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Is it time to leave a job I love to advance my career?

climb_ladderFrom Marcel, a working professional at a career transition point:

Background: I have a great job for a great company. The job is an entry-level position, though I’m not doing entry-level work any longer. I have been in the job for over two years and with the company for three.

I really love my day-to-day responsibilities, I get verbal recognition from my bosses, and I have even won two awards.  All of that said, I’ve become frustrated recently with the lack of advancement opportunities and mediocre pay. I do more than a lot of our managers, but people rarely leave the company, so opportunities for growth are few and far between.

I recently sought my boss’s advice about my career advancement options, and even he recognized that I would probably need to switch departments/roles to get promoted with this company.

Since I want to continue in my field, I have been considering looking at silimar opportunities outside the company to advance and diversify my portfolio of experience.  But, the thought of “breaking up” with my current employer is hard to grasp because I really believe in our product.

Questions: What is your advice for someone in my shoes? Does the title matter much to employers? Can having a coordinator title for 3+ years damage my growth even though I do the work of a manager? Do employers give significant consideration to the experience described in resumes and cover letters? Will staying with the same company for a long time make me less marketable than someone who’s moved around more? What’s the standard amount of time for moving from one company to another when growing a career? Do you see that as necessary for growth?

Hi Marcel –

This is a wonderfully awful problem to have!

You love your employer, your co-workers and your job.  You’re praised for your work and given new projects and responsibilities (good!), but you are seeing any growth on your pay stub, in your title or in your career (not so good!).  Any number of people would be thrilled to be in your shoes right now.  Some might say you are wearing “golden handcuffs” – what you have looks so good, it seems like you can’t get away from it.

handcuffsHere’s the reality – you have options; but there is a cost to exploring every option.  Life (and your career) is about what trade-offs and compromises you are willing to make.  Contentment and satisfaction in life are about knowing and accepting consequences of the trade-offs and compromises you make.  Not all consequences are bad, but there are always consequences to your actions.

You have a really big question to consider:

Right now, what’s more important to you: Advancing in your profession or staying with your employer?

If staying with your current employer is more important, you probably have to consider different paths and departments (other than your current one) in order to advance within the company.

If staying in your profession is more important, you probably have to pursue opportunities in your field with different employers; knowing there is no guarantee that you will be able to return to your current employer someday.

If you want to say in your profession AND stay with your current company, just keep doing what you are doing, accept what they offer, and wait to see if any opportunities open up down the road.

Now to your specific questions.  I’ll  address each quickly.  Please know that the same answers do not apply to all people in all situations.  Keep this is mind as you review my comments.

Does the title matter much to employers?

Titles do matter quite a bit  to some employers; to others they matter little.  Title matters the most when you emphasize it and  it is the only information or the most defining information you provide. It matters less when you de-emphasize it and provide other examples of the work in your resume that illustrate your capabilities.

Can having a coordinator title for 3+ years damage my growth even though I do the work of a manager?

Being in a coordinator role for 3+ years shouldn’t hurt you as long as you provide some details about how your work and scope of responsibilities have progressed and your accomplishments have increased in magnitude.  This is a reason I recommend that you NEVER put your job description on your resume.  Your job description tells the reader only about what you were hired to do – it’s not about you.  Providing your most relevant and most recent accomplishments on your resume shows what you are capable of doing by showing what you have done.

Now, if you stay in the same job for a long period of time, be prepared to answer that question in interviews:  So, you’ve been in your current job for a very long time . . . why is that?

Do employers give significant consideration to the experience described in resumes and cover letters?

Employer who want to evaluate candidates before meeting them do give significant consideration to the information in your resume and cover letters.  They also look at where you worked (as that also says something about you)  and solicit referrals from friends and colleagues (people hire people, after all).  Your resume and cover letter are usually your first and best opportunity to define and describe your brand (what you offer) to potential employers.

Will staying with the same company for a long time make me less marketable than someone who’s moved around more?

In both cases, it depends upon what you did while you were there, regardless of how long you stayed.  There is a lot of gray area between being defined as a “lifer” or a “job hopper.”  Most of use live in that gray area, which means you have to use your time telling your story effectively.

What’s the standard amount of time for moving from one company to another when growing a career? Do you see that as necessary for growth?

There is no such thing as a “standard amount of time.”  In general,  I recommend that you stay with an employer at least one year before trying to initiate any change.  You need to demonstrate a little bi of patience and perseverance, and sticking around for at least a year can indicate that.  My advice is to stay with a job and company as long as it continues to challenge you professionally, offer you opportunities to develop personally and professionally, and compensate you fairly (according to market rates, not your personal definition) for the work you are doing.  To me, this is a more realistic approach than is putting an egg timer on your career planning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Change is scary!

No matter how good or bad any job you have might be,  it is a known comodity.  You know the rules, the environment, the people, the expectations . . . .  and you know how to function in that environment, following those rules, working with those people and meeting those expectations.

Change means new rules, a new environment, new people and new expectations. And, change rarely comes with certainty.  There is always the risk that any change you make in your career will not work out.  What will you do then?

Marcel, don’t run scared. Don’t live you life or manage your career like a deer stuck in the headlights of an oncoming car.  You have to act, and you have to own your actions.

Do your research!  Ask yourself the hard questions and demand answers?  Seek advice from people you trust and who know you well. Process all of the information and advice you gather and then make the best decisions for YOU.

Do that, and you will be able to look yourself in the mirror with pride, regardless of the decisions you make.

Good luck,

matt-signature

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