want proof? Poke your head into any meeting room where blue chip performers are present. You’re likely to hear a sales manager exploring the potential of XML technology; or an engineer debating the virtues of a strategic alliance; or a CFO pondering the benefits of a co-branding marketing opportunity. As organizations flatten, more is expected from each individual contributor. This means that versatility is not only fashionable, it’s become a key ingredient in modern-day career progression. We are not suggesting that you spread yourself so thin as to master nothing at all. But in order to reach top-percentile blue chip status in today’s rugged job market, you’ll need an expanded arsenal of skills to deploy. To round out your resume, look for areas of weakness (or “blind spots”), and try to develop them into strengths. For example, if you’re a design engineer and you want to improve your company’s product or advance its market position, here are some issues to consider: By gaining knowledge in areas that were formerly considered the domain of “somebody else,” you’ll increase your overall market value. The more you can offer a multiple spectrum of knowledge—rather than a single color of skill—the less likely you will inadvertently paint yourself into a corner. Fernando Espinosa and Warren Carter are the Senior Managing Partners of QualiFind, Inc. and can be reached at 619-661-2585 or fespinosa@quali-find.com or wcarter@quali-find.com for comment.