Magazine article USA TODAY

Time to Move on? Leaving a Job Gracefully. (Business & Finance)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Time to Move on? Leaving a Job Gracefully. (Business & Finance)

Article excerpt

WITH TODAY'S sluggish economy, most people who are employed can't help but breathe a little sigh of relief that they have a job--even if they don't really like it. Human nature is to retreat to the trenches in times of uncertainty, and those who would like to make a job change are left wondering whether it is safe to poke their heads out and take a look around.

The good news is that, despite the economic slowdown, it's still an "employees' market" in much of the U.S., with a significant labor shortage in many parts of the country. For example, a survey by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and Andersen Consulting found that 75% of small and midsize businesses that responded are having trouble filling vacancies because of the shortage of qualified workers.

This should help to quell the fears of unhappy employees who are contemplating a job change, but what about the timing issues of doing so? How do you really know whether you are just going through a rough patch that will improve over time or whether it's time to let go and move on? Most people understand the mechanics of finding a job, from how to write a good resume to how to negotiate salary and compensation, but who has the skills to leave a job at the right time and for the right reasons?

Some people find it harder to deal with change than others. For the faint of heart, the prospect of switching jobs creates a sense of unease so overwhelming that they will remain in an unhappy work situation rather than face the unknown. These individuals often need an external force to "convince" them to move on. They can only be nudged out of their chairs by the likes of a layoff, salary freeze, or the prospect of relocation. They tend to be motivated by income necessity and lifestyle convenience issues, rather than by the pursuit of opportunities to advance their careers.

Then there are those adventure-seekers who welcome the opportunity for change and may actively seek out professional growth and movement up the ladder. One of our clients has changed jobs--and scaled that ladder--seven times over her 14-year public relations career. Christina's most recent move, to a position as media relations manager for the investment division of a large financial services company, was the result of a calculated strategy, she says. "I really planned my career to bring me to this point, because I had always been intrigued with the financial services industry." While the economic uncertainty did give her pause, she felt that the risk was at least equal in the small marketing communications firm she was leaving.

Another client also took a new position with a larger company, in his case moving from a direct marketing firm to a bank. Like Christina, Mike sized up the risks of staying put and decided that things looked a little more stable in a bigger company that is well-respected within its industry. His reasons for moving centered around lifestyle issues, too, mainly reducing a two-and-a-half-hour daily train commute and spending more time with his family. The icing on the cake was that his new job is an upward career move as well. "I couldn't have written a better job description than the one I have right now. I'm doing what I loved in my last job, but in an expanded capacity," he indicates.

The desire to make a lifestyle change is one of the most common factors in motivating people to look for new jobs. These include consistent frustration over salary/pay level; ongoing problems with one's boss and/or coworkers; lack of professional development opportunities; lifestyle change requiring job adjustment, such as relocation, arrival of a child, or divorce; concern over the current company's stability; interest in changing careers; and one's job is stale and no longer challenging. Examining these key motivators and applying them to your current employment situation can be a good way to work through the decisionmaking process. …

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