The decision to change jobs could be a straightforward one in many cases. For instance, you may have a bad boss who micromanages or plays favorites.
Or, you may notice your mental health suffering due to the pressure you face and long hours.
In the above scenarios, the push to change jobs could be a lot stronger. After all, anything that costs your mental health is way too expensive.
However, in other cases, you could be working in a wonderful workplace. You could have a great boss, wonderful colleagues and be part of an amazing company you are proud of.
While there might be little things that bug you, there is simply no huge push factor or reason to leave.
In such a scenario, there could be huge inertia to change roles. After all, if it ain’t broken, why fix it?
Changing jobs often involve multiple interviews; aptitude tests; take-home assignments and preparing for a panel.
Not to mention, it also involves a risk that things may not work out. After all, every employer will put up a good front and tell you nice things that you want to hear about their company. You will only truly know the reality when you set foot into a new working environment.
Despite this, you may still experience a nagging feeling of being too comfortable or wondering if you are missing out on something bigger out there.
After all, staying in a job for loyalty’s sake is like staying in a bad marriage for the sake of kids. It’s not healthy for anyone involved.
Here are some factors for you to consider before taking the leap into the unknown and changing jobs.
1. What do I want out of a job?
The first step is really going back to the fundamentals and asking yourself: What do I want out of a day job? How does a corporate job fit into my life?
For some, it could be passion. For others, it is learning. And for many, it could be a source of income for one’s family. Sometimes, it could be a mix of many factors.
Personally, there are three things I look out for in a corporate job:
Optimize for time spent: This is why I chose technology sales in the first place. Being part of a high growth company is also a great way to optimize for time as career progression accelerates and takes care of itself.
Futureproof: Every industry is moving in a different direction. In mine, many tech companies use Singapore as a launch pad to APAC. Thus, regional coverage is important to me.
Good boss and team: This is critical for wellbeing. You can enjoy your scope of work but if the manager is not good, it could harm your mental health and self-esteem in the world.
Once you identify what you want, you can match your current role and future role to determine the extent to which it fits your requirements.
You can then create a table like this to compare:
2. Which option will provide me more growth?
In Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三国演义, there is a story of how military strategist Zhuge Liang took advance of the eastern winds to set fire to his enemy ships. In doing so, he was able to take down his opponents which had a lot more resources than he did. Those who are familiar with Chinese classics know this story as 诸葛亮借东风.
Zhuge Liang leveraged external environmental factors to succeed. And, similarly, we can also do the same in our careers. Often, when we join high-growth companies and high-growth industries, we can supercharge our career growth.
This was based also on the advice of Sheryl Sandberg:
Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. And when companies aren’t growing quickly or their missions don’t matter as much, that’s when stagnation and politics come in.
The pursuit of growth is not only for progression’s sake but also for survival.
To thrive in this fast-changing world, it is important for everyone, especially those in their 20s and 30s with a long runway ahead to focus on building the right career capital – skills and experience that you have that can be used as leverage in defining your career.
You may wish to ask yourself:
If I stay 6-12 more months, will it make a huge difference to my resume and learning?
What is the impact on my career?
What skills can I potentially gain and where can I go in my new role? How relevant are these skills to my industry trends?
To stay on top of what is happening and what is changing, it is important to always read about your industry and network with other people in the same field, especially those who are a few years ahead of you.
3. Is my pay stagnating and below market rate?
A lot of people especially employers will tell you – “Don’t focus on pay, focus on learning!” To me, this is a false trade off.
Salary gains are important when you are young. The numbers don’t lie.
If we look at Ministry of Manpower data above, our salary increases the most in our 20s and up to 34 years old.
Looking at the blue segment of this graph: The ages of 25-34 years old is where your income really achieves the highest growth. These findings are consistent among other developed countries where one’s income growth generally stagnates after the first 10 years of a career.
There is merit to staying in one company and getting promoted.
Achieving progression within the same company showcases your ability to evolve and grow, positioning yourself as a trustworthy candidate that will get things done.
However, the limitation is that often you get paid more for switching roles and this helps you stay competitive in terms of market rate.
How can you find out your market rate?
The key is to always talk to recruiters even when you are not looking and to go for interviews sometimes even when you are not 100 percent sure you want to switch roles, this is to make sure you don’t get rusty with interview skills. Sometimes, you may even get an offer.
After all, it is always difficult to let go when you don’t feel you have something to move towards.
Another method is to build close connections with those in the same industry as you, that way you can multiply your efforts in market research by sharing data points with one another.
If you don’t talk to recruiters and actively engage them, you will always be restricted by fear that there is nothing better outside what you have now.
4. What happens if I move to the next level internally versus if I were to change jobs?
When deciding whether or not to move, it is worth comparing what you can get outside versus the next step internally within your own organization.
Sometimes, there could be an option of choosing to get promoted internally. This has many advantages.
First of all, this allows for pay increment and more responsibilities, but at minimal disruptions to your working environment. This is especially critical for those who are experiencing changes in other areas in life such as welcoming a new baby and would require more stability.
Having a good tenure at your current company could be beneficial. It can be a red flag to recruiters and hiring managers if your retention at most workplaces is below the industry average. After all, someone who’s job-hopping as a way up the career ladder is a riskier investment for companies.
However, moving externally has its advantages too.
The pay is often higher in many industries if you were to move rather than get promoted internally.
At times, the other company could also be growing much faster than your existing company. This can help accelerate your career as when companies grow fast, careers take care of themselves.
5. What do my Stakeholders think?
Many can make decisions alone if they are single and don’t have dependents.
However, if you are married, have children to support, or have elderly parents who rely on you for income, you are accountable to them due to shared lives and shared goals.
It is worth getting their buy-in and carefully explaining the pros and cons to them
Should you decide to switch roles, you may need their buy-in and understanding. For instance, for the first 6 months, you may need to spend more time at work due to the steep learning curve.
Or, perhaps you may have to take a temporary pay cut to switch to a high-growth industry.
Without the support and understanding of your loved ones, it could make the path we choose a lot more challenging.
The idea of this post is help you consider both options super carefully and to make a decision that is for the best for yourself, your goals, and the life you want.
However, even after you run through all these factors, it does not guarantee a positive outcome should you decide to stay or leave.
In life, we have to accept that every decision we make will never be perfect. And, life is filled with uncertainties so every decision about our future is simply a bet.
As Annie Duke, author of Thinking in Bets explains:
“Life is more like poker. You could make the smartest, most careful decision in firing a company president and still have it blow up in your face. You could run a red light and get through the intersection safely—or follow all the traffic rules and signals and end up in an accident.”
I will talk about decision-making more in my next few posts.
Hope that this has been useful to you in some way!