It might be time to make a change

We learn a lot about change as we age. We’re told change is a constant, which seems like both an oxymoron and a truism. We are told that persistent change is difficult, particularly regarding habitual behaviours. The fact is, we are all in a constant state of change whether we acknowledge it to ourselves or not.

A few people have asked me recently, “When do I know it’s time to make a change?” In this post, I propose some criteria that I hope you will find relevant.

The context of the question above usually relates to role change. Typically, when someone asks me this question, it is because they have identified reasons to consider new roles and are trying to confirm or challenge their thought processes.

Several drivers show up in these discussions, which I like to frame as questions:

  • Am I still learning and growing?
  • Do I feel fulfilled by my work?
  • Is my work considered valuable by key stakeholders?
  • Do I think I’m being fairly compensated?
  • Is there a next step or trajectory to this role?

Growth typically requires a level of challenge in the role – we learn most effectively when we are uncomfortable. The corollary to this is that staying in “the velvet rut” of the known and comfortable leads to stagnation and a lack of growth. A quote I like on the subject of change is attributed to John C. Maxwell: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” We are going to be constantly subjected to change – environmental, organisational, personal – and it is up to us to determine whether we learn and develop from it.

One of the major reasons that people look to change roles (apart from having unsupportive or difficult managers) is reward and recognition. People can get hung up on monetary elements when it comes to compensation without considering other aspects. For example, am I being given new growth opportunities as a result of my delivery? Is my work getting publicised? Am I given the chance to be seen as a subject matter expert in my field?

We all have different criteria for what constitutes fair compensation. While the monetary aspect is key (very few of us turn up to work for the camraderie and challenge alone) it is not the only way to be rewarded for doing our jobs well.

I use a Pareto principle calculation to help people categorise the type of work in their current role. Am I spending 80% of my time on things that matter to me and others and that have value? If 20% of my time is spent on administrative work and noise, that’s probably okay. If the percentage grows closer to 50%, that probably indicates that a change (either within or outside the organisation) is required.

I have made a significant number of changes in my career and continue to do so, with an eye to continuing growth and challenge. Sometimes this works out, and the timing is right, personally and professionally, and sometimes it doesn’t. Each time I learn from the experience, and each time I refine and improve my criteria for when role change is necessary for me. One additional criterion that can be useful for you to consider is “What is my tolerance for risk at this stage of my life?” Younger people or those without attachments may have have higher risk tolerance because they don’t have dependents. For those of us with families to support and possibly aging parents as well, our risk appetite may be lower. Either way, it is important to consider if your current role is providing you the right answers to the questions above, and to other criteria that may be relevant to you.

As a final note, I came across a quote recently that made me smile – “You are not a tree. If you don’t like where you are, move.” It is important for all of us to remember that our constraints are often less restrictive than we think!

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