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When is the Right Time to Make a Career Change?

by Lou Adler

Have you been offered a position and were on the fence about whether or not to accept it?  Here are four perspectives to consider when deciding if a change would be a positive for you:

  1. Time is your most valuable asset. Use it wisely.
  2. There could be more risk in staying put.
  3. You’ll be a stronger, more confident person if you’re successful.
  4. Labor churn is good for the economy.

Whether you’re fully-employed, underemployed or not employed at all, these are universal themes that should be part of every person’s ongoing career evaluation process. A story from long ago will help frame this reasoning.

Time is Your Most Valuable Career Asset. Don’t Waste It.

In terms of career growth, you want to spend as much time as possible in Zone 1. Here a person can get 2-3 years of experience in one year. Zone 2 is safe, but only temporarily. Before you know it, you could wind up in Zone 3. The problem with Zone 3 is that people cling to these jobs for the sake of security, and then, when things become desperate, take other jobs for all of the wrong reasons.

At this point in the explanation, my former co-worker realized he was treading water in Zone 2, and sensed that Zone 3 was rapidly approaching. This was when it was clear the offer in hand made great long- and short-term career sense. There was no downside risk. In fact, there was more risk for him in staying put.

When you’re in Zone 2, as comfortable as it may be, the risk of staying needs to be compared to the risk of leaving. Consider the point that not becoming consistently better risks your future. With the economy stabilizing, the risk in switching jobs now is much lower than it was 2-3 years ago. In addition, since there’s no short-term pressure to change jobs, you’ll be more discriminating and in a stronger bargaining position if a Zone 1 career opportunity comes along.

Playing it safe and not taking chances to stretch yourself means that in 2-3 years you’ll be exactly the same person as you are today. This sends a signal to recruiters and hiring managers that you have plateaued. People who change jobs for the right reasons – becoming better – tend to be stronger, more confident, willing to challenge the status quo, and take on new projects with limited experience. This is what building confidence and becoming a leader is all about. It happens by taking reasonable risks, not by avoiding them