Someone recently asked me whether I helped people get “better” jobs or jobs that made them happier.
My answer was that the two were the same.
Of course, if you were to look at your career from a purely strategic point of view, I could give you four good reasons why it makes sense to change jobs within the same or similar industry three times during your first ten years of employment:
- Changing jobs gives you a broader base of experience: After about three years, you’ve learned most of what you’re going to know about how to do your job. Therefore, over a ten year period, you gain more experience from “three times 90 percent” than “one times 100 percent.”
- A more varied background creates a greater demand for your skills: Depth of experience means you’re more valuable to a larger number of employers. You’re not only familiar with your current company’s product, service, procedures, quality programs, inventory system, and so forth; you bring with you the expertise you’ve gained from your prior employment with other companies.
- A job change results in an accelerated promotion cycle: Each time you make a change, you bump up a notch on the promotion ladder. You jump, for example, from project engineer to senior project engineer; or national sales manager to vice president of sales and marketing.
- More responsibility leads to greater earning power: A promotion is usually accompanied by a salary increase. And since you’re being promoted faster, your salary grows at a quicker pace, sort of like compounding the interest you’d earn on a certificate of deposit.
Many people view a job change as a way of promoting themselves to a better position. In most cases, I would agree.
However, you should always be sure your new job offers you the means to satisfy your values. While there’s no denying the strategic virtues of selective job changing for the purpose of career leverage, you want to make sure the path you take will lead you where you really want to go.
For instance, I see no reason to make a job change for more money if it’ll make you unhappy to the point of distraction. Not long ago, I placed a project engineer with a company that offered him a $47,000 a year job. Later, he told me that the same day he agreed to go to work for my client, he’d turned down an offer of $83,200 with another company. The reason? The higher offer was for a consulting position with an aerospace company in Detroit — a job that would have taken him down a road he felt was a dead end.
To me, the “best” job is one in which your values are being satisfied most effectively. If career growth and advancement are your primary goals, and they’re represented by how much you earn, then the job that pays the most money is the “better” job.
Your responsibility when contemplating a change is to evaluate what’s most important to you. Whether you focus on a single aspect of your job (like Pat, Craig, and Neil did), or on the overall nature of the job you’d like to improve…
The more clearly you connect your values with your work, the greater the potential for job satisfaction.