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by Kristine Schoonmaker, MyConsultingLife.Com
I was asked a great question recently by someone in my New Consultant Boot Camp:
If you accept a position with a firm that with a very specific niche focus – and you realize you don’t like the work – what’s the best thing to do for my career? Should I switch to a generalist firm immediately or work there for a couple years?”
It’s a great question, with a not-so-simple answer. If you’ve pondered this yourself recently, here are a few things you might consider when making your pro/con list.
How long have you been with your current firm? If you’re still early in your career, you may not have much real work experience on your resume. You don’t want to start out by developing a reputation for “firm-hopping.” Most employers like to see that you’ve stayed with an organization at least 18 -24 months or they start to question whether you’re interested in building a career with them or just biding time until the next shiny thing comes along. If you’re a more seasoned professional with a solid track record and this short-term stint will be an anomaly, sticking it out for two years may not be necessary.
How unhappy are you, really? If the situation is affecting your ability to deliver good results and produce quality work then the time may be right to make a move now. But, if you haven’t been there that long, there could be all kinds of factors at play. Maybe it’s your boss you don’t like, not the company as a whole. Perhaps you’re unhappiness is really insecurity because you haven’t reached your comfort zone yet with your new career. Who’s to say that in another six months, you won’t realize you actually love where you are and what you were feeling was just growing pains or one bad project?
Are you getting good experience? Consider your longer term career goals. Even if the culture or clients aren’t your ideal, are you building good, transferrable skills and experience? Most new consultants are building project management skills, finding and developing their specialty and related skills, and learning how to manage client relationships. Even if the place you are building these skills isn’t where you want to be long term, the time isn’t wasted. You are building experience that is going to be very marketable to the next firm. If you are sitting around not doing anything valuable, then don’t waste anymore time – find a place where you can shine.
Are you nearing a promotion? This one’s a biggie. If you’re a year or more away from promotion at your firm, but have great experience, making the move now may actually help you land that promotion (and a raise) earlier – at your new firm. If you’re within six months of promotion where you are and the odds are strongly in your favor, you may want to wait it out. These people know you and know your work – your new firm may not yet be willing to take the gamble just yet. Then you’ll have a new title behind your name which will only help you stay at that level when you make the jump. If you are within a few 6 months of a promotion, stick it out where you are.
Are you sure the grass is greener? If you are ready to jump after just a few months, this could mean one of three things: 1) You didn’t do the best job finding out about the company culture and work before you committed; 2) You asked all the right questions, but your firm seriously mislead you about the culture and the work; or 3) Maybe this type of work, in general, isn’t a good fit for you. Depending on which one best describes your situation, take the time to seriously consider whether a move is going to result in a significantly more positive experience and what you might need to do or ask differently to ensure that happens. If not, it may be best to stay put until you figure out what you really want to do.
There is no magical formula for the “right” answer. But, if it were me considering what was best for my career, I’d probably stay put unless at least three out of five were telling me it’s time to jump ship. In the meantime, you can always keep casually exploring your options. Then, when the timing is better, you already have some hot leads!
Kristine Schoonmaker is The Career & Lifestyle Coach for Consultants and founder of MyConsultingLife.com. Her bi-weekly ezine Accelerate offers practical insider advice and quick tips from a former consulting exec to help YOU take greater control of your career and stay engaged in your personal life from the road. If you’re ready to have it all – an amazing career in consulting without giving up the lifestyle, relationships and experiences you want, get your FREE subscription now at www.myconsultinglife.com.
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