Jo Eisenhart is the senior vice president of Human Resources, Facilities and Philanthropy at Northwestern Mutual.
As someone who’s held a number of different positions during my professional career—and even changed careers completely once—I know how difficult a decision it can be to change jobs. Leaving a known work environment (even if it’s not ideal) for a new, unfamiliar workplace culture can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Will the new job live up to my expectations? Am I sure I’ll fit in? Will the grass really be greener on the other side?
There are ways you can reduce the stress when contemplating a move. I’ve learned that by asking yourself a few thought-provoking questions in advance, you can become more confident in your decision and more comfortable with the choice you make.
1. Why do I want to consider the new opportunity? If you are approached by a recruiter, you may simply feel flattered by the recognition and curious about the unsolicited offer. Be careful letting flattery drive you to make a bad decision. Most people who consider changing jobs are dissatisfied with their current situation. They may be unhappy with their boss, the culture, their salary, the hours or the opportunities for career development. Whatever may be behind your urge to consider a new position, make sure you’re honest with yourself about why you want to change course, and keep that top of mind as you think about a new opportunity. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a brand-new environment with the same old issues.
2. Have I given my current manager an opportunity to address my concerns? If you have a good relationship with your boss and you think it’s possible for him or her to address your concerns, share what you are thinking. You might be surprised at the outcome. If you’re growing tired of the commute, maybe you could work from home more often. If you see no room for advancement in your current position, perhaps your boss would help you look for other opportunities within the organization.
3. Do I have a plan for exiting gracefully? If you’re at a point at which you’re considering an offer from a new company, think through your exit strategy in advance. You don’t want to burn bridges with your current employer, so it will help to have a plan. How much notice will you give? If you’re a seasoned employee with a great deal of institutional knowledge, your boss may want you to stay longer than the typical two weeks to help minimize disruption or train your replacement. How will you respond if your boss makes a counter offer? If you’re leaving your current job primarily to make more money, it may be tempting to play one against the other or consider accepting the counter offer. But my experience has shown that money is rarely the onlyreason people change jobs. So ask yourself honestly: Will a 20 percent increase in salary make up for all the other reasons I may be dissatisfied? Your answer may be “Yes!” and that’s okay. Just make sure you’re clear on the things that are important to you so you don’t end up second-guessing the decision you make.
There will always be some degree of uncertainty when you make a big decision like changing jobs. And there are steps you can take to minimize anxiety. Be clear about what’s important to you. Before you start looking for it elsewhere, make sure you can’t find it in your own backyard. And if you do choose to change jobs, have a strategy to leave your existing position gracefully. When you take these steps, you’ll feel more confident about your decision and freer to focus on the positive aspects of the opportunity that awaits you.