As you move through your career, you build three things: experience, money, and connection. When deciding between jobs, these things need to be taken into consideration in the following way.
Experience: Ask yourself, will the new role build my experience better than my current role or another role I could transfer to at my current employer? An internal transfer tends to be less risky (not risk-free) because you are knowledgable and in control of a greater number of variable.
Money: Is the money so much better that it outweighs the added risk of the job move? Consider if it’s the right move long term even if something unexpected happens and you find yourself back on the market looking for a new job.
Connection (professional and social): You’re leaving people you know for people you don’t know. While you can still maintain your networks with old colleagues, how much will you enjoy the people, culture and social connection the new role? To answer this question, think whether the new company is bigger or has fewer employees. Connection and social acceptance really matter. We spend more time at work than we do at home so it stands to reason that you want to like the people you spend 1/3 or more of the day with.
The company you’re part of is important. You should change roles more than you change companies. In a successful career journey, you’ll have more roles on your resume than companies, which indicates advancement within an organization and your ability to learn and grow. But it’s the industry that should be your first consideration. You can be a CPA and work in an accounting role, finance role, or sales role and you could do any one of those roles within healthcare, financial services, or manufacturing. You can be a nurse and work for a hospital system, a clinic, private practice, health insurance company, or directly for a company like GE or Kohls in their on-site health clinic. The industry itself is so important because ideally, you want to feel an authentic connection, interest and hopefully some passion in the field you work in. If you love the variety and learning about new businesses all the time, join a public accounting firm. If you’re passionate about technology or healthcare, find an accounting or finance role in a technology company or at healthcare startup. The other reason industry matters is money. In general, a CPA earns a relatively high wage compared to other professions but there can be significant differences in compensation based on the industry you work in (A CPA at Goldman Sachs will likely make significantly more money than a CPA working at a small machine tooling company.)
When deciding whether to leave a “good” job: You’re going from something “good” to something unknown so you have to buckle up a bit.
Anytime you start a new job, you’re starting a new relationship – kind of like a marriage. Two parties are involved (you and the company) so the possibility that expectations don’t match reality exists for both parties in the relationship.
When making this type of move, it may sound too simplistic, but you must make sure that the role and company that you’re going to is a better way to move your career plan and journey forward than remaining at your current company. You are leaving the “known” for the “unknown” and while the recruiting process typically paints the new company as wonderful (more money, elevated title, more flexibility, greater opportunities for advancement, better industry, more stable company, better culture, etc.) the grass may not be any greener. Be pragmatic as you evaluate these factors and know that the company recruiting you is also putting their best foot forward to sell you on the position so they will frame most attributes in a positive light. Break it down as follows:
Pay: You’re taking a risk, period. Are you comfortable that the increased pay compensates you properly for the “change risk” you’re taking? Advancement + Work-Life balance– in the new role, will the new job provide more flexibly or work/life balance? Does the new company offer similar or better advancement opportunities? The size of the company matters here. Bigger corporations tend to have more people and therefore more internal transfer opportunities. This is important if you get into the new job and realize its not the right fit. At a big company, you may be able to transfer internally more easily do to the fact that there are more departments, lines of business, and overall headcount.
Budgets and strength of balance sheet: How much budget will you control? How big is the team? Which company is more profitable? Which has the stronger balance sheet.? The stronger the quality of earnings and the stronger the balance sheet, the more stable a company will be overall. They can handle economic cycles, business shocks, and can invest in their business and people more easily. This should be a consideration as you think about how the new company fits into your long term strategy.
Well respected Management/Leadership: Having a bad boss can nullify the value of even your dream job. Carefully consider the difference between your current and future reporting structure. While people are always moving in an out of companies or moving around in organizations, there is no guarantee that your current boss or your new boss will be around in the future, but its still valuable to consider the differences before moving. Which company’s leadership team do you have more faith in?
The market position of the company vs. competition – Even if all other facets of the job are “upgrades,” you can’t ignore the strength and market position of the overall company. You might be in sales and switch to a competing company to sell their product with a promise of having more commission or higher split of your sales. That’s great unless the company’s products are overpriced, of poorer quality, or have reputation challenges in the marketplace.
Formal/informal power structures and prevalence of bureaucracy: You know who’s in charge on paper and in reality at your current gig but you don’t know what the formal and informal structures are like at the new company until you’re actually there. You won’t know if the company or team is truly nimble or bureaucratic in the way they operate. Miscalculating here can create a problems for you and trigger buyer’s remorse on taking the leap.
Comfort with adapting to and managing change: This will impact how intense the transition will be for you. Figure out if you’re someone that fears or thrives in change. Take that question to the second level by thinking about and asking questions about the changing culture within the organization. If the company is constantly pivoting, acquiring businesses or integrating teams and you’re not someone that thrives in change, this could be cause for a pause.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.