Back-up Career Plans

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In 1970 American folk musician, Stephen Stills advised listeners to “Love the one you’re with”.  The zen-like concept centered around being present and appreciative of what you have instead of lamenting what you’ve lost.

The sentiment was well received and rocketed the song to the top of the charts. And while it might be a practical strategy for life and love, when applied to the working world, the advice falls short. After all, who wants a consolation career?

The Work Relationship

Despite what culture pundits would have us believe businesses are not families. We may enjoy our coworkers and respect our leaders, but even in the most engagement-oriented organizations, the employee / employer relationship is transactional. People are paid for (and hopefully commensurate with) their performance. Should output cease so too will the association. It’s an ugly truth, but despite how it feels at times, we don’t marry our jobs. We date them and either party can extricate themselves from the entanglement with the professional equivalent of the old, “it’s not you it’s me” routine.

Given this harsh reality, there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye out for a better circumstance. That said, it’s important to be prepared for both the up and down side of conducting a job search while employed.

The Pros
  1. Discover your market value: If an employee feels underpaid a job search can provide a high-level compensation comparison. Once they know where they stand relative to the market they can decide if a monetary based career move makes sense.
  2. Uncover needed skills: A job search can also offer an objective view as to the value of the employee’s skills while highlighting any gaps. This knowledge adds color to the market comparison and helps the individual focus development efforts in pursuit of higher earnings.
The Cons
  1. Opportunity cost: When an employee focuses on a job search, they are unable to contribute 100% to their current role. Thus, the individual shouldn’t be surprised when the colleague who is fully engaged earns a promotion or bigger bonus. You can only serve one master.
  2. Emotional energy cost: Job hunting is like house hunting. The process can be draining if you’re not ready or able to make a decision. Once an employee starts the search, he or she must have the courage to say “no” to lackluster career Band-Aids and “yes” to winning roles. If you lack the emotional fortitude to see it through, it’s best not to begin.
Needless Worries

They say that 90% of the things you worry about never happen and the 10% that do you can’t change. With this in mind, here’s three job-search worries to let loose.

  1. Getting Caught Looking: Savvy managers know there are other options out there. Heck, they are likely looking themselves. If they want to keep you they’ll take time to discuss your career goals. If they don’t, looking…and leaving is likely the right move.
  2. Considering a Counter: If you’ve invested in a job search, you’ve likely already left mentally. Once you get an offer, resist the temptation to play one organization off the other. Counter offers rarely stick. Even if you negotiate into a better financial situation, the old reasons that prompted you to look tend to resurface. Unless the root cause is identified and remedied, head for greener pastures.
  3. Making the Wrong Call: Who hasn’t looked back on a choice they made and asked, “what if I went the other way?” Buyers and sellers can both have remorse about the same transaction, but second guessing is a dangerous game. Life is lived going forward. Consider the facts available at the time and make the call. In the end we are where we most want to be.

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Photo by Karolina Grabowska

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