Whether or not you hold that to be true, in a professional sense, it is a valuable idea: staying in the one place, doing the one job for too long is not going to do you any favours. No matter the circumstances, being stagnant is a short track to failure.
There are two primary reasons why people are resistant to professional change. Australians don’t have a culture which encourages it; we’re conservative in that sense. We are linear in how we think about career progression. We tend not to hire “out of industry” or across skill sets. Secondly… it’s hard. To make a cross-industry change, you need to go back to the beginning of your career, retrain and reprove yourself. You may have worked tirelessly to get to a senior management role and don’t want to undo all the hard work on a risky move. This is all wrapped up in our culture, while Europe and the US are far more progressive in this regard.
Leave the past behind
Taking risks, and shifting the way you think about how things “need to be done”, is a key lesson to be learnt in your professional life. Lizette Williams, Facebook’s global head of vertical marketing solutions, recently told the Marketer Momentum podcast about how her moves from McDonalds, PepsiCo, Kimberly-Clark to Facebook allowed her to bring different facets of her professional and cultural life to the fore, and how she benefited directly from these moves. She had deferred to culturally specific lessons from her upbringing, but found out she needed to rethink those if she was to succeed in her career as she wanted to.
“When I started to really push my way through corporate America, I realised that to effectively navigate a corporate career, I actually had to break some of the cultural norms that I was used to,” she said. “I had to learn how to advocate for myself and how to transition through various phases of my career, and how to lead. Not just be a good worker, but how to stand up, be a courageous leader, and sometimes that meant not doing some of the very traditional things that I had learnt early on in my youth.”
The lesson here is that it’s not necessarily wise to hold on to fundamental wisdom. Trends change, cultures change, and the workplace changes with it.
The change must be focused
Having said that, change for its own sake can’t be made at will. The “story” of your career also needs to make sense. Recruiters will look for the story before all your moves, so too much movement, too many random or seemingly disconnected points along your career trajectory aren’t going to be viewed favourably.
Changing jobs can have a positive impact on the rest of your life: your family, wellbeing, health, personal growth. Changing jobs challenges your mind to learn new things. From new ways of processing your work, new stakeholders with whom to build relationships, new work environments to get to. It’s important to be consistently evolving.
Should I stay, or should I go?
Don’t make a change for the sake of it. If you are employed and not active in the market, consider this three-option checklist to see if the time is right to make a change.
STAY: If you’re happy with the culture of the company, get along with your boss and team but feel like you are not growing. Do an external learning and development course to advance your business skills or ask to take on a project to broaden your skills.
STAY: If you’re unhappy with the culture of the company, struggle with the leadership and politics, but you are learning. This is a great opportunity to grow your stakeholder management skills and learn how to influence and negotiate in challenging environments.
LEAVE: If you aren’t learning, bored and don’t like the culture of the company.
Stability is important, but so is engagement. Being content, or comfortable in your role, plays a part, but you can’t simply up and leave at the moment you’re faced with challenging situations: how you deal with them can and will play a role in how your next career move unfolds.
Through being willing to change the way you think, as well as knowing that strategically manoeuvring through professional hardships will reap rewards, you’re going to be more likely to make the progressions that will see your career go from “paying the bills” to “personally enriching”.
Stella Petrou Concha is the co-founder, CEO and driving force behind recruitment firm Reo Purtell.