The men who signed the Declaration of Independence put their lives on the line. They knew that their freedom required the courage to take a great risk. Changing jobs is not quite as drastic a change or risk, but it does take some courage. If you're unhappy in your current job or want to take a different course in your career, reflect for a minute on what happened on July 4, 1776. Change is never easy. It involves courage and risk. However, if you're not will to take those chances, nothing will change. Think about your career in this terms.
Happy Fourth of July.
A client called today to tell me she'll be leaving a job after less than six months. She was very anxious about how this would look on her resume. For some employers, a short term job will be a very large red flag. I told her to be prepared to talk about her reasons for leaving a job after less than a year. I also recommended that she always remind potential employers that she had been at her previous position for more than ten years with a strong record of achievement. If an employer has a closed mind, no explanation will be sufficient. Most employers, I think, will be more open minded. If my client can focus on her strengths and what she will bring to the new employer, a short term job will not be deal breaker.
Most of us have had ups and downs in our career, which Winston Churchill summed up in these great words: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is courage to continue that counts."
Persistence might be the greatest strength, and -- as Churchill says -- it takes courage to move forward when we doubt ourselves. However, every success we have had was a time we could have failed. The only way to change is to take a change and move forward with courage. I'm not the biggest fan of Churchill. But, in this case, his words are great advice for anyone who is frustrated with their career or unhappy in their job. Find your "courage to continue."
One of my favorite websites Big Think featured a quotation from the great Zen teacher Alan Watts: “The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
We often resist change and hang on to what we can no longer have, or – worse still – cling to that which is not good for us. Watts’ advice is very relevant to anyone thinking about changing jobs or careers. Don’t dread the change. Dance with it.
One of my clients is in his late 20s. He’s been a Program Manager for the last 18 months. When I ran into him recently, he told me that he wants to leave his current job but can’t because he hasn’t been there two years. I asked him, “What’s the difference between a year and a half and two years?” For a company looking for a manager with 1-3 years’ experience, he fits the qualifications. He’s not looking to move up in his career at this point. Why not make a lateral move? Why does my client want to move? His boss is not supportive, and there is some chance he could be fired or demoted. Now is the time for him to move.
One of my clients, let’s call him Fred, is an executive in his mid-sixties. He’s told me more than once that he plans to retire at 70, so I was surprised last week when he informed me that he’s interviewing for a new job. He’s happy with his current position, and he’s been with the company for six years. When I asked why he’d consider leaving. Fred answered, “I might get a better deal,” adding that he thinks the new position could pay him as much as $10,000 more a year.
His response opened my eyes. Even if someone is only going to work for three or for more years, a annual salary increase of $5,000-$10,000 is a lot of money. Fred then put his decision in a better perspective: “How do I know what’s out there if I don’t look? Going on this interview might convince me that my current job is great, or it could give me a chance for something better.” Throughout his career, Fred has consistently moved when he found a good opportunity. He didn’t stay with an employer out of a sense of loyalty or, worse still, fear of change. Over the years, he’s been laid off a few times, but his approach to the job search has always led him to find new opportunities.
My take away from this story is that a smart professional never stops looking for a better deal, especially in an economy where most employers are stingy with raises and generous in giving more work. Changing jobs can often bring a higher salary and other perks. It can, as Fred pointed out, also show that the current employer isn’t so bad. Looking for something new brings perspective, which is good in any aspect of life. Start looking. Who knows what you’ll find?
We all want security. In a time of high unemployment and job insecurity, many people look for careers that will be recession proof. Sadly, like the unicorn, such jobs do not exist. Even healthcare, which is clearly a growing field, churns jobs. My clients in this field have told stories of layoffs and reorganizations. Several hospitals in Chicago have reorganized departments and laid off staff. One of my clients survived a layoff. She had to take over a co-worker’s job and her staff had to take on the duties of other laid off workers. So much for recession proof jobs in healthcare. Rather than seeking a security that doesn’t exist, the best career strategy is to be prepared for any challenge or opportunity. Change happens. Make the most of it.
Politicians of both parties are beginning to preach a new meme: “good jobs.” They are aware that our country’s economy has produced new jobs, many of which are low wage. I agree with the politicians that low wage jobs are a problem. However, neither party has proposed a real solution to this problem.
What can you do as an individual in a low wage economy? Practice smart career management. Executives have done this for years. They have no loyalty to their employer. They study their industry, network, and change jobs whenever a good deal comes along. No politician will save you in a time of shrinking salaries. You need to know your value, find ways to increase your value, and look for employers who will pay you what you’re worth.
Hanging on to the job you have may give you a sense of security. It also might be a good way to fall behind financially. Take care of yourself – look for the best deal. That’s what the big boys do.