What Do I Know About Changing Jobs???
I was the Mary Poppins of Higher Education.
“I will stay until the wind changes.”
Or, until I get tired of the politics. Until my husband gets tired of the town. I get counseled out of my position (for good and bad reasons). I don’t feel that I’m growing in the job. Lots of good reasons for changing jobs, yes?
For these reasons and many others, I found myself transitioning from one job to another NINE different times thus far in my career in higher education. Sometimes that transition just took me up or down a state; but in most cases, that transition took me and my family across the country…a new state, a new beginning. New friends, locations to learn. Gotta get another bank account? A plethora of opportunities. Tons of challenges.
Just for fun, I will trace my history for you…
Graduate School – Arkansas
First Job – Washington
Second Job – Missouri
Third Job – Virginia
Fourth Job – Illinois
Fifth Job – Arizona
Six Job – Tennessee
Seventh Job – Southern California
Eighth Job – Northern California
Ninth Job – Southern California
Average stay? 30 months. Shortest stay? 9 months. Longest stay? My current gig. And I don’t plan on leaving soon. That current record is 4 years and 9 months.
Seriously, I wasn’t joking when I listed all those reasons above. There are so many reasons you might change jobs. And I think I nailed all of them.
And honestly? I’m not even counting temp jobs or the one job where I was “fired/laid off.” I’m still not sure what happened.
Let’s walk through them…
The first reason you might change jobs – it’s not the right fit for you.
What’s “FIT”? I talk about this in my book, “Making ‘Work’ Work for You.” It has to do with defining and understanding the culture of your employer. Do your values align with theirs? If not, can you live with that? Further, is your supervisor someone you trust and who supports you? Sure, you can’t change your supervisor, but you can change your relationship with her. A person can be at a job for 20 years and still not have the right fit. Or, a person can be in a job for five days and know that it’s going to be the perfect fit. It’s like love. You just know. Your gut will tell you.
The second reason you might change jobs – you can’t advance.
You’re ambitious – you have goals. And after 1-2 or more years in a position, you know that you want more. You want a promotion. You want to advance. But no one above you is going anywhere.
You can hang around and wait for someone to retire or just leave. Or you can leave. It all depends on how important the advancement is to you and how long you are willing to wait. Realistically, I only did this once. At the advice of my supervisor. Who I think really wanted me to stay, but knew that I would stagnate in that position. That’s a very supportive supervisor!
But only you can really make this decision. And you have to be willing to live with it when you do. Was it Cinderella (the band, not the princess) who said, “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Choosing to leave a job where you are perfectly happy but want more can be a risk. So make sure you really want that advancement or promotion. Especially if it takes you to another city or state. Story of my life.
The third reason you might change jobs- your significant other hates where you live.
That’s a little harsh. But let’s face it – if you are in a relationship then you can’t always just think about your own career. Or if you do (like I did for many years), you need to be ready to say, “Your Turn.” I left a great job at an urban institution because my sweet hubby was tired of the cold. He made some great points in his argument and I couldn’t disagree with him.
The fourth reason you might change jobs – you get counseled out.
This one I really need to explain. Counseled out is not Fired, Laid Off, or dismissed. I did not lose a job. My supervisor gave me the full skinny on what was about to change in my current job. And I took her feedback seriously. Basically, my skills were strong in one direction, but my position was going to need skills that were in another direction. I wasn’t asked to leave, but I was told that I would need to beef up skills in the other area, an this was an area of my field I was not crazy about.
The decision to leave itself wasn’t really what was going on. I was happy to stay; but I figured that I should at least look out there to see if there was anything that looked interesting and/or piqued my curiosity. Two jobs did and I was fortunate enough to interview on campus for both. One of the colleges offered me a job right away; the other college never got back to me at all. Ever. Which was disappointing, but that’s going to happen in your life once or twice.
How Do I Feel About It All Now?
Suffice to say that I have made dozens of choices that impacted my career, thereby taking nine positions in seven states. Do I regret any of it? Hell no. Each of those jobs gave me skills, allowed me to grow, introduced me to amazing people, and showed both me and my hubby a big old country that required exploration. But, I’m not going to lie – all this change was at times stressful, expensive, and hard to navigate.
Honestly, the initial discovery of a new campus and a new city was always fun. We had to discover new bars, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping areas, and interesting local things to do. There was a shit ton of packing, unpacking, repacking. It was important to come up with creative ways of storing things, decorating, and purging old stuff.
Once our insurance benefits kicked in, there was the process of finding our doctor, dentist, and decide where to fill our prescriptions. Occasionally there was public transportation to learn. Or coming up with more creative ways to get to and from work. My husband is a total explorer and he could drive streets and neighborhoods all day looking for fun things to do and cool places to eat.
Making friends. It wasn’t that this was hard, but if we wanted friends outside our current work circles, we had to be creative. For much of our marriage, my husband and I did not have the same friends. Most of our friends were work friends and we almost never did things with other couples. This wasn’t a bad thing; but it wasn’t until we began aligning our interests more directly that we made friends outside our workplace and did things with other couples.
Once again, in my book, “Making ‘Work’ Work for You,” I go on a short rant about the importance of having friends outside the workplace. This was a “skill” I developed as I’ve moved through my career; and, again, it wasn’t always easy or super intuitive.
I don’t really know if there is advice to give on this subject. But as I continued to do my research for this posting, I learned something that blew my mind a little!
My career trajectory is actually below the average of the “average” American person!
According to an article in The Balance, the average American will change jobs anywhere between 10-15 times his career. In January of 2016, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average job tenure was 4.2 years in a position, as opposed to 4.6 years in 2014. Who works for just one employer their entire career anymore? I’ve known three people in my life who have made that happen successfully. It’s amazing. Sometimes I am jealous of those folks, but other times I find myself saying, “how is that possible?” Or “don’t you have any sense of adventure at all?”
Of course, it may not be a job satisfaction choice or need that gets us looking for another gig somewhere else. With the current technologies and social media platforms out there, starting your own business, being your own boss, and being recruited by interesting employers on LinkedIn is second nature. It’s easier to find jobs, apply for them, and prepare for interviews now since we have the internet.
Your career – your VOCATION – should reflect your passion and allow you to do the things you love, use the skills you were born to use. It doesn’t always happen that way, so we have to find another gig, or make our living by starting a business. Change is never easy, but it’s important to remember that we always have choices. All of my job changes were a choice. A choice that I made. I’m proud of my career and I honestly don’t think I would do anything differently.
Discussion: what scares you the most about changing jobs?