Often I work with and coach individuals who are currently employed and have chosen to make a job change. I call this transition by design versus default- resulting from termination, layoff, acquisition, or corporate restructure. They reach out to get guidance in preparing for their search instead of hastily applying for jobs they see online without careful reflection and consideration of what a change needs to entail to have a positive professional outcome. This is a critical step to take before you leap into the process, whether you are currently employed or not. You don’t need to hire a coach, but you should take time to consider a decision that’s this significant.
One of the key pieces of advice I often give to someone is to make sure that they are doing this for the right reasons. Often, we experience a bad day or a bad patch and decide based upon pure emotion to leave our employer without really giving serious thought to what this could mean for our career.
Before you decide to engage in an active search for alternative employment, consider reflecting on what factors drive this decision and what you are looking to gain. If you cannot articulate this, how will you know what the new situation needs to comprise to improve what you currently have? What gaps exist? Is it compensation, benefits, location, schedule, leadership, lack of growth and development potential, culture, responsibilities, team, industry, or another set of variables that impact your professional happiness and wellbeing? This is different for each client I coach and each candidate I represent.
Before you engage in a search, it’s also critical to map out your goals and future employment objectives. List these out before you begin looking; this will provide you with a clear vision of what needs to be present for a new situation to make sense. You will use this inventory to evaluate and measure potential employers and jobs to ensure that they meet most, if not all, your expectations. It would be best to prepare questions that allow you to collect the information necessary to make an informed decision. Sometimes we get caught up in the courtship, especially when someone pays a lot of attention and shows interest in us. A pre-determined roadmap keeps us from losing sight of our targeted outcome.
Having a conversation with your manager first is a great way to begin a dialogue about what’s missing and attempt to find solutions that will allow you to meet your career desires and remain employed with your current organization. Managers don’t always know what you need, they are often surprised when someone elects to leave, but a counteroffer is not the time to have this conversation. It creates a lack of trust that we all know often results in someone leaving anyway, usually within a short time. It harms the relationship, and often neither of you can fully recover from the damage.
I was working with a wonderful high potential accountant a few years ago who was referred to me. We met for lunch to discuss her search, and she kept telling me how much she loved the Controller and what a great leader she had been to her throughout her tenure. I encouraged her to go back and talk through the added responsibilities she wanted moving forward. She was interested in gravitating towards finance and playing a more strategic role within that function. I knew her boss would be very disappointed if she walked in and gave notice without having an opportunity to address her aspirations and look for a way to move her into a position with added responsibilities aligned with the direction she wanted to take professionally. Ultimately her boss was able to make the necessary changes, and she remained with the company doing the kind of work she valued.
Managers are not mind readers; they often are not fully aware of what an employee needs. Don’t assume that there’s no opportunity to work through and resolve the reason for making a change. If you decide to leave, the departure will go much smoother if you’ve had this kind of conversation. Your employer might even be willing to assist you in the search effort.
Like any significant life change, changing jobs is a very big deal. We need to consider carefully and strategically to ensure that we are doing it for the right reasons and reaching the right outcomes.
The grass is not always greener; make sure you don’t step in a pile of dirt.