The not-so-obvious sign it’s time to switch jobs
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you know it’s the right time to switch jobs? is written by Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat.
We live in a fast-paced world, and our careers now reflect that. Unlike those from past generations who could count on keeping a job for decades — if not for their entire careers — we almost take it for granted these days that we’ll have several jobs, maybe dozens, over our working lives. And generally speaking, that can be a great thing. New jobs offer opportunities to learn new things, meet interesting people, and maybe even to make more money. At the same time, there is something to be said for stability, patience and balance. How do you think a potential employer would feel when they see on your resume that you’ve held six different jobs in the past three years?
Of course you might have a great reason for that fluidity. Each job hop might have been a chance to gain new responsibility or to earn a raise that simply was not available to you at your former workplace. But it might also give that employer pause when they consider making a longer-term investment in you. Which then begs this question: How do you know when it’s actually a good time to make a switch? For context, I’ve worked for three companies over the course of my career. That might seem like a lot – or a little – depending on your perspective. What might be most useful to know, though, is that each of those opportunities resulted primarily from pursuing things I enjoyed.
See also: 3 signs your job is in serious danger
For example, while I loved technology and studied computers as I earned my undergraduate degree, I was also really interested in the business world. That led me to take a job with The Boston Consulting Group, and eventually earn an MBA from Harvard Business School. What I loved about this job was that I had the chance to work with clients to help solve their thorniest business problems.
As it happened, Delta Air Lines eventually became a client of BCG. Few industries deal with the kinds of persistently complex business issues like airlines do, from fluctuating fuel prices and union labor negotiations to government regulations. Every day brings a new challenge to wrestle with. The industry faced its biggest obstacle, of course, in the wake of the horrific events of 9/11. At that time, Delta was already struggling financially. And the crisis that unfolded threatened to bring down the business with it.
Sounds like a perfect time to take on a new job there, right? Well, that’s exactly what I did when Leo Mullin, Delta’s CEO at the time, asked me to come on board as the company’s treasurer. To be honest, it wasn’t that hard of a decision to make. Not only was it inspiring to take on a job involved with helping save a company that was an institution in the south where I grew up, it also gave me the chance to hone and expand my problem-solving skills. Working for Delta, where I eventually became the chief operating officer, was a deeply-moving experience I’ll never forget.
I already know the same will be true of my time at Red Hat, which I joined in 2008 as president and CEO. From the very first day I showed up for my interview, I knew that this place was different. Very different. Not only was the business model unique, but the people were so passionate about their role in how open source software could change and benefit the world. When you talk to enough people with that kind of purpose and passion, it becomes contagious.
The past eight years have presented a fair share of challenges and learning opportunities for me — and the chance to get back to my technology roots. And I have enjoyed every minute of it. So getting back to that question of career switches; how do you know when it’s the right time to make one? My advice, based on my experience, is to worry less about whether a new opportunity might be the “right step” for your career. Rather, look for those roles and organizations that are tied to things you enjoy doing or are interested in. And make the time to learn everything you can from those around you while you’re there. Don’t take those opportunities for granted. If you do that, you’ll be blown away by the doors that will open for you down the road.
Real all responses to the Leadership Insider question: How do you know it’s the right time to switch jobs?
Here’s how to tell if your job is at risk by Chris Perry, chief digital officer at Weber Shandwick.
What a failed negotiation could mean for your career by Shadan Deleveaux, co-founder of Technology For Families in Need.
Why a low paycheck isn’t enough to leave a job by Mike Guerchon, chief people officer at Okta.
This is how long you should wait before quitting a job by Edward Fleischman, chairman and CEO of The Execu|Search Group.
3 signs it’s time to switch jobs by Karen Appleton, SVP of industry at Box.