How do I know when it is the right time to change jobs?

It’s not an easy task to answer this question. You might find a job that offers you more responsibility, higher pay, higher authority and greater opportunities for advancement. It could even be a better place to work. But, moving for the wrong reason could lead you down the wrong path and keep you from your ultimate goal.

Take a look at the tales of two ex-clients. While their names may have been changed to protect their identities, the stories they tell are true. Jim Peters envisioned himself as a sales manager for a national building company. He believes it’s now time to make a change after five years as a salesman at a Georgia-based building company. He feels underpaid and sees no opportunity for promotion. He talks to local companies about sales jobs with his experience and accepts a job at an architectural firm that pays more.

Jim is now ready to move again, four years later. He enjoys his boss but the work is harder than his previous job and there are no opportunities for advancement. Worse, the 10% increase Jim negotiated through job-hopping was also paid his predecessor at his previous construction sales job.

Jim decides to go back to construction sales after becoming disillusioned with the world of architectural sales. Jim begins to search for opportunities in Washington, DC, after learning that it is the most populated building market. His experience in sales is not worth the extra salary. One company offers a job without salary increases. Jim accepts the job, knowing that there will be opportunities for advancement. Jim decides to move to Washington. However, disappointment sets in when the promotion he had hoped for does not materialize. Jim and his brother-in law eventually purchase a fast food franchise.

Bill Doyle, a civil engineer student, hopes to lead a design team for a national engineering firm that designs luxury hotels. His college does not have any civil engineering companies that hire. His resumes don’t get him interviews with his potential employers. Instead, he accepts an offer from a local electricity utility company upon his graduation.

Bill is shocked to learn of the high salaries civil engineers have been earning in Texas’ oil fields three years later. A resume is sent and a 25% salary increase is offered by a major oil company. Bill takes the bait. Five years later, Bill loses his job due to the oil crisis. After six months of hard work, he finally gets a job designing pulp-and-paper plants at a 20% reduction in pay. Bill finally finds his way back into hotel designing — but this time he is an individual designer and not a manager for a national chain with boring hotels.

Both Bill and Jim made the same mistakes. Although they were open to changing jobs to get better opportunities, their actions did not lead them to their career goals. It was a lot moving that didn’t result in the desired destination.

Do not let this happen to your career goals. Basic career planning will help you find the best jobs and decide when to accept them.

The following career planning strategy is simple and straightforward. Do not be fooled. Execution is where the difficulty lies. Discipline, self-evaluation, and commitment are essential.

A two-step, sure-fire plan

My advice boils to these two points: first, set a career objective and then create plans to accomplish it. These two steps give you control over your own destiny and allow you to influence your progression.

A specific job within a particular industry should be your career goal (e.g. You might want to be the Chief Engineer or Executive Editor for a technical publication company.

Two elements will make up your job plan. Your long-term job plan will include a list of all jobs you need to attain your career goal. The long-term plan should include more than job titles. It should also list all skills and experiences required for each job. Your short-term career plan will include the skills and experience required to move up the ladder.

There is no shortcut for most people. Only by setting a goal can you be certain that you have reached your destination. Only with a plan can it be possible to know when you’ll arrive on time, or even sooner.

For a goal that is right for you, take the time to evaluate your skills, abilities, passions, weaknesses, enthusiasm, and aversions. You may find it difficult to self-assess. A friend or career counselor can help. Once you are clear about your personality, you can make a decision on a career path that best suits your needs.

Questions, questions

Get a sense of what it is like to work in the position you desire. This is where research is key. Spend time at the library. Read the relevant magazines and books. Talk to executive recruiters. They are experts in the field and can help you find the right role. Interview people who have succeeded in achieving your goal as you clarify it. You should find out if you are really interested in their hard work and responsibilities. It’s better to be informed in advance.

Ask your role models about their career paths to get started on your job plan. The composite result of their careers can be used as a rough guide. It is impossible to follow their advice exactly because the career landscape constantly changes. As your industry or business grows internationally, languages such as foreign may be more important. Your mentors may have taught you a technology or process that isn’t available today.

Also, ask your role models these additional questions: What qualifications was his successor expected and what knowledge did they lack when he started the job? Interview people who have the same job as you to help you see the way to your goal. You can be more prepared for the challenge when you have a better understanding of the future.

Timing is crucial when you are ready to move forward with your plan. Each new job should be sought as soon and as successfully as possible. Your career and company’s reputation can be damaged if you don’t have the right skills and confidence. There’s no reason to rush or move too fast just because you have an amazing opportunity. Outstanding talent is always available.

It’s not a career advantage to stay in your current job if you’re ready for a new one. Stimming and loyalty are two distinct things. Seek more responsibility as soon as you are ready. Keep up to date with changes in your industry as you move forward. Changes in technology, regulations and business conditions can have a significant impact on your destination and path. Keep flexible and constantly review your goals.

Keep your profile high

A company’s reputation is a powerful tool for gaining interviews or securing new job opportunities. Don’t assume doing great work is enough. It is just a start. It’s a good way to improve your reputation, and to keep up with the job marketplace, is to be active in a trade organization. You can serve on a committee that focuses on your area of interest, contribute articles to the journal, and accept invitations to speak. These are great ways to show your dedication to your field.

Develop a network with people in your industry who are successful. You should make it clear that they are respected and you want to learn from them. Most people will be happy to assist and will be glad to. This network will alert you to the most attractive openings that are often not advertised.

It’s better to stay employed and find out about job openings through your network, if you have the option, than to quit your job to become a sleuth. Attractiveness is more important than the hours you spend shopping.

Effective career management involves a plan, a goal and timing. Make sure your goal is both worthwhile and achievable. A plan should be based on industry knowledge and is thorough. As soon as you are able to demonstrate the skills and confidence necessary to move up, find your next job. These are things you should do consistently and well. Your true potential in your career will be realized.

We are a team of professionals with each having two decades of experience in start-ups, sales, marketing, finance, HR, large scale project and profit centre management and running mature cross functional operations. At we are big believers that knowledge transfer is critical to our industry’s evolution. We love to share our experiences and learnings through our online resources.

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