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On the professional rebound

Published on 28 March 2017 by Giorgia Marschall

As executive search consultants, we meet a lot of people considering a move in their professional lives. There are, to simplify, two main drivers:

A specific opportunity arises and appeals to them. They see the new potential role as a logical next step on the career ladder.
They want to leave their current position.
Needless to say, the latter move is more delicate than the former if not managed with care. One certainty though: a person should not stay in an unsatisfying position. But the candidate for a change must take the time to identify the source of his unhapiness.

Take Jane, working for a multinational in the marketing department and frustrated with how difficult it is to implement her creative ideas due to the many hierarchal layers and the stiff, structured procedures. The gut reaction is to long for a small company where she can put all her creativity to good use and create her own marketing campaigns.

This may very well be true. The important issue to consider is that a smaller company may have less resources, it can – and will ! – switch strategies overnight even if all the work has been executed. Not to mention that Jane, now in a team of few executives, isn’t just working for the marketing department anymore, but also taking care of administration, answering phones and ordering coffee for the office. Might Jane not have been better off taking a smaller step in the direction she envisioned without going to the extreme?

This example illustrates the fate of an employee on the professional “rebound”, whereby she leaves a company to seek the greener grass. Except that when she reaches the new pasture and looks back, that of a sudden looks greener again too. And so, she will bounce back and forth until she eventually comes to a natural halt.

We learn from every single experience, and nothing is ever wasted in the process. Nevertheless, as we advance in our careers, these movements should be limited and carefully considered if we want to eschew the “job-hopper” label.

Our advice: take the time to pinpoint exactly what it is you are unhappy with, and why. This can be a tedious process. Equally evaluate what you do enjoy in your current position. Ponder to what extent you can live with the “cons”. And what are the possible, and negotiable, adaptations attenuating the negatives and make them positives at best, neutral at the least. If the perspective is helpless you may choose to leave but have lost nothing because you now have a much sharper picture of what you are looking for in a new job.

We also meet many people asserting they want to leave their jobs, who seriously evaluate the alternatives and then decide they are quite satisfied where they are. And that is the beauty of our job too – those people go to work happy again, having systematically challenged the status quo – even if the outcome is less adventurous than they had envisioned.

Distancing oneself form the daily grind may allow us to see that with some minor tweaks, we are “back in business”. And as an African proverb says: “Do anything, as long as you are happy”.