The Right Reasons to Change: a Critical View

LS International

Being a recruitment and executive search professional, I frequently come across people looking to change their jobs. No big deal, you say? Well, yes, except that I continue to be struck by the reasons people commonly cite for seeking a job change. Irrespective of their roles and levels, I have heard reasons such as “tired of being taken for granted around here”; “stagnant in my role for too long” or “too many radical organizational changes”.

Reasons such as the above are often legitimate; however, is it not also possible that some of them are symptoms of individuals with the wrong attitude or being unwilling to adapt to change, thus impeding their performance and growth prospects? Moreover, what assurance does anyone have that a change will not land the individual from the proverbial frying pan into the fire?

I am not suggesting for a moment that people should not change jobs. But I do believe that job changes should primarily be driven by the “right reasons”. Examples of such reasons include the following:

  • The opportunity to acquire a new skill or gain expertise in a new area (e.g. someone from offline retail joining an online retailer).
  • A higher role even if it is in a smaller geography or division, as it can add high-impact experience to the resume/CV.
  • The opportunity to spearhead a new business that is viewed as a high-growth engine allows visibility with senior leaders- an opportunity that may not otherwise be easily available.
  • In a globalized world, emerging markets like India, China, Africa etc. are critical to organizational growth. The opportunity to gain experience in such environments can be seen as critical in the context of leadership roles.
  • Leading or even being a part of a cross-functional project team is another kind of opportunity that is increasingly viewed as being valuable.
  • The opportunity to work for a smaller rival- but at a more senior role- is something that can be immensely valuable.
  • Certain industries are still in their sunrise phase, so even a ground floor opportunity with companies in such industries can make someone valuable not just in a line function, but potentially, also as in a staff/consulting role (thus allowing for careers to be extended).

In an environment of rapid and often unpredictable change, employers look for people who can help the organization adapt and grow. This could be through new skillsets, or being willing to take up new roles or by exhibiting a “can-do” attitude that enables them to think outside the box and collaborate smoothly across silos (caused by organizational boundaries, hierarchies, geographies and even generations of workforce).

As boundaries between industries are blurring and being redrawn, best practices and strategies are being transplanted across industry by the potent combination of technology and analytics. A utility may learn from a bank, which may adopt the strategies of a successful e-retailer. To become even more nimble, organizations are creating smaller profit centres; conventional cost centres are being transformed into quasi-profit centres. For example, Marketing departments being asked to generate revenue by offering Digital Marketing services to business partners. Doing so needs people with P&L management experience. For someone with only cost centre experience, the opportunity to gain profit centre experience within the same organization can be invaluable; indeed, it may be just the proving ground for a future Business Head. So by all means look for a change- if it means you can acquire new skills or add to your experience.

To cut a long story short, my advice is simply this: if you are looking at a job change, make sure the change will add clear value to you as a professional. If you are looking at the change only as a way to eliminate some negatives in your current position, take a deep breath and think again- maybe there are other options open to you that can deliver the same outcomes.

There may well be different views on this important topic and I’d love to hear yours!