Some often overlooked reasons whether or not to jump to that next job — taking lessons from other walks of life.
by Gene Holzer and Gus Pena, co-founders, Ascendo Resources

The hiring freeze that resulted from the most recent recession appears to be thawing a bit. Here in Florida the unemployment rate has fallen to 8.7 percent, the lowest level since January 2009.1 Companies are slowly putting the help wanted sign out again. So, while professionals may be thinking now is the time to start considering switching jobs, there are several factors that determine whether making a move today is something that may cause regrets tomorrow. Several of these elements are often overlooked or simply unknown, but they can often be the biggest determinants of career success or failure.

1. People should not decide to take their next job by only looking at their next job.

If someone is taking a part-time retail job to pay the bills out of college, then they can look at each opportunity independently. However, if they intend to be on a career path, they should look at a potential destination as to whether it works to get them closer to their ultimate goal.

Instead of thinking about their next job, they should think about where they would like to be in the job after that. Another company might offer more money or even a promotion, but is the person’s only goal to be making more in five years than what they’re making now? If they envision themselves as someday being the chief financial officer for a Fortune 500 company, opportunities should be measured against whether they advance them towards the ultimate goal.

A recent study by Achievers and Experience Inc. reveals that among graduating college seniors, 54% believe that career advancement opportunities are more important than salary when looking for work.2

Simply chasing a better paying job may get someone a better paying job. On the other hand, pursuing a career may get them to where they’re more satisfied and ultimately more successful at what they do.

When it comes to accounting, financial or compliance positions, it’s also worth noting that determining whether another opportunity truly pays more requires more than comparing salaries. Even coming out of a period of corporate austerity and scaling back of benefits, financial positions often come with a variety of ancillary benefit programs such as pension plans and defined 401(K) contributions. Most companies require employees be vested for a minimum amount of time before receiving these benefit packages. Every time a job hopper switches firms, that “clock” resets. This should factor into deciding whether leaving for a compliance officer or corporate finance position at another firm truly gets the person closer to their ultimate future income and career target.

In the financial world, even candidates considering a raise in pay for what would be a sideways move are well-served to be cautious and thorough. Corporate financial positions are often in salary bars or ranges, and it’s unusual (though certainly not unheard of) for another company to be paying employees a great deal more for essentially the same level of work. If a candidate is applying for the same position in a competing company, that bump-up may be an advance on a future raise, and could actually delay the prospects of seeing any more raises in that company as time goes on.
There are times, however, when making even a sideways move is the best strategy for long-term professional growth — and these reasons can also go beyond base salary.

For example, a certified auditor may be presented with the opportunity to take the same position with another company, but that new company is more financially stable or has a better industry reputation than the current employer. Sometimes working with the new company would present that auditor with a new dimension of challenges, such as more experience with international regulatory issues or oversight of multiple offices. In those instances, a move to the side can actually be a move up.

Whether it is the right time to move or not, the decision can’t be made looking at just that next job. Career moves should be judged by what they are a move toward.

2. What’s true for personal relationships is even truer for professional ones — emotional reactions aren’t always the best in the long run.

When a personal relationship takes a bad turn, sometimes people’s actions in response are governed more by emotions than rational thought and applying logic in their decisions. There are countless stories out there about people making desperate dating decisions just to get out with somebody on the rebound from a long-term relationship, somebody who wouldn’t be a good fit for a long-term relationship.

But what is true in personal relationships can also be applied in someone’s professional life too — do they want to work with “somebody”, or do they want to build their career around the best fit possible for their advancement and for years to come?

When analyzing whether the time is right to leave a job and go to another job, people must look at how much of their decision is based on emotional arguments rather than logical ones. Are they considering looking to “break it off” with their current employer because of the snap reaction to a disagreement they had? How will they feel about that disagreement in six months?

There is, of course, the opposite risk — not acting when “the right one” comes along. Whether it’s finding that perfect personal match or the professional match for happiness and fulfillment, hesitation could mean missing that “love connection”. But whether the next one is the right one for you should be a decision focused on the merits of that next pairing, not because of sore feelings about the last time around.

Certainly, if a current situation over time is regularly unhealthy or makes them feel emotionally drained for some reason, moving on can be a valid option. However, some snap emotionally-tinged conclusions — – such as how much leaving a job would hurt the boss because of the loss of the departing employee’s productivity and experience — should not be among the most important elements of that employee’s decision-making process. “Revenge” doesn’t read well on a resume.

3. The smaller the community, the more word gets around.

Career options in the financial world today extend well-beyond the traditional financial capitals of New York City, Boston and London. Several consumer-based companies, such as Coca-Cola and Home Depot, are headquartered in Atlanta, for example. Ascendo Resources regularly works with employers with operations in South Florida who are looking for accounting, finance and compliance professionals. Many companies choose this location as a prime base for panregional operations. South Florida is home to multinationals overseeing more than $221 billion in annual revenues.3

One thing to remember when pursuing a career in a non-traditional financial location, though, is that a person’s professional reputation can be magnified. In New York, a financial executive might find more opportunities to leap from company to company, with less care about the reputation left behind, as there may be thousands of options in the same field. However, in markets such as Miami, there is less margin for error when it comes to souring relationships with companies. Despite the economic heft, just five Fortune 500 companies – FPL Group, Office Depot, World Fuel Services, AutoNation and Ryder System, have their corporate headquarters in South Florida.4

Much attention has been paid to whether being a job hopper is still stigmatized. A recent Time magazine article argued employers still see job hoppers as disloyal and not the sorts of employees to groom as future leaders5. A Monster.com article presented the counterpoint that job hopping, done right, can be seen as the pursuit of a developing skillset6. For example, hiring managers looking to place in positions such as chief financial officer weigh expertise dealing with complex issues such as regulatory compliance and managing budgets through a variety of different scenarios.

Candidates with multiple stops over a relatively short period of time will have to answer if they truly saw a company’s budget through good times and bad, and if they gained valuable experience during that time.

Hiring managers want to know that bringing in a candidate isn’t just a temporary patch that will lead to them needing to fill the same position again in a year. Applicants who feel they’ve (finally) found the right position can strengthen their case by having clear explanations as to what they learned along the way as well as why they feel the problems in previous positions were unique to that one stop and unlikely to come up again.

Another reality of smaller ponds is they generally have less fish. A qualified candidate in a non-traditional financial location may be up against less competition to land that perfect CFO position. As a result, if a candidate feels they are a valuable asset to a prospective employer, they can know they are often starting bargaining from a position of strength. There is a challenge to being an applicant in a town with less jobs, but there is also an opportunity to seeking a job in a town with less applicants.

4. Investing in professional growth is as important as investing in nest egg growth.

The statistics in retirement planning are staggering — $10,000 invested at age 20 (assuming 5% interest rate) can grow to more than $70,000 by age 60; the same $10,000 invested at 30 years of age yields only $43,000 and invested at 40 yields only $26,0007 . It’s sensible to invest for the long-term as early as possible. This is true when it comes to ensuring depth in a 401(K), and it is also true when it comes to ensuring depth in a CV.

Generation Y (ages 18-29) is averaging just over two years in a job, according to a recent study by Millennial Branding8. When those 20-somethings get down the road along their career path, what will they be able to say those first several jobs yielded? Will they be able to say they invested time in an early career to learn the ropes, or will they have to say they sacrificed long-term growth to go from “investment opportunity” to “investment opportunity”?

For those at a point in their careers where they are middle management or above, especially in accounting, finance and compliance positions, that investment in growth will start to factor into achieving that ultimate targeted career goal. This can include taking advantage of additional training, such as becoming a CPA or a CIA, pursuing an MBA or even getting a degree as a certified anti-money laundering specialist (CAMS). Often the opportunity to pursue these sorts of professional growth opportunities and invest in one’s future is most apparent in companies that see the employee as a long- term asset. Companies are interested in the professional development of their employees, but may not invest in that development if they don’t see the employee as committed.

It is worth noting that while the national employment numbers have raised concerns, the prospects for those with the kinds of degrees and training needed for financial positions are still quite strong. The unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher was just 4 percent in April, compared to 12.5 percent for people without a high school diploma9. This is just one element of how finishing training and degrees can provide salary stability.

If a current employer offers compensation for degree programs, this should be considered in weighing the merits of whether to stay or to go. At the same time, if a new opportunity includes the chance to complete a degree, that advantage could mean more for professional growth and prosperity in the long run.
When considering whether it’s time to pursue a new opportunity, people must assess the investment portfolio they have put together for themselves, just as they might look at their own retirement investments in the long-term. Workers reflecting on the times they voluntarily left an employer must ask themselves if they will be able to say: “I stuck it out at that company and learned a lot, including some lessons about how, when presented with the opportunity, I might take a different approach to management.” Or will they want to say: “It wasn’t an ideal situation, so I left looking for something new.” Companies want to know that candidates for higher positions such as CFO have invested in their own development — not just financially but professionally — so that the right candidate for leadership positions has personal experience in pursuing financial intelligence, not financial security.

Putting in time at a company also gives employees an opportunity to build a growing internal network of contacts, learn through good times and bad, and invest the time to mature professionally. Spending money on instant gratification might feel good for a moment, but may not be the best long-term growth strategy. Similarly, hopping from one job to the next might be more instantly gratifying, but it might not be an investment of time in personal professional growth.

When deciding whether the time is right to consider switching jobs, it is a good rule of thumb to think not just about the immediate goal, but about the ultimate goal. Whether they are lessons from dating (don’t react purely emotionally to a current situation), investing (sometimes one has to put in a little more time early in their career to pay off more down the line) or just the realities of an increasingly connected world (reputation travels fast in smaller circles), there is a lot to consider in deciding whether the time is right to go for that next job. Ascendo Resources is regularly working with individuals contemplating this decision and their career advancement.

1 Florida unemployment falls, but so does labor force, May 19, 2012, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/fl-broward-unemployment-april-20120519,0,4514012.story

2Achievers and Experience Inc. Reveal Class of 2012 Study Results to Understand the Needs of the Future Workforce, April 3, 2012,
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/achievers-and-experience-inc-reveal-class-of-2012-study-results-to-understand-the-needs-of-the-future-workforce-2012-04-03

3 The 2009 Who’s Here Multinational Economic Impact Study, World City Business,http://www.bus.miami.edu/_assets/files/news-media/recent-news/WhosHere09.pdf

4 New 2010 Fortune 500 list: 16 Florida companies ranked, three from Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Times, April 16, 2010,
http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/venturebiz/2010/04/sixteen-florida-based-companies-made-the-new-2010-fortune-500-list-of-big-public-corporations-three-of-those-16-are-headquar.html

5How to Know Whether You Should Switch Employers, April 11, 2012,http://moneyland.time.com/2012/04/11/how-to-know-whether-you-should-switch-employers/

6Job-Hopping: Career Killer or Savior?,
http://excelle.monster.com/benefits/articles/3643-job-hopping-career-killer-or-savior

75 Advantages Of Investing In Your 20s, Investopedia,
http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0212/5-Advantages-To-Investing-In-Your-20s.aspx#axzz1tYDpz6BF

8Millennial Branding Gen-Y and Facebook Study
http://millennialbranding.com/2012/01/millennial-branding-gen-y-facebook-study/

9 “The Employment Situtation – April 2012” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor News Release, May 4, 2012,
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf