Notwithstanding the fact that my job is to move executives from one position to their next great professional opportunity, I just as often counsel people to stay put, at least for a while.
We live in a culture focused on accomplishment and driven by ambition. Professionals understandably want to be challenged and given opportunities to do more, be more, make their mark. All this is laudable, unless pursued in a vacuum of discontent. As a recruiter I am wary of professionals who change jobs frequently, repeatedly noting everything that is wrong in their current role. So, how do you know if it’s you or if it's them? This is where self assessment rears its (sometimes uncomfortable, ugly) head.
Back to school…
FIRST, time for a “T” chart. On the left, list everything you don't like (or simply wish you could change) about your current firm. Be specific: Working hours. Time for life outside of work. Location. Travel—too much or too little. Advancement opportunities. Your manager. Ability to effect change of people or process. Compensation.
On the right, list all the good things. Harkin back to why you went there in the first place. What has kept you there?
THEN consider your five-year professional plan. (If you don't have one, make one.) Consider whether you can accomplish that plan, or some portion of it, where you are. Are there skills or experience that you need to gain to make yourself more attractive to a new employer? If you can't grow in your current firm, consider whether other organizations can realistically offer these opportunities to you. Firms are more alike than they are different, so take off the rose colored glasses and do your due diligence if you are seriously considering changing firms.
NEXT—If you are considering a new firm—time for another “T” chart. On the left, list the positive aspects of the new firm, as you understand them. Ask people you trust what they know or have heard. On the right, list your concerns.
Then evaluate this chart against your five-year plan. Will the new position really get you where you want to go? Or at least moving in a positive direction?
GIVE YOURSELF TIME. A colleagues' psychologist mother told him, “Make a decision, then sleep on it. Hopefully you will wake up refreshed and excited. If not, then you aren't done.”
IN THE END, TRUST YOUR GUT. Our instincts are strong and useful tools. Assuming you have done some portion of the above evaluation, you will probably be leaning in one direction. If you are, you should probably go for it. If it still isn't clear, better to sit tight than make the wrong move. Just keep succeeding where you are. Your time WILL come.
Author's note: I went through this exercise myself when I left a firm after 10 years. Ultimately, it wasn't about them, it was about me. Your move, should you choose to make it, needs to be about YOU.
Amanda K. Brady is a Managing Director and the Global Practice Leader of Major, Lindsey & Africa's Law Firm Management practice. Amanda has 15 years of executive and legal search experience, the last 10 of which focused on building executive management teams for AmLaw 100 and 200 firms.