Choosing and Changing Jobs

See also: Continuing Professional Development

Choosing jobs—not careers, but each specific job that you take within your career—is not always easy. You need to decide both on the job you want at this time in your life and career. You also need to consider where you wish to do it: what type of organisation, and then the specific employer. There may not be an obvious move. You may even feel that you should move, but you can’t identify anywhere that is better than your current job.

You know that you don’t want to look back and mourn missed opportunities—but neither do you wish to jump repeatedly from the frying pan into the fire. This page discusses the process of choosing and changing jobs, including whether to stay with your current employer or move on.

Why Move?

The first question to answer is why would you want to change jobs?

There are many answers to this, and they fall into two categories: ‘push’ and ‘pull’.

The ‘push’ answers include:

  • I’m bored in my current job.
  • I’m not making enough money.
  • I don’t like my manager.

These are all factors that might push you out of your current job. They don’t necessarily push you towards any particular other job or organisation—just away from your current situation.

The ‘pull’ factors include:

  • This new organisation can offer me more opportunities.
  • I can earn more money in this new role.
  • The hours are better in this other job.
  • This job offers me a better fit with my chosen values.
  • This job is a real chance to use one of my strengths, or to develop my skills further.

All these factors are pulling you towards a specific alternative organisation or job.

It should immediately be apparent that the ‘pull’ factors are far more positive than the ‘push’ ones.

The ‘push’ factors are what drive you to look for alternatives in the first place. However, before you jump, you need to know that you are going to something better. You do not want to be trying to change jobs again after just a few months.

A Change of Job, or a Change of Organisation?

The next question is whether to change jobs, or change organisation.

Most of us do not expect to remain with the same employer for our entire working lives. However, if you like the organisation and the people, and it can offer you the career that you want, there is actually no reason why you should move. There are no rules that say that you have to work for a certain number of organisations or employers over the course of your working life.

Instead of feeling that you ought to be moving on, consider your actual situation (see box).

“Are you happy, and are you learning?”

In their book The Squiggly Career, Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis suggest that you should ask yourself these two questions if you are trying to decide whether to stay in your current role and/or organisation. They suggest that you should stay as long as the answer to both questions is yes.

There is also no reason to move from an organisation where you are happy simply because you are no longer learning in your current role. Consider whether you may be able to do some job crafting or job enrichment to increase your learning potential.

Evaluating a Potential Move

When you are evaluating a potential move, it is important to consider its place in your career as a whole.

It would be a mistake to consider only the salary and job title, and conclude that this was the job for you. Instead, you should look at the new role (and your current one) against your super-strengths and values, and the potential for future opportunities.

  • Super-strengths

    Our page on Developing Your Super-Strengths explains that super-strengths are the skills, knowledge and talents that make you stand out from the crowd.

    They are things that you love to do, and that you’re really good at. It makes sense that you would want to move into a job that will give you more chance to use those strengths every day. It is therefore worth careful exploration and discussion with those at the new organisation to see if that will be the case. Don’t rely on reassurances, either: explore exactly how you will be able to use your strengths in practice, and ask for real examples.

  • Values

    Our page on Values explains that values are the standards that we aspire to in life. They are also an important part of self-motivation.

    You want a job that allows you to live your values. The problem with this as a statement is that our values are not always obvious to us. If a job feels absolutely ‘right’, it may be a sign that it is a good fit with our values, consciously or subconsciously. Similarly, if something feels a bit ‘off’, it could be a sign that the organisation or someone within it has done or said something that doesn’t fit with one of your values. It is worth taking time to explore why you feel as you do about the job and organisation, and see if you can isolate the cause. This will give you a better idea of whether the organisation will be a good fit for you.

  • Future opportunities

    Opportunities do just arise. However, our page on Creating and Exploring Possibilities describes a more structured approach to developing yourself and your skills so that you can make the most of any new openings and opportunities.

    The page talks about four types of possibilities, depending on how you use your skills (in the same or new ways) and whether you will develop new skills (same skills, or new skills). Looking at each type of possibility for you—and whether they excite you or not—will help you to consider the key question about a new job opportunity:

    Where might this take me next? What is the job beyond this one?

    In other words, you should evaluate new job opportunities against both your current needs, but also whether the new job will open up new opportunities, or take you closer to opportunities that you have identified as being interesting.

Making Your Decision: Yes or No?

Ultimately, the only person who can decide whether you should accept a new job is you.

It doesn’t really matter what anyone else says or thinks. However, you may find that those around you can provide useful input to your decision, especially if you ask them for the reasons behind their thinking.

Case study: When those around you know you best

Jake had been struggling with his career for some time. He had taken voluntary redundancy twice from office-based positions, tried working as an activity instructor, and eventually returned to office work. He hated it. What’s more, his current post was ending, and without any enthusiasm for the task, he had to find another job.

His wife Sally had urged him to try different options, especially working for a local handyman organisation, but he seemed reluctant. One day, she said to him,

“You know what I think you should do. I think you should call the handyman company and set up an interview. They’re recruiting now.”

Yes,” he replied. “I know what you think I should do.

Mm,” she agreed. “But do you know why I think you should do that?

He looked up, arrested.

No. Absolutely no idea. Why?

Because you are at your happiest when you are working on the house, fixing things, or sorting things out. Because you’re really good at those things, and that’s what handymen do, only in other people’s houses.

Jake was astonished. It had never occurred to him that Sally had a reason for her recommendation. This conversation was the start of more than five happy years working as a handyman.

What about if you decide to say no? Are you cutting off future opportunities?

The answer should be no.

A job interview—or the process of discussing a job opening—is a two-way conversation. It is as much about you finding out about the job and organisation as them finding out about you. The fit needs to be right for both sides. If you conduct the process carefully and sensitively, and are clear that this is an exploration, it does not need to shut any doors. This is true even if ultimately, you decide to say no to the job. Indeed, it could open others.

Changing Your Mind: When You’re Made an Offer Too Good to Refuse

You’re fed up with your current organisation. You’ve applied to another, been interviewed and been offered the job. You’ve accepted it, but when you hand in your notice, your manager and senior managers are appalled. They don’t want to lose you.

They say so. They ask what it would take to make you stay.

Now what?

Do you negotiate with them, and risk offending those in the new job? Do you just go with your previous decision?

That all depends on you. Again, nobody but you can make this decision.

However, it does not necessarily have to be either/or. There may be a ‘third way’ (see box), and it is worth exploring.

Case study: Finding the ‘third way’

Ed was thoroughly fed up with his job. He was being asked to do a lot of travelling, and work very long hours, and it just wasn’t what he wanted to do anymore. He saw a job advertised with a local charity, ten minutes from his home, that exactly fitted his skills. The salary was much lower, but the conditions would be better. He applied.

He was offered the job. However, when he told Guy, his manager, Guy was very upset.

He asked Ed if he would consider staying and asked him to name his terms. Ed hesitated. He had committed himself to the other job, at least mentally, and he wanted to do it. However, he had significant share options tied up with his current employer, and would take a big financial hit if he moved.

A few days later, Guy offered a compromise. “How about a job-share? You do three days a week with us, and two days a week with them? That way, you can keep the clients who really want you, and we’ll shuffle the others—and you get to do something different too, which I know you want.

Those at the new organisation also agreed. It wasn’t what they had originally wanted, but they knew that Ed was an outstanding candidate, and they were lucky to get him, even part-time. It was a deal.

It’s Your Decision

This has been said before, but it’s worth repeating:

Only you can make the decision to stay or go, and where to go.

However, you can make the decision more easily if you consider your super-strengths and values, and where the new opportunity might take you. This will help you to see it in the context of your overall career, and not just what is happening right now.