We debated for a while whether to include a career management section in the website, and ultimately we decided we must because managing your career is a critical component of financial security. Having stable, steadily progressive employment is the major way most of us grow our level of income and savings.
From the various resumes we have seen, including discussions with innumerable persons, we can conclude with reasonable certainty that people generally do not manage their career. The evidence is usually job hopping or stagnancy in your current job. We don’t think the longer-term impact of these decisions is properly evaluated. In the future when prospective employers review your resume, job hoppers appear unfocused and unable to commit and the others look unambitious.
Here are a few considerations.
Make decisions with a 5-year horizon
What does this mean? Simply, don’t make a decision about today. Make the decision in the context of where you wish to be in 5 years, or whatever sufficiently future time period you choose. This doesn’t mean that in 5 years time you’ll necessary end up where you originally envisioned; there are many reasons why things could change. That’s fine. But taking a longer term outlook helps avoid a rash decision today.
Do not job hop unless…
Beware of job hopping, unless the new job(s) demonstrates clear advancement. But at some point you need to settle down and commit to a job and an employer. This is the only way to build experience and contribute to an organization.
Do not take a new job purely for a higher salary
Additional income is always nice and is obviously a large consideration for taking a new job. But just take care it is not the sole motive. If a job is basically the same but one company is paying more, ask yourself why this is the case. Is it a more stressful environment with high turnover or low head count? So is the higher pay needed to attract people to the position?
Salary is also not the only form of compensation. Vacation, flexible working hours, a shorter commute, perks, education support, bonus structure, etc are major considerations that could be as important as base pay.
There is a cost to leaving a current employer
In adding up the advantages of signing with a new employer, it is easy to ignore the cost of leaving. No, we don’t mean financial cost; we assume you’ll do the math to make sure you are financially better off (including pension benefits). We are referring to the hidden costs:
- You already have an established network of people within the organization. You know who to call to get something done, especially the informal channels, and you know how to maneuver the bureaucracy; however, you start from zero at your new job. Sometimes the most difficult part of the job is not your own duties, but getting to know the people you must rely on, directly or indirectly.
- If you did your job well, you earned “points” with your current employer. Having a stockpile of points is important. You’ll need them when you need your boss to be flexible because of a personal situation, or when you make a mistake. (You’ll know when you’ve run out of points – your boss gets “bossy”.) The point is you’ve built trust with your employer because of good performance, so you earned yourself a few rights. With a new employer, you need to start building points all over again, and this takes time.
- If you spent sufficient time in an organization with a group of people, the chances are you’ve formed a team. If the team works well, it can be quite an enjoyable experience. Starting a new organization means getting to know new people. This can also be enjoyable, but it takes quite a while to become accepted as a team member.
- Promotions. Companies tend to promote persons who have spent time with the organization. When you move to a new job, you should mentally rule out being promoted for at least 2-3 years because you need to spend the time for the organization and its decision makers to get to know you.
Don’t underestimate these intangibles.
Try to reach outside your comfort zone
This is how you not only build confidence but also breadth and depth of experience. The problem is when you exaggerate your skills to obtain a job in a new company, in the hope of figuring it out when you get hired. Chances are you’ll put yourself in a lot of trouble if you can’t do the job; it is very likely you will get fired.
It’s safer to take “risks” with an employer that you’ve been with for a while. During that time, you should have built trust and a track record of success. Your bosses should be more willing to take chances with you and protect you from failing.
Learn about your new boss
We read a study once that the single most quoted reason that people leave an organization is because of their boss i.e. He/She is an idiot. Your boss is a major source of happiness or unhappiness at work. The more you can learn about a new boss, the more informed your decision whether to leave will be.
Prepare yourself for the inevitable future corporate event
Apparently companies once cared about their employees, did their best to treat them well, and acted as if they were being employed until retirement. Wow! This sounds great! But we are not sure if this exists anymore, except in very small businesses.
Don’t get us wrong, there are several companies that treat their staff very well and with respect – by all means search out these companies to work for. But the reality is companies will not hesitate to make corporate decisions that are needed to benefit the organization, with staff concerns sometimes heard, but ultimately secondary.
All employees can do is prepare themselves for the next event that affects staff: cost cutting, reorganizations, downsizing, etc. and try to stay as marketable as possible. By this we mean, keep showing the company that you can add value.
The main ways to do this are by:
- Continuous professional development. We are not only referring to formal qualifications but also various other forms of development and training.
- Opportunities for leadership, etc. Always look for opportunities to demonstrate leadership, managing staff, working with large teams, cross-functional exposure, and so on. Take them with both hands because they build your profile and your personal brand through name recognition.
- Focus on transferable skills. By virtue of university degrees, professional qualifications, etc., we are forced to specialize in a particular area, and it is easy to be bucketed by a label that defines your skills. This is a fact of professional life. Battle it by searching for opportunities to learn transferrable skills, whether on-the-job or through training. For example, being a good staff supervisor/manager is a skill that is learnt by training and experience. Regardless of your formal education or qualifications, this is a transferrable skill that can add value to any company. There are many examples of these skills.
- Continuously add to your resume. You should always be growing professionally and adding value/contributing to your employer. Use your resume as your guide.
- Networking. It is very easy to just sit by your desk and interact with a specific and limited number of people every day. But this does not build your personal brand nor does it help you get to know the organization and its decision-makers. Build some courage and ask for networking meetings with senior people in other parts of the organization, especially areas in which you feel you might eventually want to work. Other people will get to know you and vice-versa. You’ll be surprised how it can open doors for you.
We hope the advice will be useful. If you have advice you’d like to share, or just a question or thought, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
If you need more personalized career advice, why not check out our Career Coach advisory option? We’d love the opportunity to help you!