At BlueSky, we take a personalized approach with our candidates and clients. We look at search as more than simply filling an open seat – we help our clients build successful teams. And we help our candidates find rewarding, fulfilling job opportunities that unlock their true potential.
William Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.” I’m sure he didn’t intend it this way when he wrote it, but it’s great advice for anyone who might be evaluating a career change. Let’s consider the question we have to answer at various points in our professional lives – “Is this the right career move for me?” On the surface, it’s a simple question. Dig a little deeper, and start considering all the different ways it can be evaluated, and it becomes less simple. Here’s a quick 6-point checklist for evaluating any career moves you might be contemplating:
- Practice Self-Reflection – When candidates ask me what the most important aspect of any career move is, my answer is always the same – know yourself. Take some time to reflect on what you are looking for beyond a salary range or title. What kind of work keeps you inspired and motivated? What kind of culture and core values align with your personality and work ethic? Do you crave a dynamic, no-two-days-are-the-same type of work life? Or is predictability and consistency more your flavor? Knowing what makes you happy, keeps you interested and aligns with your vision of the ideal job opportunity is the first step in getting what you want.
- Do the Research – At the risk of sounding obvious, researching a potential employer is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your next career move is the right one for you. Focus your effort on understanding the organization’s culture and core values – what does the organization seek from its team members? Take a look at the company’s market and financial performance – are they ascending or declining? Has the organization gone through any layoffs or experienced intense growth? How do they stack up against their closest competitors? All of these factors can help you create a realistic view of the organization and where it may be heading.
- Look Beyond the Title – We find that many candidates are laser-focused on titles when searching for a new career opportunity. The logic is simple, though misguided – a Manager at Company A will have roughly the same duties as a Manager at Company B. While this may be true to some extent, often there are big differences in the actual duties. For instance, a smaller company may require its managers to wear more than one hat – when you’re not managing others you might be required to take on other, sometimes unrelated duties. A larger company, on the other hand, might need you to focus on the management aspect exclusively. Look beyond the title of a potential opportunity and make sure you understand the actual, day-to-day responsibilities that come with each new opportunity. Integrating this understanding of the responsibilities with what you know about yourself will help you more accurately assess the potential each opportunity creates for you.
- Identify Success Factors – Ask yourself “Do I have a clear understanding of what it will take to be successful here?” For example, is the company a meritocracy where your achievements will primarily drive rewards? Or is it a bureaucracy where internal politics will play a major role? Is it an organization that prides itself on working long hours? Or does it actively promote (and deliver on) the idea of a work-life balance? Is there an ‘up or out’ expectation? What career paths are possible? There is no substitute for an insider’s opinion on what it’s like to work and live with this career opportunity so, to the extent possible, seek out and engage current or past employees. Ask for their unfiltered opinions on more than just the bright, shiny things.
- Gauge the Entry Point – Some candidates resist an opportunity if they can’t enter a new organization at a certain level. While we often advise candidates to enter at the highest level possible, you need to understand and evaluate the context of the opportunity. For example, some candidates make a strategic decision to enter an organization at a lower level because they see that initial role as an entry point that allows them to reduce the learning curve and quickly become a top performer. That approach also provides time to understand the “soft” side of the organization’s culture and creates a little more runway to establish a high-performance reputation for yourself. Or, if networking is the key driver of success at this new organization, this approach gives you more time to make the right connections and allies in order to advance to the position you really want. While it’s always good to focus on the positive aspects of any emerging opportunity, it’s also important to be realistic about potentially negative issues. For instance, if an organization is highly political and bureaucratic, it may take several years or more to ascend the ranks. In these instances, it’s important to consider whether your time would be better spent at a different organization that offered more immediate opportunities to move up and grow. As with most things in life, context is key.
- Align the Opportunity with your Career Trajectory – Now that you have the tools to help you properly gauge the opportunity, ask yourself a few final questions. Am I making a strategic step that aligns with my desired career arc? Does it deliver the required level of compensation I need at this stage of my life? Does the job add stability and balance? What will I be giving up? What skills will I gain and how valuable will the experience ultimately be in terms of moving my career forward? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself once you have a clear understanding of the facts and functional requirements that each new opportunity entails. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but the answers will help guide you to the right decision.
As you might have gathered from the checklist above, evaluating any potential career move is a highly personal experience. Ultimately, your goal is to find an organization and a role that creates value both ways. If there’s something I’ve learned over the years in this industry, it’s this – every successful job change begins and ends with you. When considering a career move, the best place to start is with what you know best – you.
That’s how we do it at BlueSky. The first step is always about getting to know our clients and candidates at a personal level so that we can put that knowledge to use. In fact, we often start our candidate discussions with questions like “When we talk about meaningful and exciting work, what does that mean to you?” Because in the end, it’s not about creating connections. It’s about creating the right connections. And we’re always here to help you do just that.