Date posted: 29/07/2019 8 min read

How do you know when it’s time to move on?

Some people advance while staying with one employer for many years. But for others, the best way to get ahead is to get out.

In Brief

  • A Hudson survey of 6500 accounting and finance professionals found 70% were either open to new work opportunities or actively looking for a job.
  • The main reason cited for wanting to move on is no longer feeling motivated or stimulated by the current work.
  • Career change experts advise professionals to first talk with their boss to find out what’s available within their current organisation before looking outside.

By Fiona Smith

Switching jobs is life-changing. A new job can take you closer to your life goals, send you on an adventure and enrich you in a multitude of ways. But sometimes, you might be better off staying right where you are.

The angst often comes in deciding whether to stay or go.

For Chrissie Murray CA, audit partner at Baker Tilly Staples Rodway in Wellington, the first move was the hardest. She’d been working as a graduate trainee in general management at the UK’s National Health Service, but decided she wanted to be an auditor.

“The first big decision was very difficult. I was 24 and there were lots of discussions with people that I trusted,” she says.

But once she had changed direction that first time, other big moves – such as emigrating to New Zealand – were less intimidating.

“It taught me about opportunity and risk. If you don’t take any risk, you don’t get the benefit of any other opportunities,” she says.

Chrissie Murray CAChrissie Murray CA.

“If you don’t take any risk, you don’t get the benefit of any other opportunities.”
Chrissie Murray CA

70% of finance workers are open to new jobs

A recent Hudson report, based on a survey of 6500 professionals across Australia and New Zealand, found that 54% of accounting and finance professionals describe themselves as ‘open to new opportunities’, while 16% were ‘actively seeking a new job’.

Among those looking to move on, the main reason cited is they no longer feel motivated or stimulated by their work. Other factors include looking for work-life balance, flexibility, salary, workplace culture and a great manager.

On the flipside, the survey shows 31% of accounting and finance professionals are planning to stay in their jobs for the coming 12 months.

One of them is Sam Sargood CA, who has spent 12 years with PwC, working all around Australia in nine different roles. Now a senior manager in the R&D incentives and innovation area in PwC’s Melbourne office, Sargood says he often gets asked why he stays so long with one employer.

“Given that I am only 30 years old as well, that is obviously a rarity,” he says.

What keeps him at PwC is his interest in his assignments. “The biggest reason for staying as long as I have is finding a team or an area where I enjoy coming to work.”

Sargood says a plus about staying with a “large beast” like PwC include opportunities to move into different areas such as campus recruitment, then corporate tax, then R&D tax incentives.

However, smaller firms offer a wider variety of work in general business services, and people are not required to specialise quite so early in their careers.

The key to making the most of working in a big organisation is to take up new opportunities when they arise, Sargood says.

“You may as well say yes to a lot of things because as soon as you start saying no, offers start falling off the table.”

Sam Sargood CASam Sargood CA.

“You may as well say yes to a lot of things because as soon as you start saying no, offers start falling off the table.”
Sam Sargood CA

Weighing up your decision to leave a job

Careers expert Jannine Fraser had a very different approach to Sargood, notching up 30 jobs before she turned 30. “I don’t recommend that,” she quips.

Melbourne-based Fraser is now managing director of the Career Insight Group and co-founder of executive career strategy firm Directioneering.

She says people may have quite valid reasons to “hold and endure” jobs that are sub-optimal, such as their responsibilities around ageing parents or children.

Another reason to stay is that their dissatisfaction is probably temporary, because the organisation is going through a stressful period that will pass – such as redundancies in a restructure.

“There are times where it is about just getting through, knowing it’s going to be tough,” Fraser says. And at times tough business environments can help with skills development.

But a fast exit may be recommended for environments that are harmful: “If you are in an unusually toxic environment, my advocacy is to get out… Like a bad marriage, it can actually have lasting consequences for people’s health and psyche,” Fraser says.

A determining factor in the decision to stay or go is whether you’re still providing value to the organisation, says Fraser. Waiting around for a redundancy package, for instance, can do you harm if your declining value to your employer damages your self-esteem and your reputation.

“How dignified you are at exit and how positive you are about the next step all heavily influence your ability to continue to move on,” she says.

When weighing your decision, Fraser recommends considering your satisfaction, stimulation and contribution: “How valued do you feel in your engagement with your world of work? Is the job doing what you need it to do in your total life and are you still contributing in a way that ensures your value to the organisation?”

“Doing that analysis is so important because it will set you up for the future and mean that you’re not changing deckchairs on the Titanic by going off into the exact same environment somewhere else.”

Why you should talk to your boss first

People considering leaving their current position should talk with their employer about how they are feeling and where the organisation sees their future heading, advises Emma Holderness, a leadership and management coach with Catapult in Wellington.

“Having the conversation early enough allows your manager to think about other options – particularly if you are a valued team member and people don’t want to lose you. There may be other opportunities that you haven’t thought of,” she says.

Careers consultant Kate Boorer FCA says that conversation starts with a discussion about where you would like your career to go and what opportunities exist within the organisation.

Kate Boorer FCAKate Boorer FCA.

“When you get to the end of the conversation and there are none, the good leaders ask how they can help you find your next opportunity.

“They can see how disengaging it can be to be stagnated.”

However, Boorer acknowledges that not all bosses are so supportive of an employee’s ambition.

“Whenever I am talking to clients about it, I do say to them that they have to trust their instincts and their judgement. They do have to trust their leader.”

8 signs it’s time to move on

1. Mondayitis

You dread going into work and count down the days till Friday night.

2. Lingering at lunch

Finding reasons to delay getting back to your desk.

3. Ugh no

Looking for reasons not to do something.

4. It is pointless

Work has lost its sense of purpose.

5. Marooned

The organisation has moved on and left you behind.

6. Missing mojo

You have lost interest and you’re hanging on for a redundancy.

7. Cul-de-sac

You have gone as far as you can go, but there is still petrol in your tank.

8. Toxicity

The workplace culture is so poor, it’s enough to make you sick.

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