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When It's Time To Make a Career Change

So your present position in the company doesn't offer the potential for growth you seek. You have looked at your decision to change both logically and emotionally. Sure, the company has helped you progress professionally; you've made many new friends; you even feel comfortable because you can handle the job well. However, you know your objectives and goals are secondary to those of the company.

Top executives agree that the days of the gold watch for 30 years of faithful service are gone. In fact, experience at several good companies is considered an asset because your horizons are expanded. Today, changing jobs is a necessity if you expect your career to grow.

Some caveats about change. In review, your career moves cannot be too frequent and should demonstrate your new environment was an improvement. And, don't resign until you have another position. Experience has shown it's easier to find a job if you are presently employed.

Counter Offers
It is natural to resist change and avoid disruption, and your present employment is no exception. If you're doing a good job your employer will not want to lose you, and you can expect a counter-offer even though you have accepted a job elsewhere. So long as you haven't started your new position, the company and your boss are going to woo you. You may be enticed with more money; or you may get, or at least be promised, a promotion. The appeal will be emotional in nature. An apology will be made in the form of not knowing of your dissatisfaction. Your boss may even enlist a senior vice president or the president to help convince you that you're making a mistake.

In some form or other, you may hear the following:

  1. "We have plans for you that will come to fruition the first of next month - it's my fault for not telling you."
  2. "I shouldn't do this, but I'm going to let you in on some confidential information. We're in the process of reorganizing and it will mean a significant promotion for you within six months."
  3. "We'll match your new offer and even better it by some percent. This raise was supposed to go into effect the first of next quarter anyway, but because of your fine record, we'll start it immediately"
  4. "When I told our president of your decision, he told me he wants to have dinner with you and your wife as soon as possible. You just tell me when, and he'll drop everything to discuss this situation with you."

Counter-Offer Implications
A counter-offer can be a very flattering experience. Your emotions may be swayed, you may lose your objectivity, and you may be tempted to stay. "Buyer's remorse" or apprehension of change will urge you to reconsider your decision.

As a caveat, accept the counter-offer only if you can answer "no" to all the following:

  1. Did I make the decision to seek other employment because I felt a new environment would provide me with the opportunity to enhance my career?
  2. If I decided to stay after giving notice, will my loyalty be suspect and affect my chance for advancement in the future?
  3. If my loyalty is questioned, is there the possibility that I will be an early layoff or terminee if business slows down?
  4. The raise they're offering me to stay, is it just my annual review coming early?
  5. The raise I was offered is above the guidelines for my job. Does this mean they are "buying time" until a replacement can be found within the acceptable compensation guidelines for my job?
  6. I got the counter-offer because I resigned. Will I always have to threaten to quit each time I want to advance?

Logic Must Prevail
As a professional, your career decisions must be made objectively, free of the emotional pressures you are likely to experience. Others will try to influence you, but sometimes only you know things are not right and will not get better. Are you expecting your company to make some attempt to keep you? Their response could be considered flattering but it's beset with pitfalls too numerous to risk.

It's up to you to end your relationship as professionally as you began it. Write a letter of gratitude for the opportunity they extended and tell them you enjoyed your relationship, but that your decision is irrevocable. Either mail it personally or hand it to your immediate supervisor. Be pleasant but firm. Your new employer is anxious to have you start, so remember, two weeks notice is almost always sufficient.

A counter-offer is really a belated confirmation of the contributions you've made. Move ahead to your new job knowing you've made the right decision. Ultimately only you are responsible for your career future.

Abridged from an article originally appearing in Dossier from Management Recruiters

 



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