The Grass Isn’t Always Greener On The Other Side

With unemployment at an all-time low, it is well noted to be a job-seekers market. And you may have the desire to ‘explore what’s out there’ to find better opportunities, salary and/or progression.

If you’re just starting out in your career particularly, we urged you to consider all factors despite job opportunities being plentiful before you make a move. Often, we naturally measure a ‘good opportunity’ with more tangible outcomes such as pay, title, and promotions and don’t consider the less glamourous side of career growth.

There tends to be three common reasons when people leave a business, and I believe these can be fool’s gold, if not armed with deeper consideration.

I stress these are examples and not every opportunity is a bad one, but you should deliberate all the factors and understand there isn’t always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But it’s a 20% Pay Rise!

Money matters… let’s not pretend it doesn’t, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all. While a 20-30% pay increase is nothing to play down, what other considerations are there?

Businesses are unlikely to offer you more money to do less, while other sectors may be able to pay significantly more than what yours does. However, they often have vastly different operating rhythms and expectations – make sure you understand this – as it’s more than just an increased workload.

Years ago, I needed a change in my job situation and put myself on the job market. I was burnt out in the organisation I was in where things moved at a frantic pace, and we moved from one project to the next. My eldest daughter had just been born and (I thought!) I wanted more flexibility and work-life balance.

I was offered a role that was paying 15% more, plus gave me the added security of 17% superannuation, so I leapt at the opportunity. However, at that stage of my career, I hadn’t realised I best function in high pressure environments where I am (ironically) moving from one project to another. This was NOT the environment I moved too – while the money was great and I got home at a decent hour, I was so bored and unfulfilled that I lasted less than six months before I had to leave.

I’ve also recently seen the reverse happen, where someone left a role for a substantial pay rise, but quickly felt unfulfilled. The $ incentives were attractive, she didn’t identify with the purpose of the company and felt she wasn’t making a difference. Unsurprisingly, she left four months after starting.

On the flipside, a business leader I know recounted how one of his lead designers was headhunted after seven years in the business and offered a 20% increase. Not only was he genuinely happy for this person, but he also even helped them negotiate a further salary increase.

Moral of the story is there are opportunities, but be sure to do your research, before following the money.

There Are More Growth Opportunities For Me…

Another common reason for moving on is the desire for career growth. Often, this is only seen as linear progression up the ‘food chain’ into management roles and beyond.

Ambition is great. But it isn’t as much when you miss opportunities in front of you to chase ones further afield before understanding the wider landscape.

Not long ago, we had a young manager who showed promise and was rewarded with two promotions in quick succession. He had a lot of potential, however, also some significant holes in his armoury that needed work.

To support him, we provided an executive coach to work through some of these challenges, identifying the various triggers and giving him tools to be able to manage effectively. He excelled at the tasks associated with his role, but some of his weaknesses were compromising his overall outputs, particularly around his engagement with his team and other managers.

While he made progress, there was still work to be done before he was a well-rounded leader. We continued to work and support him but were conscious that unless he fully addressed the gaps, he wouldn’t be able to successfully move into a more senior role. He however, wanted to move quickly and felt he was ready to manage a larger team and take on ‘senior management’ responsibilities – believing he wasn’t going that with us, he left the business.

I caught up with him recently to learn he’d had not one, but two roles in the interim, and was now looking for a new role. His new employers were impressed with him through the interview process but within weeks saw the same issues we had seen – unfortunately for him they saw these flaws as limiting and high risk, and together with his reluctance to address them, led to him being dismissed from both roles.

This is a cautionary tale of when ambition outweighs ability, coupled with a lack of patience. He felt he was ready for a step up and that he was being held back, when in fact he was being nurtured and supported with reasonable expectations.

I’ve seen similar happen with great salespeople who want to be sales managers, because they think management is progression. It can be, but as the old saying goes ‘sometimes the worst thing you can do is to make your best salesperson a manager’. We need to understand both our interests and where our limitations lie.

Finally, I want to stress not all opportunities are linked to promotions. As businesses continue to navigate a post-COVID lockdown world, many are looking to innovate and launch new products and services. How can you be a part of these opportunities and branch out horizontally rather than vertically? How can you broaden your skillset and become more valuable to your organisation and seek growth that way?

I Want More Flexibility to Work From Home

This is a newcomer to the grass is greener stable. Over the past two years, particularly in Australia, we’ve had to learn to work remotely and now are being asked to return to the office.

I remember the day we told our business to work from home for a ‘short period’ as COVID hit. We all understood why but there were still general murmurings of discontent i.e. ‘We can’t do our roles remotely’ –  ‘I’m not set up to work from home’ – ‘But I like coming to the office”.

Two years on, the same people are saying now saying, they don’t need to come into the office, can do their jobs perfectly from home and some even you can’t make me come back in.

Flexibility is great, but I caution against looking for roles where you work remotely 100% of the time –particularly if you’re someone just starting in your career.

The advent of Webex, Zoom and Teams has allowed us to communicate effectively across multiple locations, making working remotely easier. In some cases, it’s increased the ability to collaborate across locations and time zones, and been an enabler for businesses.

However, as a business leader I know it’s also emphasised the importance of face-to-face / in person contact. While you can conduct training and induction over video, you lose the ability to learn and share ideas incidentally. I’ve had several instances since we’ve been back in the office of overhearing a comment and being able to troubleshoot there and then, rather than wait for an email, similarly the ability to lean over to quickly talk through an idea.

Being in the office also allows more casual interaction between employer and employee. As CEO, I love the fact I can walk up and talk to any member of my team, and not necessarily about work.  Relationships are much easier to build in person as it allows for a deeper connection.

Remote working means you need to be very self-sufficient and that most of your interactions with colleagues become matter of fact and operational. From a long-term sustainability perspective, that’s not a great recipe for fulfilment and job satisfaction, let alone growth.

Most employers are offering a degree of flexibility, so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Again, consideration all options and choose wisely!

It’s not all doom and gloom, but the grass isn’t always green. Considers all pros and cons before making big moves. I stress again there are some great opportunities, but as a job seeker, make sure you cover all bases before making the leap. Good luck!

Control the Controllables,

David Phua
CEO, Performance Education & Gradability

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