Eric Kean hears it often: “I want to make a job change.”
The Lee Group Principal can rattle off multiple reasons why a candidate might decide it’s time to ditch a current situation to forge a fresh professional path. But most career decision-making comes back to a few simple ideas that prompt Kean to ask more probing questions so he can make the next transition perfect for both the candidate and the new company.
Lack of opportunity
That’s the No. 1 reason Kean hears when he asks candidates why change positions now? Sometimes, it’s a red herring.
Of course, ‘who doesn’t want more opportunity?’ he asks.
“It so subjective depending on where you are in your stage of life,” he said. “What does that really mean?”
Younger professionals are often laser-focused on moving “up the ladder” as quickly as they can. It’s not unusual for Kean to hear the “lack of opportunity” response from an entry-level professional employed with the same company for a little more than a year. He’s quick to point out that the path to CEO doesn’t happen overnight. Hard work, the right attitude, a proven track record of success, and most importantly, patience are essential components to rise through the ranks.
For 25-35-year-olds, compensation trumps all most of the time.
“You’ve got to pay your bills and you want to buy a house and have a nice car,” he said. “While your work environment and colleagues might be fantastic, at the end of the day, your co-workers don’t pay your bills.”
In that case, increased opportunity means a fatter paycheck.
Workers age 45 and above often focus on personal happiness, particularly if they’re financially solvent.
“They’re at a stage where they want to feel valued,” Kean said.
Feeling personal satisfaction day to day can be a motivating force over dollars and cents.
The 35-45 age group falls somewhere in between, Kean added.
True lack of advancement is often the case for an employee working in a mom and pop shop or small business where positions above are limited. Often there’s nowhere to go except somewhere else.
Needing a better challenge
Candidates often say they don’t hate their jobs. But they’re not enthused to keep continuing the same routine for years to come.
Sometimes they’re bored or simply too beaten down by a series of unfulfilling tasks that dominate their day.
“We talk about that and what doesn’t line up,” Kean said.
He will ask, ‘What do you enjoy? What don’t you enjoy?’
“We often find that someone might be great at what they do, but it still does not ‘fulfill’ them entirely, they just happen to have a strong work ethic and dedication to their position. It is the uncovering and fine-tuning of those likes and dislikes that leads to a clear picture and that’s where the magic happens.”
The answers inform the next step in the process.
“In the long run,” Kean said, “it’s about ensuring we’re making a sensible match.”
Culture and management
Candidates who don’t align with a company’s core values or don’t feel the company exhibits its values often eye the exit doors.
The fit might have never been ideal to begin with or shifting roles in mid- and upper management could have transformed the culture.
“Culture and management go hand and hand,” Kean said. “There’s so many subcomponents to that. Sometimes everything is great, and then someone retires, which can bring about a huge shift in culture.”
Particularly in generational ownership, a younger son or daughter might take over for the founder and implement a completely different structure. One day a candidate might be working for a CEO that invests in making longtime employees feel valued. With a shift at the top, the focus can turn to the bottom line and downsizing, signaling it’s time to make a change.
While most reasons fall into the aforementioned areas, Kean hears a hodgepodge of other reasons behind a job change, too.
If a candidate raises the work-life balance issue, he drills down on the specifics. He keeps the adage of a senior vice president of a global manufacturer in mind who said, “it’s my job to provide the work and your job to provide the balance.”
Kean will often remind candidates, particularly if they work no more than 45 hours per week, that they are in control of their efficiency and time management skills pursuant to their jobs.
Older workers will often mention unfavorable geography. They might be in an area they’ve grown tired of. Maybe they’ve moved frequently for advancement due to a company holding multiple offices across the country.
“Some workers have ailing parents and want to be closer to family,” he said. “They’ve sacrificed life for career and now want to tip that scale.”
Whatever the reasoning behind a career change, Kean and the others at Lee Group Search explore all the factors behind the decision so that the next career benefits both the candidate and the company.