Career change: Be Wise, Not Impulsive!

Career decisions are one of the most crucial and challenging decisions a person can make. Career change decision is as arduous as making your first career choice. So, what triggers a career transition decision? The reasons could be many, but the bottom line is that you stop liking what you are doing!

Multiple triggers…

According to Vijay Kumar, founder & CEO, Peepal Technology & Management Consulting, “Decisions pertaining to change in your career track comes with special challenges. They are sometimes more difficult than your initial career choice. You know you’re in a bad career if it makes you unhappy, compromises your values.”

There are several possible reasons triggering this decision; ranging from work environment (job content, company culture, stability or growth prospects of the organisation) to personal aspirations (financial, title and position) not matching expectations. “Sometimes, it’s also the desire to switch from one sector to another, in the belief that the new sector offers better growth opportunities (such as moving from an FMCG company to an e-commerce startup). It can also be circumstantial (need to relocate cities for personal reasons, getting fired or laid off),” stated Arvind Singhal, chairman, Technopak Advisors.

The ‘T’ point…

So, when does this aspiration to change career actually sets in? According to experts, there has been a big shift in employee’s attitudes, pertaining to the point at which they now seek a job change. “A generation ago, usually the first change was sought 5-7 years after starting on the first job. The change was usually for taking advantage of a faster growth track or for changing from one sector to another. Today, the first change often happens within 2-3 years of starting on the first job and the primary motivation for the same is usually just to get better remuneration, pointed out Singhal.

Further explaining the cycle, he added that this process of changing job continues for the first 8-10 years. By then, a typical professionally qualified employee would have already made 3-4 job changes, each almost entirely driven by the desire to get a better compensation package. The next set of changes occurs in late 30’s. These are usually driven by better ‘title’ desires or the desire to switch from a ‘smaller company’ to a ‘larger company’ in the same sector. Sometimes, the changes are also triggered by the desire to switch from one sector to another. The final set of changes now occur in late 40’s and early 50’s, which are almost entirely driven by taking advantage of any opportunity to become a CEO (or any other leadership title), with a company that has some aspirational value for the individual.

Wisdom presides…

While there has been shift in the career point at which an employee seeks career change, the desire to move is intact. But, how wise it is to consider a career transition? While frequent changes could be damaging, a wise decision made at the right time can be rewarding.

As Singhal puts it, “Frequent job changes rarely lead to spectacular careers. The early years in a career are all about learning. Frequent (every 2-3 years) job changes limit the opportunities to learn, even though many who make these changes rationalise their decisions by claiming that they are trying to enhance their learning.” Though, he added that a mid-career (in late 30’s/early 40’s) change could be useful, especially if it leads to significantly enhanced responsibilities and perhaps in a new environment.

Kumar shares a similar perspective, “Your current job could be fulfilling your family expectations very well and helping you pay your bills, but it’s not making you happy. Hence, it is sometimes better to think beyond the paycheck and take up the risk for the sake of emotional well-being.” He added that career change decisions are no doubt a risky endeavor; however he affirmed “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”