Should I stay or should I go now? This question comes to our minds every now and then, especially around work anniversaries, birthdays, after meeting with old school friends, when we compare our achievements to others…and frankly, I believe it is a good question to ask yourself to check if you are still on the right path.
How do I know if my role and my current place is good for me? You can easily check it by applying a “Monday morning test” – what is your overall feeling about going to work on a Monday morning? Are you curious about what is going to happen? Are you looking forward to meeting your colleagues and friends? It is not about having all-day fun, but rather being satisfied with what you do, having a sense of bigger purpose and the meaningful impact you can make. If this is not the case, it does not mean you should change your job immediately. In my view, there are a few perspectives you should carefully think through before taking any decision. Today I will focus on your role and scope.
PART 1: YOUR ROLE & SCOPE
Do you enjoy what you do?
You can say, it depends on the actual role and scope. However, it is only partially true. Great jobs are not found, they are self-made and self-shaped. This is what I learnt from my experience. The more I can influence the way I work, my work environment, the more engaged I feel. Every job has got undefined areas you can model the way you like – whether it relates to such simple things as templates of MS Excel of PowerPoint you use to report your work, or communication rules you define for your team, or development initiatives you proactively drive across the organization. There are plenty of elements you can influence and proactively shape to feel like it is your dream job. Find those you can influence, and you will make it yours.
Are you proud of what you do? What impact do you make?
Find out what is the ultimate goal of your role, what you are paid for, what is the value you bring. There is a simple “what-if game” you can play with your team and your manager to understand the importance of your daily activities: What would/would not happen without your team? What if your team provided poor quality of the service? What would be the impact on your clients, stakeholders and the teams you cooperate with? Sometimes you can get eye-opening answers from your peers, especially if you deliver one element of a long process… I do play this game with new joiners in my team, so they can see the broader view of their individual contributions.
Do you see your future in your team/department/ company?
If you are not sure, do a self-evaluation first. There are competency models and job descriptions you can use to see if you would be a good fit for a new role. Put on a recruiter’s hat to interview yourself and check against key role requirements. It is also worth connecting with someone you can trust to discuss your strengths and development areas. Then talk to your manager, be vocal that you would like to grow, and ask for feedback. Some people underestimate their skills and competencies, some overestimate them, therefore it is good to calibrate yourself to set reasonable expectations. Once you know you are ready, you can start searching for a good business case to match your demand with the company’s actual needs. Remember, there are more people ready for promotions than open vacancies.
Based on my experience, there are non-obvious paths that can broaden your career options. I changed my paths several times in my professional career: from Audit & Finance to Sales Support and then onto Learning & Development and HR Operations. The most dramatic change happened when my manager asked me to find out about available options and literally move out of the team within 3 months because there was nothing more for me to achieve in the existing role. You may not need such a spectacular kick out to try the new paths, but believe me, without these experiences I would not find out that human resources area is my place to be. Sometimes you do not know what is best for you unless you try it.
Is it the right time?
Changing jobs requires extra effort and energy to learn and adapt to a new environment, so the key question to ask is whether or not you are ready for that at this very moment. Even if you are moving onto similar role, there are always differences in terms of the scope of responsibilities, working environment or even a technical language used, so the change will come at a cost, no doubts. The more senior the role, the more demanding and stressful the onboarding is – to get up to speed and be successful in a new role.
First, it is good to fill in your current role and learn all the nuances to become fluent in full scope. If you decide to change it too soon, you may not be ready to jump up on the career ladder, or you can fail more easily. Second, your personal situation may impact your availability to spend extra hours to learn the new job. You may wish to focus more on your family, relatives or your own health. Third, an external economic situation may limit available options, as well as make any changes more risky, because as a new joiner, you might be the first on the list in case of restructuring.
On the other hand, if you are stuck in your comfort zone, you are less likely to develop new skills, or, you may not even notice that you are bored, and it might be a good time for a change.
Is it going to be your decision at all? Have you taken care of your employability?
The decision about your job change may come unexpectedly driven by your company, not yours, because of an economic downturn or any other adverse circumstances. If you would like to be in the driving seat, take care of your employability.
Some skills have got an expiry date, some need upgrading or constant refresh. If you want to increase your value, look around and get insight from your industry and market by following influencers, market leaders, reading books and attending conferences. Be on top of the trends, understand the broader context of your role and use it as a compass to define which skills are worth investing.
Make sure you try and test the skills you would like to build your career on. If you would like to get a promotion onto a people managerial role, try to explore how it is like to give constructive feedback to a colleague or resolve a conflict in your team. If you would like to become a subject matter expert, try to propose an improvement and convince stakeholders using cost-benefit analysis and then implement it by coordinating a small project. Swim in a small pond first and then expand it and test outside of your comfort zone. The more real cases you can share during an interview, the more likely you are to convince hiring managers.
In the 2nd part of the article, I will focus on your manager, your company and money aspects.