If you’re considering making a career change, you might be asking yourself that question a lot. What if you don’t get along with your new boss? What if the company loses work and you’re laid off right away? What if you relocate and your family doesn’t like the new city?
There’s no doubt about it: making a career change is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. There are always risks when it comes to changing jobs, but the truth is that staying in one job for too long is just as risky in the long run.
Get a New Perspective
Consider the following example: Bob and Steve were classmates at XYZ University. Twenty years into their careers in construction, Steve is making $200K and Bob is making $140K. Bob asks himself, “Why is Steve making so much more than I am?” They have the same degree from the same university, and they both have twenty years of experience. But Bob’s twenty years are all with one company, where he’s risen to the rank of Vice President, and Steve’s twenty years have been spent with three different companies. Why is it that Steve is earning more than Bob?
The answer is that Steve diversified his experience. He spent ten years with Company A and then got a bump in pay when he moved over to Company B, where he spent another ten years. He was recruited by Company C a few months ago because they value what he learned at his previous two firms, and Company C was willing to compensate for that added perspective. Bob knows his company inside and out and he’s a great employee for them, but his experience is limited - he only knows how his company operates, not how other successful firms are doing things.
All companies want to hire someone who can add value, and one of the ways new employees do that is by bringing in fresh perspectives. Candidates who have built up experience with a few solid companies throughout their careers are more likely to bring in new ideas and add value to a new company than someone who has only worked for one company for the duration of their career.
Make Strategic Changes
It’s important to remember that jumping from job to job without a long-term plan is not what employers want to see. You should be thinking long-term whenever you make decisions about your career, and that means you need to plan ahead. Do you have a five-year plan? A ten-year plan? Think about where you want to be and what you want to accomplish throughout your career, whether it’s leading a preconstruction department at a national construction firm, contributing a high-rise building to your favorite city’s skyline, or running the top-rated safety program in your region. Then, when career opportunities come knocking, you can consider whether a new position will move you closer to your goals.
But What If…?
There are a lot of questions that will come up as you consider making a career change, and it’s rarely an easy decision. Start by asking yourself, “Will taking this new position help me in my career?” Is the company stable? Is there room for growth? Are you excited about the company culture?
As you move forward in the job change process, keep an eye out for red flags such as poor communication, signs of financial instability, or a lack of growth opportunities. As long as there are no red flags, take the next step in the process. By the time an offer is extended, if you still don’t see any red flags, it might be a sign to accept the offer.
Even in the worst-case scenario, when you make a change and your “what if’s” come true and put you back on the market, you have a safety net. If you have demonstrated career stability with your previous companies, employers will understand one short stay. Things happen! Promises get broken and companies lose out on jobs they thought they’d win. Don’t panic: take your new perspective and use it to your advantage when you meet with other companies.
Don’t Fall Victim to Regret
When you pass up a career change due to fear of the unknown, you open yourself up to a world of regret. Every time you have a bad day, you might wonder how things would have been if you’d taken the new job. When you lose an account to the company who pursued you, or when the boss you felt loyal to suddenly leaves the company, regret can grow. If you commit to making a change and back out, that can come back to haunt you the next time you do pursue a new opportunity.
Change is scary, but it’s also inevitable. Whether it’s six months or five years down the road, chances are good that a change in your career is going to come. So when a great opportunity comes along, don’t let fear hold you back: make a strategic change on your timing. As Wayne Gretzky told us, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Take a leap of faith, and your career will thank you for it.