How to Evaluate a Career Move

Making a change, whether it be within your existing firm, or with a new firm, is stressful. That’s especially the case if you are in a job/firm where you’re unhappy. Why? Because moving doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be happier. And it could result in a situation worse than the one you’re currently in. Thus, it’s important to be as careful and deliberate as possible. So, go slow. And think about the following:

What do you like/dislike about your current situation? Best to write down everything so that you can see the whole list. This is an essential step, as it should help you determine what you really are drawn to, or trying to avoid. Moving just for money, or title, is probably unwise. But, and this is important, if you’ve been promised something (such as a raise or title bump) and didn’t receive it, you may consider a move. If management says one thing and does another, it’s a question of good judgment and trust. Fool me once, shame on you. Don’t hang around to be fooled twice. What you want to establish is: why you’re open to leaving a job, what you expect to escape and how well do you understand what you would be accepting, if you left.

  1. At times, the idea of making a huge change is appealing but unrealistic. Sometimes it’s the result of fatigue, frustration, or boredom. Try to carve out a bit of time to separate your feelings so that you know what you can manage. If you’re at a point in your life where you genuinely have the flexibility to do what you like, that’s ideal. But few have that flexibility. So, take a look at what you could realistically do and try to establish some goals for yourself so that you can measure your growth. Best not to make a decision when you’re on the brink of taking vacation. Very hard to have the clarity at that point.

While there is no perfect job/firm, it’s possible to find a situation that is appealing. If/when you interview, pay attention to how you feel and how your questions are answered. But mostly, pay attention to the process. It’s nearly always the case that if you’re treated respectfully and reasonably in the search process, the firm you’re considering will be one that will treat you in a reasonable and professional fashion. Don’t confuse people being nice, which they often are when they want you to join. Just as boyfriends/girlfriends can be nice in a courtship, people can be pleasant in the process. One shouldn’t accept a role solely because the people are friendly. Candidates flattered by superficial kindness in the process often kick themselves later. There is a difference between thoughtful, professional interaction in the process vs. nice. Candidates should be alert to that discrepancy.

2. Be thorough. Not only is it essential that you be as clear as possible about why you would leave, make certain that you know what you’re seeking and get the answers to your questions, so that you feel you’re as sure as one can be about what you’re considering. While there’s no perfect job, it’s important that you identify your priorities and then determine if most of those will be met in your new role. Be honest about how attractive the role is/isn’t. But for one exception, no matter how much money you may be paid, if the role isn’t one you want to do, don’t make that move. Because the compensation increase can be the equivalent of a sugar high and job satisfaction is more important.

  1. Now then, the exception, and this is one that can’t be underestimated, may be if the compensation is such that a move will dramatically change your financial situation and can significantly ease the stress of not having what you need, or if you’re drowning in debt. For many people, that’s a real situation and one that deserves consideration. So, ideally, while moving only makes sense if the actual role is attractive to you, if you’re financially uncomfortable, it’s understandable if you pursue a role because of the compensation. Unfortunately, the reality is that if you accept a role for the increased compensation, you may not be happy, nor fulfilled. Thus, it’s essential that you be honest with yourself as you evaluate increased financial stability vs. contentment and professional satisfaction.
  2. Always think about what your new role could allow you to be considered for in the future. This means that if you make a move, what future moves will be open to you as a result. There are many people who have found that they get interviews because of a role they have and, if it weren’t for that role, or that employer, they wouldn’t have been given full consideration. So think about your goals beyond that immediate position. And remember, starting down a path that isn’t one you really want to pursue is unwise, as it will likely lead you further from what you enjoy/find stimulating.

5. Pay attention to how the hiring manager talks about their subordinates and try to get an idea of how they’ve grown in their roles. Most people want to know that growth is part of what the hiring manager encourages. And if they have helped others develop, that typically indicates the hiring manager wants people to flourish.

6. If you’re wondering if you’re going to be doing the same old thing, make sure that you ask the hiring manager what they think could be the outcome over an extended period for the person who assumes the role.

7.Talk to your sources and do due diligence. It’s a small world.

8.Talk to people who know you. And talk to people who have made moves. Ask them why they made a change and what were the most important criteria behind their decisions. Listen to what you ask them and pay attention to how you process their responses.

9. Most recruiters and hiring managers want you to move. Be careful. Do what’s best for you and your family. If you decide not to move, that’s okay. But it’s best to make that decision before you engage in multiple rounds of interviews. Recruiters and hiring managers will understand if you participate in a single round and then determine that you prefer not to go further in the process. That’s acceptable. Going far down the path and ultimately declining an offer that meets your requirements, however, is likely unwise. If you select a position that isn’t as lucrative short term but is professionally appealing, don’t feel you have to justify it to others. Be honest with yourself about what you enjoy doing and the direction that you find rewarding. Be professional and communicative and a good recruiter will/should treat you in the same fashion.