Unless you’re retiring soon, the answer should always be yes. If you’re not considering a job change to move your career forward, you’ll start losing ground at some point.
Picking the right time to change jobs is everything, so swap the word ‘yes’ for ‘potentially’ and you’re in charge, ready to switch jobs when the right moment comes.
“Action this day” was a laudable rallying cry for Sir Winston Churchill. However, if that means you’re leaping to switch jobs as an emotional knee-jerk reaction to a problem at work, you risk sinking your career into an abyss. Grasping at a role that just isn’t right for you can deny you the opportunity to build an enduring track record.
A number of employer and job changes may be the norm today, but there are limits. A CV parading a series of short term roles creates a negative impression, especially for more senior positions. “Employers don’t want to invest in someone who does not give a return on investment,” notes research consultant Sue Honoré of Ashridge, one of the world’s leading business schools.
Even In the fast-moving sectors where frequently moving jobs is expected, employers become concerned if you’ve been changing jobs for defensive reasons. By all means feel the emotion from a negative situation, culture or experience, but use it to motivate your search for the right opportunity, not just any opportunity. Only make a job change when it’s the right time for you and do it on your own terms.
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Should you change your job?
When you ask yourself, “Should I change jobs?”, remember that the best career change jobs are those that build on your career to date and then stretch you further. A new role should broaden your experience, build your capability and set you up for the move after that. If an employer sees that you’re an ambitious achiever and taking a logical career step, you’re half way in to your new role already, so show the positive reasons why you want to move on from your current post.
You might actually want to change employer for negative reasons but be wary of raising doubts. If you don’t like the culture where you are, is that a problem with the organisation, or a problem with you? If you claim to be bored and under-utilised, is that because your present employer sees you as unreliable? If you’re chasing a higher salary, does that suggest your old employer is mean or that you’re greedy?
Yes, your boss may be the worst unreconstructed tyrant on the planet, a fact acknowledged by your peers, but your next employer has no interest in how unlucky you’ve been. Focus instead on what you learned and how it qualifies you to move on with a true sense of purpose, into a more autonomous role. You might want to move for location and lifestyle reasons because you’re stuck in the boonies with only the sound of banjos for company, but present what you can give, not what you want.
How often should you change jobs?
Recruiters may advocate you change jobs every 2 years, but their motivations are different to yours. If you’ve created an outline career plan you’ll be able to check when you’re ready for your next move. That alone cuts your risk of changing jobs too often, because if you can demonstrate that you’re ready, you are ready.
It takes longer to master a more senior role, so you’ll change jobs less often as your career progresses. However, be wary of claiming five years of experience but possessing only one, five times over. Sue Honoré says that sticking around in one job for too long can actually harm your career development. “You can easily become so deeply involved in the culture, routine and processes of a role that moving to a new job is really difficult,” she states.
Of course, you may have a redundancy-forced job change but most employers will accept that’s no fault of yours. Most will also understand an unfortunate move that just didn’t work out. Never the less, a prize job you really want will almost always be easier to win if you’re still in work because your existing employer is effectively vouching for you. No matter how awful you believe your current situation to be, use that to your advantage.
Questions to ask before making a move
Things can change unexpectedly so everything is a risk, including staying put. Even if your need for security is high and your appetite for risk is low, you should still weigh up whether changing jobs is in fact the better option. Review current job ads to compare how your salary and benefits match up to those commonly on offer but be wary of highly paid jobs with risk attached. Benchmark how much you’re personally worth by looking at relevant sector pay guides.
When considering a particular employer, look at their stability. Are they motoring ahead, or are they under financial pressure? If technology is changing, how will that affect their prospects? Gauge whether they’re recruiting for this role because they see an opportunity to drive forward or whether it’s a toxic environment and they’re just desperate for anyone warm and vertical. Assess your odds of picking up the reins successfully and the extent to which you’ll have scope to grow.
How to change your job
So, it’s time. You’ve decided to make a move, you know your worth and you’ve found that dream job. Proceed cautiously because understanding how to change your job is vital if you don’t want to be the one without a chair if the music stops. Loyalty to your existing boss, department or employer is commendable, but an organisation has no loyalty to you. People at work, even ‘friends’, can be fickle. Talking to your boss about jumping ship is a threat no matter how you put it, so have a confirmed offer in your hand first.
You want to leave on the best terms possible, so consider the problems you’re leaving in your wake and be ready to discuss mitigating those. If you’re valued, a counter-offer is likely. It can be tempting to accept, but remind yourself you’re moving for career and development reasons, not just for short term monetary gain. Don’t try to force up the package from your new employer, offers can be just as easily withdrawn. If your current employer’s counter-offer is formed around a promotion, then you have some very hard thinking to do, because that could hold real value for you.