Look Before you Leap to Another Employer
By Leslie Mann -
Before Ellen Mueller of Des Plaines decided to leave her former inside-sales position at a steel distributor to become a product manager at one of its competitors, she sat down and made a list of pros and cons of the move.
"I didn't want to make the change just for the sake of change," said Mueller. "I wanted to make sure it was the right thing for me in the long run."
The pros, she said, included staying in the same industry, where she knew the ropes, but moving to a "bigger-picture job that had more responsibilities." The company making the offer had a solid history and the manager to whom she would report had a good reputation in the field.
The cons, she added, were joining a new branch within the company, which she knew presented some risk.
Comparing her compensation was comparing apples and oranges; the new job would pay more but offer less health-care coverage and no 401(k) match. "So I bargained for more money to compensate for the added medical costs and for losing the match," said Mueller.
Mueller was wise to carefully consider her move, said Robert Morgan of the Chicago office of Hudson, an international professional recruitment firm. "The grass is always greener, or at least it seems that way at first," he said. "So I recommend weighing your decision before moving."
Too often, said Morgan, employees are running away from a job instead of running to a new, better one. In fact, he suggested looking at your employer for room for advancement before leaving it.
In addition to income, Morgan suggested weighing career-advancement opportunities, cost-of-living differences, benefits and the workplace culture.
"More so than in the past, people also consider work/life balance," added Morgan. "Even if only one spouse is working, both spouses want to be involved with the family. Will the employer allow you to leave to attend your child's ball game? Can you run home to care for your elderly parent?"
This rings true for Dave Guritz of Aurora, who left a post as a foundation director to become director of education at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County earlier last year. Although the move provided a higher salary and greater responsibility, it also allowed him to move his children to better schools in Batavia.
The move means he is surrounded by colleagues with a commitment to conservation of natural resources. "It's an environment where I feel engaged and appreciated," he said. "That's important. Money's not everything."
For Denise Lough of New Lenox, ditching her long-time graphic arts job at an advertising agency to become a self-employed interior designer meant making less money, but "it was so worth it," she said.
"Now I have control of my schedule so I can see my son before and after school and have dinner with my family every night," said Lough. "And, I'm happier in interior design, which is my first love."
Leo Frederick's job switch meant a total lifestyle change, which is what he wanted. In 2007, he jumped off the corporate ladder to buy a Batteries Plus franchise in Mt. Prospect. After 25 years as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, Frederick applied his technical expertise to the custom-assembly aspect of the franchise.
"In pharmaceutical, I was working 50 hours a week for the company, not for myself," said Frederick. "Now, I'm putting that time into building my own business." Aside from that, the upsides -- providing summer jobs for his teenagers, working closer to his Wheeling house, and being free of corporate politics -- outweighed the downsides, which included obtaining his own retirement and medical plans and being responsible for employees.
Mueller, Guritz, Lough and Frederick each said they took their time to do their homework before job switching.
"This is much easier these days because you can find so much information about the field and the company just by going online," said Morgan. "For example, salary.com can tell you approximately what salary to expect. That puts you in the driver's seat."
In the 1980s, "the employer-employee contract was broken," said Morgan. "No longer do you get a job for life and no longer does the company take care of you. Now, you do what is best for you, which may or may not mean job switching."
If you do decide to make the switch, leave on good terms. "You never know; someday the company may want you back," Morgan said. "Or your old boss may be in the position to hire you somewhere else."