5 Common Job Change Mistakes<br />Early in February I was at the library reading the January-February 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review magazine. Boris Groysberg & Robin Abrahams wrote a particularly good article entitled 5 Ways To Bungle A Job Change. It got me thinking about my own personal job change mistakes...and I'm embarrassed to say there has been more than one. The article used mainly C-Suite executives as a reference point but like everything, there are principles that apply to all of us.<br />Based on the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the average baby boomer will switch jobs 10 times over the course of their careers. The notion of the "
worker as a free agent"
, which was popular in the 1990's, is alive and well today. Careers no longer have a final destination; they are a process of continuous development. There will be times of contract, full-time, part-time, self-employment, and yes, unemployment. <br /> Job change is often accompanied by a noticeable decline in both short-term and long-term performance. The decline in performance isn’t just from the learning curve. There are significant internal and external challenges that go with transition including major changes in home and social life, potential relocation costs, adjustment to a new work culture, unclear expectations, and the need to learn a new skill set. A careful and conscious assessment of the risks and realities can help one avoid too many mistakes. There will be times you will need to take anything that comes along just do not give up on researching and planning your next move.<br />Mistake #1:<br />Not Doing Enough Research: There are four main areas that require your due diligence before making a change.<br />Failure to research the realities of the job market for ones particular industry of function. This can lead to unrealistic expectations.<br />Failure to pay attention to a potential employer’s financial situation and market position<br />Failure to consider cultural fit. <br />Failure to ensure job title accurately reflects the job function. It's common for companies to sweeten the title to attract top talent. Press them for specifics including how your performance will be measured.<br />Are you doing your research? Talk to a librarian for resources about your industry and/or function. I believe meeting with a career coach is a must when you are planning a move.<br />Mistake #2:<br />Leaving for More Money: It is easy to fall for a financially attractive offer. More money is the most commonly cited reason for not doing your research. <br /><ul><li>Failure to consider the employers financial situation and market position. Will this employer be around in six months? Is the position open because everyone is abandoning ship and not wanting their name linked with a failure?
Failure to consider the cultural fit. Are you going from a company where you are a round peg in a round hole to a round peg in a square hole?
Failure to ensure the title accurately reflects the role. Do not be afraid to press the hiring manager/recruiter for more information on the job. Ask how your performance will be evaluated.</li></ul>Job success and satisfaction must go beyond money. If your values are being compromised, if you are only there to collect a pay cheque, your performance will suffer. It will not be long before you are unhappy and looking to leave (or the employer makes the decision for you). Now the cycle of bungled job change is being repeated.<br />Mistake #3:<br />Going "
rather than "
: We get desperate to "
when we become unhappy in our current situations. Instead of planning a career move we start jumping from place to place. During these desperate times we start to apply artificial urgency to the job search instead of doing the research and waiting for the right offer. Instead of applying the "
grass is greener elsewhere"
mentality, seek opportunities that may exist within your current company.<br />Mistake #4: <br />Overestimating Yourself: It is common for us to falsely believe we contribute more than we actually do. We have an unrealistic view of our skills, prospects, and culpability while failing to identify the sources of our success and failure in our current role. We fail to think critically and start to believe external circumstances and the environment is the problem. It is important to acknowledge that we might be part of the problem.<br />Excessive optimism of self leads to underestimating how long the job search will take and what the transition costs will be. This excessive optimism also leads to overestimating the salary we can command on the open market and our ability to deal with the challenges of the new position.<br />Mistake #5:<br />Thinking Short-term: A short-term perspective can feed the other four mistakes (not doing enough research, leaving for money, going "
rather than "
, and overestimating ones self). Reaction becomes the standard operating procedure, leading to inadequate research, jumping at the lure of more money, hasty moves, and an unrealistic view of our abilities, prospects and culpability. <br />Short-term thinking is a serious career misstep in its own right, not just part of other mistakes.<br />Making Moves Under Pressure<br />Psychological Pressure:<br />All of us are motivated to maintain a positive self-image. As a result we overestimate ourselves. To further complicate matters we fall to what psychologists refer to as the "
. We focus only on evidence that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and disregard evidence that goes against those beliefs.<br />Social Pressure:<br />When we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation we tend to rely on two responses; fight or flight. The flight response is the catalyst for going "
rather that "
. Social discomfort intimidates us far beyond its ability to harm us and can lead to hurried, unhappy, career moves.<br />Time Pressure:<br />Time pressure leads to some very predictable mistakes. <br /><ul><li>hasty job change
focus on title and salary only</li></ul>We only listen to the loudest, quickest, and most easily available information. To counter these common mistakes one needs to look for the disconfirming evidence. Ask some tough questions and answer some tough questions.<br />Tough questions to ask and answer when considering a move:<br /><ul><li>What if I'm wrong?
What is the evidence that this company is a good fit?
What mistakes am I prone to make?</li></ul>These are just a few of the questions to ask. It is important to do an honest self-assessment. Honest answers can be more difficult to get the higher your position on the corporate ladder. For honest answers you will need to look to your mentor, network, or your "
board of personal directors"
to ask and answer the tough questions honestly.<br />What if you do take the wrong job?<br />Cut your losses and move, but do it strategically!<br />Best protection against career management mistakes:<br /><ul><li>self awareness
know your career relevant strengths and weaknesses
insight into the kind of mistakes you are prone to making
find out how others perceive you</li></ul>Again, having a mentor, trusted network, or a "
board of personal directors"
who can ask and answer the toughest questions honestly will help protect you from making career management mistakes that temporarily or permanently derail your future. <br />References<br />Boris Groysberg & Robin Abrahams. Harvard Business Review. 5 Ways to bungle a job change. January-February 2010.<br />