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Finances & Money

Examine Your Motives Series: Changing Jobs

So you hate your job, or you think you’re under-paid or under-appreciated? Let’s finish up this Examine Your Motives Series by discussing Changing Jobs.

I’ve had 11 jobs in my life, in this order:

  1. Paperboy
  2. McDonald’s
  3. Kmart
  4. KFC
  5. Computer Lab (college)
  6. McDonald’s (different one in college)
  7. Women’s Clothing Boutique (office manager – best job yet)
  8. IT Analyst at an oil company (post-college)
  9. IT Analyst at an HVAC company
  10. Government Contractor (last company)
  11. Government Contractor (current company)

I’m only 29, and based on current statistics, I’m going to have 90 more jobs in my lifetime. Does that mean it’s OK to just jump jobs every year (or sooner)? Well, it depends on your situation (doesn’t it always?).

I detailed how I increased my salary by over 30% by changing jobs 3 times in the course of 1 year. Here’s why I jumped ship each time:

Job 1 (oil company): Lessening technical exposure, yearly layoffs but record profits, below-market salary
Job 2 (HVAC company): 90 miles from home, got acquired by another company (risk)
Job 3 (Fed contractor 1): No technical exposure, lack of new opportunities

In my case, I was in a hot field, but was becoming less marketable since I wasn’t staying up with the technology. My best option for Job 1 and 3 was to leave. Job 2 offered excellent experience, but when they got acquired, I just didn’t want to take on that risk, considering I was working so far from home. But what other things may provoke you to change jobs?

Stressful Working Environment

Stress in the workplace can be caused by any number of factors: bad manager, too much work, harassing coworkers, dangerous work environment, chickens poking out your eyes, etc. Each of us handles stress differently. For me, I yell and/or get depressed. My eye starts twitching and I become none-too-pleasant to be around. For my coworker, she cries (and her eye twitches too). Some of you will want to just curl up in a ball and never show your face, while others will try to take on the world and solve all the problems.

Stress just isn’t good for us either way. It wears down our immune system as our body thinks it’s under attack. It will put on weight because it thinks it may go into starvation mode. It will exhibit the stress reactions in ways we never thought possible. If work is too unreasonably stressful, then you need to find another job. Sometimes, though, that other job is in a totally different line of work. For example, if you’re a teacher, you can only escape the classroom madness up to a point. You may need to become a rodeo clown or some other safer profession.

Below-Market Pay and Lessening Marketability

Do you know how much you could be making with your age, experience and profession? Are you making that much where you work now? Two years ago, I was obviously making much lower than market rates, because my pay increase with the first job change was in the 5 figure range, as was the second increase just 5 months later.

A friend is still at that oil company, and is finally getting the nerve to leave. She’s been stuck with horrible pay raises (under 2% after waiting for 18-22 months). She’s lost most of her marketable skills. I know she’s going to have a heck of a time finding another job because her time has come and gone. She missed the boat that the rest of us took two years ago.

If you’re losing, or not gaining, skills, or are paid well below the market rates, you may want to think about either talking to your manager or finding something else. We’ll talk about your options in a bit.

Uncertainty and Risk

My job up in Pennsylvania was great. The area was very family-friendly, my coworkers were great guys and gals, and the pay was great for the location. However, they got bought by another company, and the area didn’t have many jobs in my salary and skill range. I miss that city, job and coworkers, but as with the oil company, most of them have left the company already, so going back wouldn’t be the same now.

Perhaps your company is always on the brink of failure, or they’re doing great but are forcing more and more cutbacks. Or maybe they’re positioned to be bought by a competitor. This causes a lot of stress and uncertainty, and it distracts your work and life. Most executives won’t tell you what’s going on, especially in public companies, because it could be considered insider trading if action is taken. They don’t want to risk their jobs just to give a little information to ease your mind.

Unexpected Opportunity

Ok, you’re not actively looking to leave your job, but your mind is subconsciously open to offers. Perhaps a colleague at another company hears about a job opening that you would love to get, so you look into it some more. One thing leads to another, and you have an offer for a new job.

We can never know when opportunities are going to come into our lives, so we always have to be open to change. Right now, I really enjoy my job. I have a few colleagues who keep trying to get me to apply to their companies, but I keep declining. But if something solid opened up near my home, I’d consider it.

What are your options?

There are certainly other factors that could force or entice you to leave your job. But what can you do when faced with those options?

  • Talk with your employer: If you think you should be earning more, ask your boss for a raise. Be prepared with reasons that you should get more of the company’s precious profit. If you just wait until your yearly review, you could be missing out on other opportunities for increases, such as major milestones or accomplishments. These are times when people are happy, and your worth is most appreciated and visible.
  • Put out feelers: You don’t need to go full-on into the job search if you strike out with your employer. You should always be making and keeping contacts in the industry, and those contacts can help you find out what the market is like for your skills when you need it.
  • Post your resume and dive in!: When all else fails, it’s time to respond to job postings and post your resume on places like Monster.com or Dice.com. And yes, keep it secret from your employer, INCLUDING your coworkers. It doesn’t matter how close you are to them, once they know your mindset is to leave, they’ll probably respond differently, and your boss may notice the change and ask about it.
  • Just quit: If you have other sources of income (your spouse, rental income, etc.) that can support you, and your situation is dire, then you do have the option of just quitting. I never advise anyone to leave their job without having something else lined up, but sometimes the workplace is so dangerous or stressful that your health is at stake.

Changing jobs is a very, very stressful situation, and if you’re already stressed to the brink, it can turn out to be too much to handle. Be cautious and patient during this process, and make sure you’re leaving for the right reasons. Make sure you’re not placing blame where it isn’t due. My old coworker consistently blamed our company for not offering him good opportunities, but the guy was a slacker. He never asked for something. He just expected it to be our boss’s responsibility to take care of him.

YOU are responsible for your own career and well-being, not your employer. Your boss is responsible for the company’s bottom line, and sometimes they realize that includes your happiness, but usually not. Take care of yourself first, and then the company, because loyalty is not always reciprocal anymore (if it ever really was). However, maybe employee loyalty is rewarded afterall.

Photo Courtesy of joslynl

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Clever Dude

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