Why do employees leave their companies? According to a recent study of LinkedIn users, the top three reasons given for leaving are (in order): greater opportunities for advancement, better leadership from senior management, and better compensation/benefits. But before you decide to make a career change, how do you perform a fair and thorough career cost benefit analysis that compares staying in your current position to leaving for a new opportunity?
While studying music in college, I had the pleasure of working with an outstanding professor who took a personal interest in his students. One day I came to him for advice on deciding whether to accept a series of gigs in town. He told me about a decision making process a very accomplished friend of his used in similar situations. Since then, I have employed this same set of guidelines to better analyze several significant employment decisions. I believe this to be an excellent mechanism to evaluate the challenges and opportunities in front of you in order to reach the best conclusion for your career. The three core concepts are exposure, compensation and desire. If two or more of these factors align with one option over another, take that as an indication to strongly consider that path.
Key question – Will this position help me to increase my positive exposure to the people who will influence my career progress?
In any endeavor, you must work diligently to cultivate a positive reputation. Your performance on solo projects, cross-functional team projects and day-to-day tasks all offer you an opportunity to contribute to the success of the organization, and are all observed by many people at varying levels within the company. How are you leveraging this exposure? Are you able to make the impression you want with the people who will be decision makers regarding your future advancement? If not, why not? Do you need to network more, or are you in a position that just does not allow for the exposure you need to advance beyond your current role? Does your company have formalized leadership development programs? A large number of organizations indeed have such programs, but many employees are unaware of their existence. Be certain to speak with your supervisor about your career advancement goals. He or she should be able to help you identify opportunities you may not be aware of. However if your current position is a terminal position, it may be time to move on. Lastly, make sure that you aren’t accepting a new position and a short term advancement at the cost of a more significant, longer term advancement in your current role. Carefully consider your options, and make sure you are getting to the balcony and seeing the whole dance floor.
Key question – Will this position compensate me in a way that I feel is appropriate and commensurate with the application of my skills and abilities?
Money (and more broadly, total compensation) isn’t everything, but it certainly is important. Being fairly compensated is a central component of why we go to work every day. Additionally, believing that you are being unfairly compensated breeds contempt and a feeling of being taken advantage of faster than almost anything else. In which position will you receive a better compensation package? Moreover, what do you define as a “better” compensation package? Be certain to consider everything you will receive from your employer, and not just the traditional areas of compensation like base salary, bonuses, stock options, equity, health benefits, retirement and 401k, vacation, flexible work options, etc. Other, less common types of compensation can include company provided equipment (computer, phone, car), paid maternity and paternity leave, free food, game rooms, gym memberships and more. Make sure you know everything that is included in the compensation packages in front of you before you decide which is better for you.
Key question – Do I have a passion for this work, an internal drive to engage in this field, or for whatever reason, an incredibly strong desire to have this job?
Are you going to be excited about waking up and going to work? Does thinking about and discussing the core concepts of your position energize you, and even keep you awake at night? Does the idea of working for your boss thrill you? Do you feel like you were born to have this job, and that by not taking it you would create an imbalance in the Force? In order to make a change – or to turn down an offer to stay in your current position – you have to want it. Also consider if something seems too good to be true. Make sure you ask as many questions as you need to truly understand the job and its associated responsibilities. If you take a job that it turns out you don’t like, it could be a difficult path to maintain. One note of caution – don’t jump at a new job just because you dislike your current position. Take the time to be certain that the new role will address the shortcomings of your existing one. If you don’t, you may find yourself looking for another job more quickly than you anticipated.
Additional Consideration: Advice of Others
While this may already be a common practice for you, be sure to talk to trusted friends, colleagues and mentors about any significant career decisions to ensure you have a well-rounded view of the situation. Not doing so neglects some of the best sources of information you could ever hope to have.
If two out of three of the above questions in the career cost benefit analysis tool are answered in the affirmative for one role over the other, you owe it to yourself to strongly consider that career path. If your analysis is supported by your friends, colleagues and mentors, you decision may very well have become a great deal easier.