Time for Practical Thinking
Leaving an existing job for another is not a step to be taken lightly. There is much to be considered and investigated before such a move is made. Consider this checklist before making a change.
- Do a skills inventory: Where do your strengths lie? What do you have to offer that is unique? Does your current job play to these strengths or are you feeling underutilized?
- Do a needs inventory: What specific needs do you have that are not being met? Is it intellectual stimulation? Mentoring? More challenge? Higher income? Loftier title? More balance? Flexible hours? Whatever is on your list needs to be realistic and something you have the courage to discuss with your manager.
- Identify needed repairs: What are your development areas? Be honest about what you need to work on professionally and personally. Consider if you are getting this assistance in your current role. Please realize that your manager is not clairvoyant, so be forthcoming about what you need if you ever hope to receive it.
- Are you aligned? Does your job utilize your education and training? Does your compensation align with your experience and market value (check out salary.com)? Are you on an appropriate and realistic career trajectory?
- What are the expectations? “One of the most common mistakes I see with people frustrated at work is the failure to clarify expectations from one’s boss,” says Brandon Smith, founder and CEO of theworkplacetherapist.com. “It seems that most of us would rather guess, and when we guess wrong it causes frustration. So when was the last time you asked your boss what he or she expects of you this year, and what is expected of them from their boss? Answers to those questions can help you immensely.”
- What are you passionate about? This is important. I think most of us want to feel that what we are doing is worthwhile and making a positive difference. Make a list of what is important to you and determine if your current job will allow you to pursue your noble, overarching goals. Are your values in sync with your job? This is an area we should never have to compromise, but too often people conceal their true selves and personal values for the sake of their career. Ask yourself if you are free to be your authentic self at work or if you feel compelled to make unhealthy compromises in order to fit in. Be willing to lead and influence change. Make a list of what you don’t like about your company or your job. Now, ask yourself if these are issues that you can help improve. Where can you influence or lead others to make positive changes? Where can your personal example make a significant difference in changing the behavior of others?
- Do your homework. If you are still determined to leave and have thoroughly and honestly gone through the previous eight steps, do some due diligence on the marketplace. What companies align with my values? Where will my skills be valued? What companies have an inspiring vision? Go beyond Google or company web sites; reach out to friends in your network and utilize LinkedIn to connect with people inside these organizations to get a more realistic picture. You owe it to yourself to not neglect this critical step.
Apply this process to your own situation or utilize to guide a friend considering a career change. There is no place for “blind leaps of faith” in the crucial area of careers, especially in today’s economic environment.
Shift Your Mindset
Working in tandem with the nine-point checklist are two significant mindset shifts which will not only make this reflection process easier, but also make you more effective professionally and personally.
Practice self-awareness. It is a gift granted to very few, but the good news is, it can be acquired. Comparing your current behavior to your internal standards and values, and acknowledging your strengths, weaknesses and desires can help you in every aspect of your life. There are countless personality tests available—DiSC, Birkman, Hogan, Myers-Briggs, etc. Become an objective evaluator of your job performance, how your peers and company leaders perceive your work, and how you interact with others. If not sure, ask them. Remember, when you find yourself considering a career change every few years, the one obvious and constant thread through each career change is you.
You Touch It, You Own It. Over a decade ago, I was Vice President of People for Waffle House, a national restaurant chain with close to 2,000 restaurants and more than $1B in annual revenue. We had a saying embedded in the culture: “You touch it, you own it!” In a nutshell, you were empowered to act like an owner. Even if you had little direct responsibility for a particular issue or problem, you were expected to act like you owned all of it. No excuses, no complaining and no blaming others—just do what you could to achieve the goal or fix the problem. It taught me the valuable lesson of taking personal responsibility for my actions and doing everything in my power to make things better. I also learned the importance of influence versus control and how I could make positive change, even when I did not have direct authority. In what ways can you influence better results?
Let’s be honest, there are absolutely legitimate reasons why people change jobs. This white paper is not meant to dissuade you from doing that, but it is intended to help you think through the decision a little more carefully. Maybe you will pause and reflect long enough to realize that you can make a positive difference by staying, that an honest and open conversation with your manager might open new doors for you, and by practicing better self-awareness you will recognize those areas you can improve upon.
Respected executive coach, Dean Harbry, founder of Internal Innovations, had this to share: “The workplace is a great place for personal development as well as professional development. Moving to another job before attempting to resolve conflicts properly or engage in healthy debate pretty well assures us that we will face the same issues in our next assignment. Developing an owner mindset and enhancing our influence skills will help us stay in the game until a needed change becomes obvious.”
You just might decide you are in a good job after all, and that it’s worth investing in your current job rather than leaving for greener pastures, which may not be so green after all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Randy Hain is an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Executive Education Programs offered at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business. He is the Managing Partner and Shareholder of Bell Oaks, a nationally recognized executive search firm. Randy has an established track record of leading successful searches and building teams in diverse industries and functional specializations ranging from individual contributors to C-level leadership. He has earned a reputation as a values-based leader who invests heavily in his colleagues, candidates and clients. Randy’s deep sense of community is reflected in his work and that of the partners of Bell Oaks. Randy is a prolific writer with his third book, Something More: The Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life (foreword by NY Times best-selling author Chester Elton) being released March 1, 2013. The book is available through Amazon and at bookstores around the world. Randy may be reached at [email protected] or through his personal website, www.randyhain.com.
Visit execed.gsu.edu for more executive white papers