Don’t Bungle Your Next Job Change

As often as baby-boomers change jobs (average 10x according to the Department of Labor), you’d think they have mastered the game by now. The worker as a “free agent” remains a reality as one financier put it: “There are no final destinations…your career is a process.” So it comes as a bit of a surprise that a recent study reveals that botching a job change is more common than finesse. Here are the most common job change mistakes…

  1. NOT DOING ENOUGH RESEARCH – Failure to practice “due diligence” falls into four categories:
    • Not knowing enough about job market realities for your industry or function
    • Failure to adequately assess a potential employer’s financial stability and market position
    • Neglecting the whole issue of cultural fit
    • Assuming that the job description accurately reflects real job expectations
  2. LEAVING FOR MONEY – as one job-shifter described his new job “I am doing the same thing for an extra $10k, but left behind relationships and connections that were worth a lot more.” We often talk to pharmacists who have already vacated their previous position and who say to us “I have six weeks’ vacation.” We have to remind them that they “had” six weeks of vacation. Very few employers are going to initially match the vacation that you earned through years of faithful service at ANOTHER company.
  3. OVERESTIMATING YOURSELF – Most “former” employees believe they were much more intrinsic to the organization than in fact they actually were. They have an unrealistic view of their skills, prospects, and their culpability not to mention, how long the job search may take.
  4. THINKING SHORT-TERM – IMMEDIATE RELIEF AND LONG-TERM REWARDS – There is a reason for the term “golden handcuffs,” but after 20+ years you are often leaving a lot more behind than money.
  5. “GOING FROM” RATHER THAN “GOING TO” – The most common reason for changing jobs (negative emotions) can hardly be defined as “strategic.” Good job transitions require care and patience.

A good career agent provides an antidote for all four mistakes in that (1) they know the market and your future employer, (2) they will discourage you from making money the number one issue, (3) They provide reality therapy regarding both the exigencies of job-shifting and your own assets, (4) they will ensure that the change is in your best long-term interests and that there are compelling reasons for considering a change.

Read about the Five Ways to Bundle a Job Change at HBR

It All Happens in the First 60 Seconds

“A hiring manager makes a decisive qualification of a job candidate within the first 60 seconds of the time they meet.”

60 Seconds, a long time:

While the first sixty seconds can’t replace the hard work of preparation prior to the interview, a lot can be accomplished in 60 seconds.

The time has come to meet your prospective employer, and if he or she is going to make a decision in the first 60 seconds of your first meeting you will want to influence that decision. You have the ability to determine the outcome of the first minute, and there is a lot of preparation to be done!

What can be accomplished in 60 seconds:

 You can…

  • Convey an impressive “look.” Strive to exceed all of his or her expectations and leave long-standing first impressions
  • Exhibit your positive interpersonal skills. You want your interviewer to see you as the polite, professional, and confident person you are
  • Make a connection. You will attempt to make a personal connection with your interviewer that will facilitate a comfortable, positive, and advantageous interaction.

The Objective:

The objective of the first look is to elicit a remarkable response from the interviewer, something on the order of – Wow! Yes! Whew!

  • Wow, this person looks even better than I had imagined.
  • Yes, I made a great decision bringing this person in for an interview (and I think I’m going to have a great new employee soon).
  • Whew, I may not have been absolutely sure before, but I am now; this is exactly the type of person I want on my team.

The Best Jobs are not Advertised

In his excellent book, Games Companies Play, Pierre Mornell says: “Most of the best jobs are not advertised – anywhere.” If this is true, and our experience affirms it, then how will you know when that dream job comes along? The answer is simple – build a relationship with a top Career Agent in your market.

Our experience in health care recruiting has taught us two lessons about top professionals: (1) they are good at what they do and focused on the patient, (2) they are not very focused on career advancement or development. Fact is, the two are incompatible. We encounter these health care heroes every day; working 12 hours shifts, trying to keep up their CE credits, meanwhile raising families and taking care of business. Their heads are down and their eyes are focused on improving health outcomes, not scanning the horizon for the cutting edge job….

On the other hand, the career professionals talk to employers in your market every single day. They have their finger on the pulse of the industry and are aware of new ventures and trends in the industry at large and in your immediate market. Because we are proactive in talking to clients we know when they are thinking about hiring even before jobs are announced.

Take Pharmacy Home Infusion as an example. Recently we noticed that Venture Capital companies have become aware of the cutting edge nature of home health care delivery. Some of these VC enterprises have developed and funded divisions designed to capture this market by buying independently-owned home infusion operations; infusing them with cash and operational support in order to develop nation-wide networks. These companies are on the move under the radar and unbranded in the marketplace. Our candidates learn of these opportunities before they are advertised.

Or, to quote Stephen Viscusi (Bullet Proof Your Job) who recommends “establishing a relationship with a recruiter” as a key strategy: “Recruiting is an industry fueled by information – gossip to be precise…the inside scoop about people leaving jobs or being fired, new positions being created, companies being reorganized….”

On the Care and Feeding of Reference – 5 Keys

Using a career agent to represent you in the marketplace means that, unlike the anonymous pile of electronically scanned resumes, YOU get noticed. Not by HR mind you, they don’t hire anyone anyway, but by the Director, Regional VP, or other hiring authority. And nothing enhances the ability of your agent to distinguish you in the marketplace faster that the “sound bites” provided by good references. It simply can’t hurt to punctuate your credentials with words such as “her clinical knowledge is encyclopedic” or “he’s the most patient-centered pharmacist I’ve ever seen.”

Yet far too little attention is given to the care and feeding of potential references. Here are a few keys:

  1. Nurture Them – by eagerly providing good references to others. This engenders their willingness to allow you to keep tabs on them for references for your future career change.
  2. Manage Them – Contact them when they might receive a call from a company . Give them a copy of your resume so they can act like they know you. Supply a model or template for them to use so they have an idea what a good reference looks like.
  3. Get Them – You may want to gather references as you are leaving or about to leave and while they still remember who you are!
  4. Use Them – to leverage an offer first – “once we’ve made good progress and there is a good chance that an offer is forthcoming.”
  5. Provide Them with an Outline of what you want them to comment about, e.g. Leadership Ability, Job Function (technical capabilities), and Future Potential.

Most everyone who applies for a job has the necessary qualifications, just as every storefront has a window. References are the neon signs that say “Guinness” served here.

Have you stayed too long at your job? – PROBABLY!

An investment manager at a highly regarded company in the Midwest, drove to work one morning, parked his car in the usual spot, and then found he simply could not bring himself to get out of the car. “I guess I stayed on the farm one day too long,” he joked later. When we asked him what went wrong, he answered, “It wasn’t one thing. It was everything.” No wonder he drove home and called in his resignation.

According to best selling business author Seth Godin, most people stay in their job too long. They stay for many reasons – familiarity, fear, inertia, attachment to co-workers, and reluctance to lose their salary and benefits – but there is a danger in overstaying.

Po Bronson (What Should I Do with My Life) agrees and adds that “no matter how dissatisfied we are in our jobs, we don’t tend to leave until the discomfort ‘gets personal.'” He suggests that feeling unchallenged or undervalued or even feeling your work has no purpose will push you to think about leaving, but you won’t actually make a move until something happens that strikes a potent emotional cord – like the investment banker in the story above.

We get calls daily from provide who have just come to the end of their rope. We’d like to suggest that moving out of desperation or personal urgency may not be the best way to make a change. Of course when you’ve got to move, you’ve got to move – but why not make these decisions strategically? Why not take action before you just can’t get out of your car?

If you are wondering how to tell if you have stayed too long, take a look at this interview with Jack & Suzie Welch on the subject of “Should You Stay or Should You Go?”

We ought to be regularly asking ourselves the question: “Does this job help me accomplish my life vision and goals?” If it doesn’t then for our own sake as well as that of our employer we need to plan to find something more consistent with our values. Otherwise we may be in danger of becoming a “quit stay” – where “you have mentally quit your job, but you just keep showing up anyway.”

Quiting Starts Something, Because Every Beginning Ends Something

“Every beginning is a consequence” writes the French poet, Paul Valery, “because every beginning ends something.”

William Bridges might be called a change specialist since he was among the first to predict the changing nature of careers in his provocative book, Jobshift. Based in Mill Valley, CA, the former English professor reinvented himself as a change consultant. In 1993, the Wall Street Journal named him one of the top most popular executive management consultants in the country. Apparently the transition went well!

He writes, “it isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is situational: the move to new site, reorganization of rules. Transition on the other hand is psychological – a three phase process people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation change brings about. Change without transition is just a rearrangement of the chairs. As someone has said, “Just because everything has changed, don’t think that anything is different around here!”

Three stages of a transition:

  1. Ending, losing, letting go
  2. Neutral zone
  3. New beginning

Notice that transitions start with an ending and end with a beginning. This “human process” of transition cannot be hurried, even by the best transition team and timeline. As someone once said: “It takes nine months to have a baby, no matter how many people you put on the job.”