Fear of Change
By Bill Radin
©1998 Innovative Consulting, Inc.
Career Development Reports
You and I are lucky -- we live in a world rich in possibilities.
Besides being able to select from an unlimited variety of occupations, we also have the
right to find happiness in our daily work.
Naturally, everyone has a different definition of job satisfaction.
For example, the job that seems fine to you may not be of much interest your best friend,
and vice versa.
The fact that you live in a free society gives you the privilege to
decide your own fate. You have as much power in determining where you work as you do in
selecting a spouse, a home, a car, or a pet. Your choice of jobs really depends on how
much you want to shape your career, and how much effort youre willing to spend to
make the necessary improvements in your life.
If youre considering a job change, its probably for one
of three reasons:
 Personal -- You want to change your relationships with others.
For example, you may have discovered that youre incompatible with the people in your
company. Perhaps they have different interests than you; or they communicate differently
or have different educational backgrounds.
 Professional -- Youve determined the need to advance your
career. For example, youve found that you wont reach your professional or
technical goals at your present company; or that your advancement is being blocked by
someone whos more senior or more politically oriented; or that youre not
getting the recognition you deserve; or that you and your company are growing in different
directions; or that youre not being challenged technically; or youre not being
given the skills you need to compete for employment in the future. Or youve simply
lost interest in your assigned tasks.
 Situational -- Your dissatisfaction has nothing to do with
personal relationships or career development; its tied to a certain set of
circumstances. Maybe youre commuting too far from home each day, or youre
working too many hours, or youre under too much stress; or you want to relocate to
another city (or stay where you are rather than be transferred).
Whatever your personal, professional, or situational reasons may be,
youre motivated by the desire to improve your level of job satisfaction and make a
The Complete Job
In order to translate your needs into results, lets begin by
evaluating your present position -- its the first step in any job change.
Youd be surprised how many people are unclear about what they
actually do for a living, and the way their jobs make them feel.
For example, whenever I interview a candidate, the first thing I ask
for is a complete job description.
"So tell me, Bonnie, " I begin. "What is it that you
do at your present company?"
"Gee, Bill, I thought I told you already. Im a systems
"All right, fair enough," I reply. "But would you
please describe to me in detail the following two things:
 What are your daily activities? That is, how do you spend your
time during a typical day; and
 What are the measurable results your company expects from these
activities? In other words, how does your supervisor know when youre doing a good
Often, I discover that people are hard pressed to come up with solid
answers about the specific nature of their work. Theyre not exactly sure about their
job responsibilities, and their lack of focus results in stress or counter-productivity.
While a little bit of stress may is natural in any job, a steady
diet of it can destroy your incentive to work. In fact, a recent study indicates a direct
correlation between a persons lack of task clarity and their level of job
Try this exercise: On a sheet of paper, write a complete, current
job description in which you list your daily activities and their expected, measurable
results. This exercise will not only help you clarify your own perception of your work;
itll be useful later on when you begin to construct a resume and communicate to
others exactly what youve done.
The Positive Power of
Once youve described all the facets of your job, the next step
is to understand the relationship between what you do and the way you feel.
I use the term values as a descriptor of personal priorities; as a
yardstick to help you:
Understand what types of work-related activities you really
Determine which goals or accomplishments are important to you
and give you a feeling of satisfaction; and
Evaluate whether your personal priorities are in balance, or
in harmony with your job situation.
Although its fairly simple to decipher which daily tasks you
really enjoy, the task of scrutinizing your personal priorities can be tricky. Thats
because there are often factors unrelated to your job that can come into play.
To demonstrate the importance of values in our decision-making
process, consider the following:
I witnessed a job-seeker turn down a position because he was
an amateur athlete and he didnt like the air quality where my client company was
Not long ago, I placed a candidate who was a long distance
runner. He took the position largely because his new boss was also a runner, and would
understand his need to take off work twice a year to run the New York City and Boston
I arranged for an engineer to take a job with a company that
offered him a demotion, since being highly visible within his current employers
department made him feel uncomfortable.
I helped a radar engineer change to a lower paying job. The
reason? The engineer was a member of the 1988 Olympic rowing team, and the new company was
near a river.
I once found an excellent job for a chemist who was also an
avid taxidermist. At the last minute, the chemist turned down the job, which would have
required his relocation from Utah to northern California. The chemist explained that the
climate in California was unsuitable for stuffing ducks.
The point is, we all have highly personal motivations which guide
our career choices.
The Job Description
Now that you know how to clearly define your values, the next step
is to describe the changes youd like to make in your new job.
To illustrate, listen to the way Pat, Craig, and Neil talk about
their respective situations, and how they take their values into consideration:
"I want to have more autonomy where I work. That would mean
having a flexible schedule, working different hours each day at my discretion, without
having to ask permission. Id be able to leave early on Thursdays to take my daughter
to her acting class, and in return, Id be willing to spend several hours working at
home during the evening and on weekends. With my personal computer, Id have access
by modem to the database in my department, and Id be able to make a significant
contribution to the workload, any time, day or night. Most importantly, Id be
evaluated solely on my performance, not by the number of hours Ive punched on a
"Id prefer to work closer to my home. I didnt think
the amount of time I spent commuting was very important when I joined the company two
years ago, but now it really wears on me to sit for an hour a day in traffic. Its
not only nerve-wracking to deal with all the crazy people on the freeway; I could be using
the commuting time to be with my family. The reduction of stress would improve my
attitude, and give me a higher quality of life. If I could find a job similar to what I
have now within a few minutes of home, that would make me happy."
"Im interested in my own career advancement. If I stay at
this company too much longer, Ill work myself into a corner technically and never
achieve my potential. The people here are nice, but I dont share their
lifer mentality. Look at Ed, my boss. Hes been here 17 years, and
although hes a really solid engineer, hes not familiar with any of the latest
advancements in technology. Hed have a hard time finding another job in this market,
and it makes me worried, knowing I might someday be in his situation. Besides, I
wont be promoted until Ed retires. So Id better leave soon, while Im
still attractive to other companies. That would give me the salary increase I deserve and
the opportunity to learn new skills with people who are upwardly mobile and aggressive
Now its your turn. As any advocate of goal-setting will tell
you, the more specifically youre able to communicate what youre looking for,
the faster youll be able to get what you want.
Naturally, youll want to be realistic with your expectations,
and think like a grown-up when considering your gripes. Ill never forget Barry, an
engineering candidate I interviewed a few years back, who came into my office with a
suicidal look in his eyes.
"Bill, youve really got to help me," he moaned.
"My job is ruining my life."
"Your situation sounds pretty serious," I replied in my
most empathic tone. "How long have you felt this way?"
"Gosh, I dont know, but Ive got to make a change.
My personal life is awful."
"How do you mean, Barry?" I asked.
"I mean Im never at home, and dont have any time to
spend with my wife and kids. My company makes me travel constantly."
"Well, I can see how that might make you feel torn between your
work and your home life. What can I do to help you?"
"See if you can get me a job where I dont have to travel
all the time. I just cant stand the separation from my family," he pleaded.
My heart went out to him. "Sure, Barry, anything to help. But
first tell me something. Exactly how often is your company making you travel?"
"Oh, its terrible," he cried. "They make me
stay overnight in a hotel at least one night every three months!"
Your Job Changing Strategy
Someone recently asked me whether I helped people get
"better" jobs or jobs that made them happier.
My answer was that the two were the same.
Of course, if you were to look at your career from a purely
strategic point of view, I could give you four good reasons why it makes sense to change
jobs within the same or similar industry three times during your first ten years of
 Changing jobs gives you a broader base of experience: After
about three years, youve learned most of what youre going to know about how to
do your job. Therefore, over a ten year period, you gain more experience from "three
times 90 percent" than "one times 100 percent."
 A more varied background creates a greater demand for your
skills: Depth of experience means youre more valuable to a larger number of
employers. Youre not only familiar with your current companys product,
service, procedures, quality programs, inventory system, and so forth; you bring with you
the expertise youve gained from your prior employment with other companies.
 A job change results in an accelerated promotion cycle: Each
time you make a change, you bump up a notch on the promotion ladder. You jump, for
example, from project engineer to senior project engineer; or national sales manager to
vice president of sales and marketing.
 More responsibility leads to greater earning power: A promotion
is usually accompanied by a salary increase. And since youre being promoted faster,
your salary grows at a quicker pace, sort of like compounding the interest youd earn
on a certificate of deposit.
Many people view a job change as a way of promoting themselves to a
better position. In most cases, I would agree.
However, you should always be sure your new job offers you the means
to satisfy your values. While theres no denying the strategic virtues of selective
job changing for the purpose of career leverage, you want to make sure the path you take
will lead you where you really want to go.
For instance, I see no reason to make a job change for more money if
itll make you unhappy to the point of distraction. Not long ago, I placed a project
engineer with a company that offered him a $47,000 a year job. Later, he told me that the
same day he agreed to go to work for my client, hed turned down an offer of $83,200
with another company. The reason? The higher offer was for a consulting position with an
aerospace company in Detroit -- a job that would have taken him down a road he felt was a
To me, the "best" job is one in which your values are
being satisfied most effectively. If career growth and advancement are your primary goals,
and theyre represented by how much you earn, then the job that pays the most money
is the "better" job.
Your responsibility when contemplating a change is to evaluate
whats most important to you. Whether you focus on a single aspect of your job (like
Pat, Craig, and Neil did), or on the overall nature of the job youd like to improve,
The more clearly you connect your values with your work, the greater
the potential for job satisfaction.
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