WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO CHANGE JOBS?

Adam Klaucke
Published Online: Friday, September 1, 2006

TODAY'S HEALTH CARE JOB market is most definitely a candidate-driven market. New and exciting opportunities are all around us. We are consistently being reminded of this by a friend or colleague accepting an exciting new position, or recruiters calling weekly with new employment opportunities. It is enough to make you wonder—is it time to change jobs?

That has never been, and I expect never really will be, a very easy question to answer. After all, a new job might bring you higher pay, more authority, greater responsibility, a better chance for advancement, and even a better working environment. On the other hand, making a move for the wrong reason can send you down a dangerous path and away from your ultimate career goal. If you have a proper career plan, however, then you will be able to reduce the risk and achieve your ultimate career objectives. If you never look at a map or write down the directions, then how can you expect to get anywhere?

Unfortunately, most of us make the same fundamental and common career mistakes. We are willing to change jobs for better offers, but these moves never advance us towards our ultimate career goal. The end result is a lot of movement that will not lead to a desired destination. Do not let the same thing happen to you and your career goals. With basic career planning, you can find the right jobs and know when to accept the right offers.

The following career planning method uses straightforward common sense. Do not be fooled by the simplicity. The difficulty comes in execution of the plan. You will need discipline, self-evaluation, and commitment.

A TWO-STEP PLAN TO OBTAIN YOUR CAREER OBJECTIVES

My career advice boils down to 2 steps: (1) adopt an ultimate career goal, and (2) develop a plan to execute it. These 2 steps allow you, not fate, to control your career advancement.

Your ultimate career goal should be a specific position within a specific industry. Take a moment and visualize yourself in this position. Too many people spend too much time worrying and moping, whining and complaining about how things do not always go as they hoped it would. The reason things end up that way for them is because they usually do not plan for them to go right, and by taking 5 to 10 minutes and actually seeing yourself where you want to go and how you are going to get there, you will significantly increase the chances for a favorable outcome. It is the same way that Tiger Woods hits the golf ball. He never takes a swing at a golf ball that he does not first mentally visualize going into the hole. You only have one shot with your career, so take your time and visualize yourself obtaining your ideal position.

Executing this plan will contain 2 facets: long-term goals and short-term goals. Your long-term plan will be a list of all the jobs you must hold to reach your career goal. This plan should include not only job titles, but all the skills and experience needed for each position. Your short-term job plan will list the skills and experience needed to move up to the next rung of your career ladder. Again, take the time to visualize yourself in each of these positions along the way.

For most of us, there is no shortcut. Only with a goal in mind can you know when you have arrived. Only with a plan can you be confident that you will arrive on schedule—or at all. To choose a fitting goal, candidly assess your experience, skills, interests, strengths, weaknesses, and enthusiasms. If you find self-assessment difficult, have a close friend help you, or consult a career counselor. Once you have a clear picture of how you best operate, you can select a career goal that conforms to your character.

QUESTION EVERYONE

A great deal of research is required to determine the proper steps in your career path to reach your career objective to which you aspire. Research is extremely vital to your success. Read relevant books, news articles, magazines, and other industry-specific publications. Talk to executive recruiters. They know what it takes to flourish in a given role, and they have helped many people on their career path. As you begin to clarify your ultimate goal, interview people who have achieved it. Find out if you really want their everyday responsibilities and hard work. (Either way, it is best to know beforehand.)

To begin establishing your job plan, ask your role models how they rose to their present positions. Chart both their successes and mistakes throughout their career history. You can never expect to follow the same career path, because the career landscape is always slightly shifting. For example, you may need expertise in a process or technology that did not exist when your mentors were at your career stage.

Therefore, be sure to ask your role models 2 additional questions: (1) What qualifications and work experience were they expected to have?; and (2) What knowledge did they lack, but wish they had when they began this job? As you begin to see the path to your goal, interview people who hold the jobs along your way. The better you understand what lies ahead, the better you can meet the challenge.

When you are ready to go ahead with your plan, timing becomes paramount. You should seek each new job as soon as you are prepared to succeed in it. Moving before you have the skills and confidence can be disastrous to your career and your company. Besides, it is not necessary to move too soon or too high just because an outstanding opportunity comes prematurely. New and exciting opportunities for outstanding talent are always presenting themselves.

Likewise, it is not beneficial to your career to stay in your present job once you have prepared for another one. Loyalty and stagnation are 2 different things. As soon as you are ready for more responsibility, seek it. As you advance, keep current with the changes in your industry. Changing regulations, technology, and business conditions have the potential to alter both your path and destination. Periodically review your career plan, and make changes as both the industry and your career objectives alter with time and experience.

ALWAYS KEEP A HIGH PROFILE

My father always used to tell me, "Keep a low profile in life, and you'll go far." That may have been true years ago, but, today, if you want to go somewhere, people must know who you are and where you are going. Your reputation within an industry is crucial in gaining interviews and securing new positions. Never assume that doing good work and being a good employee is enough. It is simply a good start. The best way to develop your reputation and keep up with the job market is to become active in a trade association. Serve on a committee in the area of your interest; write articles for your group's publications; and ask to speak on your topic of knowledge. These initiatives advertise your commitment to your field.

Cultivate a network of successful people within your industry. Make it clear that you respect their attainment and want to emulate them. Most people will be flattered and happy to help. This network will provide an early warning of the best openings, which are rarely advertised.

If you have the choice, it is better to remain employed and learn about openings through your network than to quit your job and search full-time. Your attractiveness as a successful employee is worth far more than extra hours to shop around.

Utilizing a professional executive search company,when you are ready to seek new employment opportunities, can open doors to many unadvertised opportunities. Professional recruiters spend all day researching new opportunities and can help you even before you are looking for a new opportunity. The recruiters are paid by the prospective employers, so be careful to select an executive recruiter that is looking after your best interest and not their next mortgage payment. Select an executive recruiter that shares your best interests in achieving your career objectives.

To review, effective career management requires 3 things:

1. A goal that is worthwhile and attainable.

2. A plan based on thorough, up-to-date industry knowledge and research.

3. Timing—Seek your next job as soon as you have the skills and confidence to advance. Utilize your network of contacts and a professional recruiter.

Adam Klaucke is the president of Morgan Medical Recruiting. He assists medical professionals to take their career to the next level and realize their career objectives. He can be reached at adam@morganmr.com or 800-908-9642 x 703.




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