I’ve had a surprising number of calls during this COVID period from people wanting to explore career options. The lock-down seems to have allowed people to reflect on their current role. “Should I be looking for a new role?” is the question I am being asked.
First and foremost: I avoid ever giving “career advice”. Such advice is best given by (a) a person who knows you well and who you trust; and (b) ideally, this person has walked the path that you hope to follow.
Second: this might sound trite, but each person’s circumstances are unique and there is no easy answer.
So, how will you know if it is time to look for a new role? What I have observed is that there are some key questions to consider:
Start with a ‘big picture’ career perspective:
How does my current position/organisation fit into my career plans? This can depend upon the stage of your career.
- Are you in a growth, learning, progression phase? I’d prefer not to use the cliché about climbing the career ladder, but this is the gist.
- Is there so much happening in other parts of your life that you’d prefer to ‘tread water’?
- While we prefer not to admit it, many of us reach the ‘wind down’ phase.
An example: a new Director/CEO is appointed, and a major change process is imminent. This could be wonderful news for a person in the growth phase. Perhaps not so exciting for someone in the other two phases – they might start looking elsewhere.
But the opposite can also be true! You might view the new Director/CEO as leading a change process that will not allow you to progress your career.
Consider the purpose and values alignment:
Do the purpose, values and culture of this organisation match my own? Does the strategic direction sit well with me?
For example: it is common to find people moving from a highly paid commercial setting into not-for-profit, for far less income. They do so for the alignment of purpose and values.
Consider your work relationships:
How are my relationships with my manager, peers and team?
Do I like my work?
Is the nature of my day-to-day work fulfilling me? Or, quite simply, do I enjoy coming to work each day? If the answer is ‘no’ then a supplementary question is whether this will change with a change of employer.
Consider the conditions of employment:
How do matters such as hours of work, location and travel requirements match to my expectations for work/life balance? (I’m excluding remuneration here.)
Now consider the remuneration:
Is the role appropriately remunerated? If not, are there compensating benefits, such as the experience/expertise I’m gaining; or the joy I take from my contribution.
There are a further three dimensions to consider if you are in the career growth phase.
Consider the organisation’s reputation:
What is the standing and reputation of the organisation within its sector? For example, is the reputation (or lack of a reputation) going to benefit or hinder my career growth if I stay longer?
Does the organisation’s approach to continuing professional development match to my needs and expectations? Am I being stretched and what are the prospects for my continuing learning and career development?
Consider the time frame:
Have I been here too long? Or not long enough? No matter how many opportunities you’re given, we all know the danger in either (a) sticking around for too long; or (b) being viewed as a job hopper.
How long is too long? Sorry, as you’d expect, there’s no easy answer to this. It can depend on variables such as location: opportunities available for people living in metropolitan areas usually differ to those in regional and rural settings.
There is only one person who can answer your question “is it time to look for a new job?” Obviously that is you. Use the above framework to guide your thinking. Remember also that it is the interplay between the questions that is important and the relative weighting of importance will depend upon your personal circumstances.
If there is someone you can trust who has (ideally) had a career such as yours, then there is great value in bouncing your thinking off them.