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Changing Jobs?

Ten Steps to Consider…

It is a great time to think about a job change. The economy is strong. Unemployment is low. Salaries are high. Perhaps 2017 is your year to consider a job change.

But before you throw your hat in the ring, here are ten steps to consider as compiled by the team at Accountants One. We hope that insights from our 43 year-old Accounting and Financial Recruiting Firm bring you value.

Step 1 – Break out that old T-Chart

In Accounting you listed debits on the left and credits on the right of the T-Chart. In this version of the T-Chart you are creating a pro-con list – “reasons to stay” on the left, and “reasons to leave” on the right.

You might think this sounds basic, but you would not believe how many people start a job search without thinking it through. Some people don’t even really know what they are looking for out of their next position.

Sit down and take the time to list out the positives and the negatives of changing jobs. If you find that “reasons to stay” outweigh “reasons to leave” then commit to staying and making the most out of your current role. You have done your due diligence. You can move forward in your current job without looking back.

Be objective here. If you are mad at your boss because he or she turned down your request for a three week trip to Bora Bora during busy season, this might not be the best time to construct your T-Chart. Wait until you can be as rational as possible.

If you have an accountability partner, share your thoughts with them. Ask them to poke holes in your reasoning. Promise to listen with open and objective ears.

Once you have objectively filled out your pro-con T-Chart, you need to sit back and come to a carefully thought out conclusion. If you make the decision to change jobs, you are not done with your T-Chart. You are going to use it for inspiration to see through your decision. Keep it on hand because changing jobs is not going to be easy!

Step 2 – Map it out

Now that you have worked through your T-Chart, it is time to map out your plan of execution. Take time to do this thoroughly. Sit down at a desk. Whether you use pen and paper, laptop, or your phone, give it your full attention and allow yourself to become of one purpose.

Many people spend more time planning their next vacation than they do planning their career. Your career is probably the biggest investment of your life. You owe it to yourself to carefully manage your career on both a short and long-term basis.

Here are some questions for you to answer:

  • What am I good at in my job? What are my strengths? How can I do more of this?
  • Where do I bring value to the organization I work for? How can I do more of this?
  • What are my weaknesses? Do I want to lean away from my weaknesses or work to improve them in my next role?
  • What areas would I like to get into? Is there some area that I would like to explore in my next role?
  • What is my ideal NEXT title?
  • Management? Am I looking for more management experience? Less? The opportunity for management down the road?
  • What industries am I the best fit for? What industries interest me?
  • Size of the company? What is the right size of my next organization?
  • Public or Private?
  • My dream list – this is especially impactful – sit back and brainstorm. Ask: What are my top 10 companies? What companies have I always wanted to work for?
  • Am I ready to relocate for the right job? What cities?
  • Location? (I am writing this in Atlanta where a 15 mile commute may take 2 hours. Think about your location and your commute tolerance).
  • Salary? What is my ideal salary? Am I willing to go lateral or even take a salary hit to derive more meaning or change industries?

Note that we left salary for last. That was on purpose. Whether you believe it or not, at the end of the day salary isn’t what makes you happy. Sure, salary should be part of the total package, but so much more goes into building the career / life you deserve.

Mapping out a career trajectory also means you brush off that resume – clean it up. Do some research to make sure that your document is in line with current standards, and print it out on nice paper (yes, hiring managers still care about resumes on nice paper).

Step 3 – Start Your Career Journal

This may sound corny, but trust us on this. Get yourself a Career Journal and commit to it.

Open it up and start writing. Create the habit of writing for 5 minutes every day. This helps you to document your progress while keeping you focused on the BIG GOAL. You’ll use the Career Journal to help you remember why you started down the path and review your thinking when times get tough.

And by the way, the Career Journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We recommend one of those Mead Composition books that cost $1.80 at the drug store.

The purpose of the Career Journal is simply to document the path on which you are embarking. In reviewing your Career Journal you will be able to review your mistakes, but you will also be able to reflect upon the things you are doing well. You will be able to use it for inspiration as well as a place to work out your frustrations.

Step 4 – Stay Working

There are some people that quit their jobs in order to find a new job. From a best practices standpoint, this is not the best path. The reality is that the value of any candidate is higher when employed. For the sake of brevity we will leave off the economic, psychological and philosophical discussion that could easily sprout form this assertion. However, please trust our combined experience when we suggest that whenever possible it is best to stay employed.

If you have been laid-off or have recently re-entered the job market – take a flexible contract job and / or volunteer in your area of specialty. By showing that you are a valued member of the work force, your perceived value increases.

Step 5 – LinkedIn Coffees and Follow Up

It is time to get strategic! For the purpose of this article we limit social media references to LinkedIn, but there are other terrific sources for connecting to other professionals. The spirit of this strategy is the same.

Take your list of desired companies, and cross reference them through LinkedIn. You will find plenty of connections. For example, you might find that your neighbor works for one of your target companies. If that is the case, head next door to inquire.

Don’t ask for a job! Ask for help. Explain, confidentially, what you are doing and simply ask if they would make an intro to the highest ranking relevant person at their company. The point here is that if you are interested in being a Staff Accountant, ask for an introduction to the CFO. If you are interested in a Social Media Position, ask for an introduction to the Director of Marketing.

If you do your LinkedIn Search, and there is a person that you knew in college, but haven’t talked to in a decade – don’t worry about it. Reach out. Buy them a cup of coffee, reconnect, and then ask them to make an introduction.

Let your old friend know that all you need from them is a statement like this: “I have a resume from an old college friend of mine. They reconnected with me recently because they saw that I work here. If it makes sense for you (CFO/Director/etc.), they’d be interested in an open ended conversation regarding our organization.”

Follow up both with the person that made the introduction and the person who might be making hiring decisions. Note that you are still not looking for a job. You are only interested in an open ended, exploratory discussion. You are simply looking for advice.

Once you get that meeting, don’t forget the person who connected you. At a minimum a nice thank you note or email is expected. A nice bottle of wine, a gift card, or tickets to a concert are really classy. 

Step 6 – Invest in a Relationship with a Recruiter

Alright, I know this sounds self-serving. After all, we are Accountants One- a Recruiting and Staffing Firm that has been placing Accounting and Financial Professionals since 1973, but take that off the table for a minute. There are good and bad recruiters just as there are good and bad lawyers, realtors, fishing guides, financial planners, and chimney sweeps. The same is true of the recruiting profession.

Great recruiters care about your career. They certainly also care about fees, but the good ones are interested in long-term relationship building. The best recruiters understand that sticking the wrong person in a job just to collect a fee is bad business.

At our firm we have a saying, “we will try and talk you into an interview, but never a career.” We think this is a great mantra in terms of defining the intentions of an ethical and effective recruiter. There is nothing wrong with exploring an opportunity, but stay clear from those recruiters that attempt to talk you into a job that doesn’t fit with your goals.

The benefit of a great recruiter is that they can confidentially introduce you to a host of trusted contacts that would take you years to establish on your own. The right recruiter for you should have contacts at your target companies. To test the water, ask them who they know and what kind of placements they have made to your target client list.

As recruiters, we love it when we work with a candidate that knows what they want. Having clear goals is incredibly helpful. Our networks can be extremely beneficial to a person who has a clear job search path. In fact, chances are we can allow a great candidate to continue focusing on their current role, while making confidential introductions behind the scenes.

We suggest building relationships with recruiters far before you actually need one. The founder of our firm, Bert Erling, used to say, “The worst time to hire a doctor is when you need one.” The same is true for recruiters. Invest today so that when it is time for you to transition you have a trusted relationship.

Step 7 – Research

Every company has strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you are knowledgeable about both. As you are moving through the process of aligning yourself with another organization, be a data collector. Learn as much as you can about specific companies, specific departments, and specific managers.

A great fit in a company should be 75% culture and 25% technical. Spend time with the technical – you want to make sure you are happy doing the day-to-day work, but more importantly investigate culture. Certainly Glassdoor.com and other similar resources are a great place to start, but you also want to do your due diligence – talking confidentially to as many people as possible.

Here are a list of cultural questions we suggest you have answered before you consider making a leap:

  • How are decisions made – by consensus or leadership?
  • How do people relate to each other – in a formal or informal manner?
  • Does the organization value consistency of procedures or flexibility?
  • Is the company innovative or does it stick to its core offerings?
  • Are employees people who seek meaning in their work or resources hired to do what the company wants them to do?
  • Teamwork or individual contribution?
  • World of competing rivals or cooperation and partnerships?
  • Is the emphasis on short term or long-term value for the stakeholders?
  • Are people expected to get things done from the office or are business objectives clarified with employees getting things done in whatever manner works best for them?
  • Dress code?
  • Vacation policy?
  • Expected weekly hours?
  • Benefits?
  • Bonus potential?
  • Corporate giving – commitment to the community?

There is no BEST Corporate Culture. What matters is how YOU connect. If you are a “teamwork” person, and you find the organization that you are interested in has a philosophy of siloed individual production, then you owe it to yourself to ask some very serious questions. Dig in now, because we have found that the number one reason that people regret a job change is corporate culture.

You will also want to research the person that you would be reporting to. Each organization has a centralized culture, but different departments or divisions can manifest variations on that culture, depending on leadership.

Here are a few questions you should answer in regards to leadership:

  • What is the track record of hiring success? What is the tenure of the department?
  • What is the growth trajectory of people within the department? How quickly do they move up in responsibility and title?
  • Potential manager’s previous experience and reputation?
  • Management style?
  • Leadership style?

Step 8 – Stay Focused

Changing jobs is tough work. Many people describe the job transition process as similar to training for, and then running a marathon. You have to master many small difficult tasks on a consistent basis in order to be ready for the big day.

It is easy to let your goal of changing jobs get swept away by the daily grind. Post that T-Chart at home in a spot that you will see on a daily basis. Stay true to your Career Journal, and every day make sure that you are taking steps to get closer to your BIG GOAL.

Step 9 – Keep Score

Set mini-milestones for yourself. For example, your goal may be two exploratory coffees per week. Make it happen. Keep track of your activity. After all, it is the activity that will come together to produce the results.

Connect that activity to a physical reality – in other words, actively write down your mini-milestones in your Career Journal. Celebrate those milestones with a “self-pat on the back.” This could be a visit to the mall, a hike in the woods, a game of ping pong, or an hour of NetFlix – whatever works for you. But if you don’t take the time to thank yourself you might fizzle out.

In the case of your job search, your larger goal is the interview. This means moving from open ended discussions to focused discussions about you joining the team. Trust that if you are keeping up with your mini-milestones, these larger milestones will naturally occur.

As you get closer to the BIG GOAL, don’t forget those “self-pats on the back.” As you get closer to your goal, and you deserve to enjoy every win! Keep score and celebrate that victory.

Step 10 – Don’t Lose Your Nerve

While there is a whole world of material surrounding interview preparation (we have some great resources in this area), the main purpose of this article is to illuminate a strategy for changing jobs in 2017. With our many years of watching the hiring process, our goal was to give you a plan that would lead to results.

Of course, sometimes it takes multiple interviews with multiple companies to find your right match. Other times you can get lucky and connect with the right company on the first interview. If you have done your preliminary work effectively you will know both intellectually and at a gut level that you have connected with the right organization.

But here is where it gets REAL! You have done all this work. Up to now it has been an intellectual endeavor. Now you have to face the reality of telling your current boss that you are leaving! Don’t underestimate the difficulty of this action.

Research shows that the three most stressful life experiences are: 1) death of a spouse, 2) divorce, and 3) changing jobs! Let that sink in. Changing jobs is #3! This may come as a surprise, but what those three life events have in common is change. Change is often scary and yes, painful. So get ready for your brain to make all kinds of rationalizations: “my current job is really not so bad.” “I am just too important to my current company – I can’t leave them high and dry.” “I bet that opportunity to manage my own team is going to happen really soon.”

Don’t lose your nerve, just refocus. Go back to that T-Chart. Go back to your Career Journal. Go back to your accountability partner and face the unknown with certainty. If you have done your coffees, and collected solid data you can rest assured that you are making the right decision.

I hope you found these ten steps for securing a new job in 2017 helpful and emboldening. If you read this, and it helped you realize that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, we are delighted. If you are inspired to change jobs, then know that while the road may not be easy, if you have your destination in mind, you are in for a wonderful and rewarding adventure.

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