Jumping Ship: When to Take the Next Step in your Career

Our parents grew up with the mindset that once you finished school, you got a job in your trade and put all of your focus towards working your way up in that company. After about 40 years, you would retire and go on cruises to Bermuda, or move to Boca Raton, FL for a daily 6AM tee time and the early bird special.

That mentality did not carry through to our generation; a generation where the job market is lucrative and people are not looking for jobs as much as jobs are looking for people. Millennials have so many opportunities presented to them through LinkedIn, Indeed, mutual friends, you name it; there is a reason these specialized recruiters are called ‘headhunters’. While I understand the mentality of generations before us, the market has entirely transformed since then and so has the workforce itself.

When looking for a new opportunity, it’s important to understand where you are in your career and focus on a long term goal. What position are you working toward? Is it VP of Engineering? Is it CEO? Is it an independent contractor working for yourself? No matter what that may be, knowing where you are in the process will help you take the right steps towards reaching that goal, even if that means a new company altogether.

Vetting Opportunities

If you are active on LinkedIn, you will find that recruiters are consistently reaching out with new opportunities. Most of them are probably not the right fit, while a few stand out. For those opportunities that do stand out, take the phone interview. Worst case: the job sucks but you got some great interview experience.

Understanding what’s out there while figuring out what you’d like to do next is not betrayal to your current job, it’s simply being aware of the market and proactive with your career.

The Importance of Culture

The hardest part of leaving agency life was leaving the people: my coworkers had become my best friends, as had my boss. I enjoyed going to work everyday; we had a work hard, play hard mentality and it drove me to be productive and successful. The culture made me stay longer than I anticipated; I did not want to give that up for something entirely foreign. It was only when I found something with a comparable culture that I made the move.

When vetting new opportunities, look beyond the job to the culture too. Do you like the people? Are the benefits adequate? While culture comes second to the job itself, it’s important to be happy in your workplace too. Yeah, I said it.

Don’t Jump Around Too Much

Switching jobs too often can make you seem unreliable and flaky, making employers less likely to hire you. Unless a job is entirely wrong for you and you’re miserable, stick it out for at least a year. Focus on accomplishment in your role: have you made an impact? Do you feel like you have plateaued in your position? If not, keep working on fine tuning your skill set in that role. New companies often bring new ways of doing things, and that flexibility will make you a better employee at your next job.

No matter where your next opportunity is, make sure to go about the process with respect for both companies. Most importantly, while new opportunities can seem appealing, (esp. On those bad days) wait for the right one to come along. Once you’re there, do your damn job – and do it well.

What is your take on ‘jumping ship’ for new opportunities? Has it worked out for you in the past? Share in the comments below.

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