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Are you feeling stagnated?

One of the dilemmas many professionals face is when to jump the ship? versus when to steady the ship? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, and the answer depends on the individual circumstances. But here are some of my thoughts that might aid in your decision making. With the start of a new year, you may be among the millions of people thinking of making an important change in your life.


"Thanks and farewell" emails

From time to time, I receive goodbye  emails, and in fact a recent email similar to the one below prompted me to write this blog entry.

Hello all,

After nearly 5 and a half years working for XYZ, it has been decided that my role will no longer be required beyond 2nd December 2011.
....
Thanks for the good times and ...............


In this scenario, it is fine if you had acquired marketable and sought-after skills to move on with your career, and not fine if your skills and knowledge were not kept up to date. Even if you find your work boring or not challenging, there is no excuse for not motivating yourself to acquire sought-after skills as there are plethora of online tutorials/articles and good books to keep your knowledge up to date. But, in a longer term, it is always better to acquire the much needed hands-on commercial experience. The skills to watch out for include technical skills, soft skills, domain knowledge, and personal traits.



Work at XYZ until you get a gold watch?

There are no more jobs like that – companies are under too much pressure to be lean and flexible (layoffs, downsizing, reorganization), so workers have to be, too (take on new challenges, acquire new skills). People jump the ship for a number of reasons like life style changes, feeling bored, burnt or stressed out, feeling stagnated, and wanting to earn more money. People steady the ship for a number of reasons like already jumped the ship too often, not ready to take on new challenges due to personal reasons, bad economy, etc. About 30 years ago, when my parents were in their working years, the prevailing notion was that an employer would "take care of you" for a long time with a secure job and a decent pension. But that's gone the way of the typewriter and carbon paper. Today, it's not uncommon to change jobs voluntarily every few years. Changing jobs (obviously, not too often) will

  • enhance your experience and broaden your knowledge and skills. To be successful, you need to have well rounded skills in technology and 16 key areas discussed.The longer you stay at one company, the less motivated you become to learn new technology/framework/tool, etc.
  • help you build up a wider network
  • make you progress in your career a lot quicker.
  • give you the confidence to find a job whenever you need to. Now a days, there is no real job security in being with a company for 10+ years unless you are going places within the organization and see yourself a good future there. The real security  comes from keeping your skills and knowledge up to date. Being complacent can come back and bite you.
  • increase your earning potential. If you are lucky enough to get a promotion with your current company, they will only give you a small increase in salary, just enough to justify the promotion and keep you. If you however require a decent promotion and increased package, changing jobs and employer is the way to go.  
  • You don't have to put up with things like "this is how we have always did it" syndrome. Getting different perspectives on development processes, agile practices, architectures, etc will give you an opportunity to  understand not only what works and what doesn't, but also when it does work without getting into the hype. Some businesses are not set up to embrace the latest and greatest. They are more business focused than technology focused. So, it real pays to work in different sectors like telecom, finance, insurance, software house, etc to "think outside the box" to see how the similar problems are solved differently in different sectors or organizations.
  • By expanding your horizons, you become a better coder and  problem solver.
In fact, stability is a big goal for new workers today because the old path of staying at the same job for stability does not necessarily work for everyone. Note: Some do progress well within the same organization. Here are a few tell tale signs to jump the ship when the time is right.

  • Your skills are not respected. If you feel that your employer doesn’t recognize your value to the company, then it may be time for a change. When you hand in your resignation, you are asked questions like -- what can I do to keep you here?
  • You’re stuck in the same position, doing the same things, for nearly the same pay, for a long time, it’s time to shake things up. Be realistic of the situation, rather than deluding yourselves into believing that things will miraculously improve or what your boss tell you to convince you to stay back.
  • Constantly looking at your watch and being unhappy at work.


Balance is the key

You need a balance between "changing ships too often" and "not changing ships at all". Some employers in selected industry segments will wonder "what's wrong" with an individual who has not changed jobs in X years, and on the other hand, there are still many employers who will look on frequent changes unfavorably. The obvious implications for them are, that you won't stay long enough to make any significant contributions, and that if you were hired, perhaps your tendency to leave quickly will inspire many otherwise loyal employees to leave as well.



How do you go about steadying the ship?

So, if you jump the ship too often, it is imperative that you find a way to communicate your frequent changes in the past as a positive, not a negative in your resume and at job interviews. For example,
  • Change in career direction.
  • Emphasizing that one of your primary objectives in this job change is to find an employer that will provide challenges and growth opportunities over the years.
  • Emphasizing that stability and permanence are at the top of your list of priorities, and that the targeted company appears to be one .
  • Providing references to your past employers who will vouch positively for your capabilities. This is why it is vital to always move on in good terms. Never burn bridges. Networking is a key aspect in your career progression.
  • Focusing more on your past accomplishments in your resume and at job interviews.

Conclusion

You are the captain of your ship, and best placed to solve your dilemma based on your current circumstance and career aspirations. It is not an easy decision to make. What ever your decision is, don't base it on monetary value alone.  Use a multi-attribute decision model like the one discussed in blog entry -- How to choose from multiple job offers? to cover all angles.

    "Love your job but don't love your company, because you may not know when your company stops loving you."

       -- by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam





    The books that motivate me:

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