Tuesday, February 9, 2010

How to Avoid Career Change Blunders

Making a career change without a strategic plan can wreak havoc in your life. Seasoned executives make unfortunate and ill-timed career moves according the Harvard Business Review.

Job moves are inevitable but seldom easy. The average baby boomer will switch jobs 10 times, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Too often job changes lead to a decline in performance that can last up to five years. People who switch organizations face an upheaval in their home and social life that can involve potential relocation expenses and adjustment to a new corporate culture and political environment. To minimize these effects careful and conscious assessment of risks can help prevent making mistakes that can ultimately sabotage your career.

Job hopping errors were analyzed from data from three executive research teams comprised of a survey of 400 executive search consultant from more than 50 industries, HR heads at 15 multi-national companies and interviews with 500 C-level executives in 40 countries. Executives surveyed were not young, untested managers but experienced individuals who had substantial practice in making hiring decisions on themselves.

Avoid these nine mistakes when searching for a new job:


Search consultants revealed that often job seeking clients don’t research their own industries. Many of candidates have not looked for a job in years. Since they are not informed about the present job market, they have unrealistic expectations about how long the search will take. They assume, for example, that companies offering them a job are financially sound. Yet, many businesses hire for senior level positions even when there are problems ahead. So it is up to the applicant to investigate to see if the job will exist in six month.


While hiring managers are supposed to supply this information, often they don’t. It pays to take the time to contact people who work for an organization to determine what the corporate culture is really like.


In poorly managed organizations people find themselves in jobs that have little relationship to their formal titles. One executive, for example, was given a CFO title even though most of his work involved duties of a COO. As a result, he lacked the credibility he needed to get the job done.


Job candidates often fail to ask potential employers about how their performance will be measured. Without an understanding of this information a job candidate’s success depends totally on luck.


Often executives rank income fourth or fifth in terms of importance when contemplating a job search but move it to first place when making their decision. In one case, an executive was about to make a move but realized that he would be increasing his salary by $10,000 but realized it was not worth it since he would be leaving behind his old contacts and relationships.


Unhappy with their present position a candidate mayl rush to another position without waiting for the right offer. Job seekers do not take the time to do intensive research when they have the opportunity to move on to what they think are greener pastures. They forget to look strategically at their current company for other opportunities that may still exist for them. They may fail to imagine what their job would be like if their boss left.


According to search consultants some applicants over estimate their skills and contribution and undervalue the strengths of their company in helping them achieve their goals. They do not realize the length of the job search and what the costs will be. They may also miscalculate their new salary and the ability to deal with the challenges of a new organization that could be too large to easily implement change.


Short term decisions can feed into each of the mistakes listed above and create problems. Pressure can force candidates to focus on details such as salary and job title instead of raising deeper questions that involve long term evaluation.

Creating strategies outside traditional thinking can prevent you from accepting an easier solution. Self-awareness is very important say experts. With the help of a mentor you can create a list of positive and negative scenarios that can be used to plot a three year path at each company evaluating what decisions would be right in each situation before leaving a job for a new one. With more self knowledge you will be aware of mistakes you’re prone to make, how to correct these errors, how others perceive you, and the elements of a job that can help balance life and work.

*material excerpted from "Five ways to Bungle a Job Change," by Boris Groysberg, associate professor at Harvard business school and Robin Abrahams, research associate which appears in the January & February issue of Harvard Business Review

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