Job change in a recession? Go for it!

2892325923 be03bcb06a Job change in a recession?  Go for it!
cc Job change in a recession?  Go for it! photo credit: Philipp Hilpert – Philography

You’ve heard it too, I’m sure.  “I’d be crazy to look for a job right now.”  “A job change would be career suicide.”  “I’m just going to wait until things get better, and then I’ll start looking.”

My take: hogwash.

The common thread in each of these statements is an aversion to risk.  It would be risky to make a switch when I’m so valued and indispensable at my current company.  It would be risky to be the lowest person on the ladder should layoffs come to my new employer.

And sure, it might be.

But if you’re considering a job change, you shouldn’t just focus on the risk of making the jump — you need to weigh it against the risk of staying where you are.  I’m sure the 598,000 people who hit the unemployment line in January thought they were valued and indispensable too.

Risks of staying with your current employer

Here are some risks of staying in your current situation that you may not have considered:

Losing your current job

Is your employer struggling financially?  Are you nearing the end of a project with no clear plan on your next role?  Is your department or function considered “overhead”?  You may be slated for the next round of layoffs anyways.  Watch for signs.  Are your responsibilities shrinking?  Do you get less communication from your manager?

Career stagnation

Have you been in your role too long already?  Are you no longer finding opportunity to grow?  Are you getting pigeonholed into a specialty you don’t want to pursue?  All of these signal a plateau in the value you’re able to add to the company, which makes you less likely to be retained if cuts are necessary.

Sheer sanity

Can you just not take anymore?  Is your working relationship with your supervisor untenable?  Are you growing increasingly frustrated?  Your motivation to do your job directly impacts your performance.  If you’re not doing your best work, it’s difficult to advance, even when the economy rebounds.

The alternative: Risks of making a job change

If you want to accurately weigh your options, you’ll have to do some research on a new potential opportunity.  Talk to anyone who might have the lowdown: current staff, competitors, vendors, clients.  If the company is public, watch their press releases and stock performance.  And craft intelligent but tactful questions for the interview.  Gather as much information as possible, but do it discreetly.  The last thing you want is for your current employer to say “Bob’s looking to leave anyway,” the next time cost cutting is on the corporate agenda.

Company stability

It’s harder to tell from the outside how things are going, but information may be available.  Have they recently gained or lost a prominent client?  Open positions on their website could be a sign of growth.  How long have they been in business?  Has there been a change in management?  All of these things can indicate whether the company is likely to stay the course, and what course they’re on.

Culture fit

Is the organization one where you can be successful?  What will be your span of authority?  Do they offer flexibility?  Does the company invest in employee development?  Don’t take the message from the hiring manager at face value — check with other sources who aren’t invested in you joining the staff.

Layoff history

Some organizations are adamantly opposed to layoffs.  Some use layoffs routinely to right-size as business objectives change.  Most fall somewhere in between.  Where does this company fall?

Would you be indispensable?

Is this function new, or established?  Is it performed by just one individual or are there several with this job title?  Do you offer something to the company that they can’t get from their current team?  All of these can indicate how much hardship it would place on the organization if you left, and therefore how secure you might expect to be.

Bottom line: whether or not it’s the right time to change jobs depends completely on your own personal situation and tolerance for risk.  Forget the naysayers; examine your own situation and build a strategy that’s right for you.

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