Taking the Leap: Is moving to a new company right for your career?

Nearly everyone has felt the urge to move to a new company throughout their career. But how can you know when a career move is right, especially when you’re already several rungs up the corporate ladder? Deciding whether the grass is really greener on the other side takes more work than simply looking at the compensation package. Amy Adler, founder and CEO of Five Strengths Career Transition Experts, and Lyn Christian, owner of SoulSalt Life Strategies & Business Coaching, offer 10 questions to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of changing companies.

Outward-looking Questions

What is happening at your company?

One of the first things to closely evaluate is your organization’s overall health, says Adler. “What are the company’s strengths and weaknesses? Is it expanding into new regions, [launching] new products? What is its upward trajectory? What’s going on that says this will be an excellent organization to stay with?”

What is happening in your department?

How the C-suite perceives your department could impact your growth potential within the organization, she adds. “Is your team being chosen for good projects? Is it being sidelined? If so, why?” Adler says. “Look at the situation altogether—whether it’s the company or your team, there are long-term implications to your career.”

Does your role at the company have growth potential?

“Do you expect your role to grow? Some people can stay at the same level for a long time. If you have a vision for your career, do you know if that path exists [in your current role]? Does the company typically promote from within or seek external talent?” says Adler.

What are the career paths of others in your field?

“Look at the profiles of other execs throughout the company,” says Adler. “Where did they start and where did they land? Maybe an organization demands that execs take a turn through sales.” Find out how others were able to land where you’re trying to go.

Have you spoken to a mentor or trusted supervisor?

It’s always a good idea to bounce a major career decision off of a mentor, coach or trusted supervisor. “Seek out a mentor who is not in your direct line of hierarchy and who can advise you,” Adler says. “Or, if you have a good relationship with an immediate supervisor, talk to that person. Team leaders are interested in how their team is growing. Leadership should understand that people have aspirations. It’s worth finding the right person with whom you can have an honest but discrete conversation with.”

Inward-looking Questions

Do you really know what you want and what you need?

Christian says that when you feel ready to make a move, don’t focus solely on your career—think about how the change will affect your life. Will you have more or less flexibility? Will you have more or less stress? “Don’t avoid these questions by just making a move,” she advises. “Be careful that a move is not to get away from a work environment. Strategically look back at yourself and ask, ‘What do I need, and what do I want?’ Those two questions are critical.”

Are you trying to escape?

“Whenever somebody is talking about a career move, I always wonder what their motivation is. My first thought is, ‘Are you running away from your current role or are you running to something that will be good for your career?’” says Adler.

Christian agrees. “Don’t make a career move to some other place just as an excuse because you’re not thriving,” she says. “See a career move as a bridge. Ask yourself whether you are trying to escape something and putting a Band-Aid on it. Or, is there something bigger talking to you?”

Are you experiencing burnout?

“Sometimes we give everything we should, could or ought to give to our employer, and we burn ourselves out. We don’t manage our weekends, evenings or vacations—this isn’t healthy,” says Christian. “We push ourselves to that point where we can no longer will ourselves to work. It could be because of the employer, because of ourselves or a combination. Ask yourself, ‘How did I get here?’” Or, you’ll likely end up in the same place.

Do you need to change your mindset?

Christian warns that sometimes we trap ourselves in a mindset of negative thought. “If all you’re seeing are the bad things and you’re perseverating on it, sometimes you need to change your mindset. You could be focusing on the bad things, but there will always be bad things in any sort of human dynamic.”

Do you have clarity?

When individuals decide to start looking for a new job, they often enter a state of ambiguity or even fear, which can cause them to leave for the first offer they get, says Christian. But, leaving a current position without evaluating all of the information and having a clear direction can be a dire mistake. “Before you do anything, ask yourself, ‘Do I have clarity?’ If not, it’s not time to make a move,” says Christian. “This is one of the worst mistakes you can make. This is the time when you should be getting information so you can gain clarity.”

Christian says that while it’s important to gather all the facts so you can make a strategic decision, don’t forget to, “listen to your heart and follow your gut.”