Sooner or later, there will be time when you will think about changing your job. But how to differentiate between the ‘grass-is-always-greener’ temptation vs having a valid rationale to switch?

I have changed my job twice in my life so far. But I have considered it many more times. Change of jobs always carries a risk that the new choice will not be better than the current one. The most difficult situations are those when you are 80-90+% happy with your current position – is it worth the risk to strive for a higher satisfaction level (which may be hard to obtain anyway)?

I have come up with a few situations in which you may want to take the risk and look for greener pastures.

  • You stop learning and having fun. Life is too short.
  • There is no clear career trajectory and/or it takes way too long to progress (position-wise and/or financially). Are there too many people above you? Is your role the end-destination in your organization?
  • You need a different experience/skillset to reach your long-term career goal. E.g. if you are in a strategy role, you may need a P&L experience to make it to the CEO seat. When I was in consulting, I felt I needed to strengthen the M&A/corporate finance skillset in order to move to private equity
  • You have stayed for too long. There are people who change jobs every 2/5/10 years just because they reached a certain time milestone and it is time to move on (or ‘replant’ themselves as I have heard recently at a talk at the Stanford University). I do not think there is a specific timeframe to follow (and it will undoubtedly differ based on the type of role/ experience you are having), but I do agree that long periods at a single place may limit your perspective – world is way more varied than your organization and the environment it operates in
  • You do not respect your team and/or are tired of office politics. It is difficult to spend most of your wakeful time in a company of people you do not admire, respect, and learn from. Not only your career but also your psyche will suffer.
  • Irresistible temptation. As Oscar Wilde said, ‘The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.’ At some points, your inner voice is nagging you too much and you feel you shall listen to it. Go for it.

Before calling it a day though, I would always recommend exploring alternative options with your current employer. Is there a new stretch assignment, role in a different department, or a geographic mobility opportunity? Changing positions may reignite the excitement with your employer, and is usually less risky than going to a new place altogether.

The world we live in is more open, flexible and accommodating than the world of our parents and grandparents. Lifetime employments are rarer to see; there are flexible job arrangements (e.g. freelancing), and it may be easier to recover from a career mis-step. Leaving your boss may not mean a complete separation – you may become business partners in the future, or you may work together again at another place few years down the line. You may also try something else, acquire new skills, and then go back to your original employer – equipped with new perspectives and experiences. Changing your job is a significant decision to make but should be seen more as an evolution, rather than a complete revolution in your career.

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