Insight article

When Does It Make Sense To Jump Ship?

In today’s job market, IT professionals, especially developers and engineers, are a hot commodity. Even when you are not actively looking, IT recruiters know how to find you. Once  they locate their victim, the sweet-talk begins. Is this an opportune moment to upgrade your job, or will the frequent changes, eventually  hinder your career?  I am getting many phone calls from my contacts and friends in the industry, asking me for advice on how to handle these tempting propositions. After seeing the job market through a number of ups and downs I actually have a few thoughts on this subject.

The Truth About $

Changing jobs solely for a bump in salary is almost always a short-sighted decision. Here is a trick of the trade; recruiters often throw out an inflated number to get your attention. They know that candidates get emotionally invested in the process, and often end-up settling for a lower salary in the end. Also keep in mind that, every time your resume lands on someone’s desk, you risk getting exposed with your current employer. As large of a city as Chicago is, its tech community is a small world.  (Modifying the famous “Six Degrees of Separation” theory, everyone in Chicago IT world can be connected in 4 or less steps.) However, even if the potential salary increase is “legit”, consider the sustainability of such a move. Look at the big picture. If the proposed job responsibilities would be similar and the role seems practically the same, then this significantly-higher pay may be offered in an act of desperation to plug a hole. This means when the economic conditions worsen, you could be easily replaced with someone expecting 20-25% less in compensation.  This outcome isn’t only bad for your valet, more importantly it would negatively impact your resume. Of course one of my favorite quotes comes to mind: “Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder” – George Washington.

Another Look At Perks

Another tendency of the hot job market, especially common among sales-driven organizations and trendy start-ups are “too good to be true” benefit packages and crazy perks. My favorite one is the “unlimited PTO”. Those of you who have already experienced it know that this is hardly a perk. This concept promotes a culture where taking time off is frowned upon and is viewed as “taking advantage” or being a “slacker”. Therefore, top performers take even less PTO than they would have otherwise (with defined PTO). The best part – should their employment end in the middle of the year, the employer doesn’t owe them any unpaid time off! Please also consider the fact that free or low-cost health insurance and generous 401k contributions are all subject to change at any time, and could be linked to company’s profitability, change in management or HR benefit provider. If the quality of benefits play a significant part in your decision, ask your prospective employer how long these benefits have been in place.

Keeping It Real  

I recommend being very selective and to make your move only for the right reasons. Go for a solid upgrade, which would logically position you to receive higher pay, regardless of the market conditions. If your career goal is to be a senior architect, then your primary focus should be company’s track record of investing into cutting-edge technologies. With this said, you should seek an opportunity that would enable you to advance and improve your skill set. If you are on a management path, then items like the size of your potential budget, future number of direct/ indirect reports, and overall value of your prospective group to the company should be your main motivators for a switch. Lastly, look up your potential management and peers to make sure you can learn from them.

Playing It Safe

Leveraging favorable market condition to become more valuable is a wise move.  To ensure that you are making a reasonably-safe move, also look at the overall “health” and performance of the organization.  If the company is public, you can review financials and growth history.  If you are looking at a new organization, look at its more-“seasoned” competitors.  I would also recommend researching how recession-proof is their product or service, and make sure that you believe in their strategy and vision.

The amount of time you have spent with your current employer should play a role in determining your risk tolerance.  If you’re planning a move and have less than 2 years, should anything go wrong, your resume will take a hit, so this jump has to be perfect. As I mentioned before in one of the comments to my article “When Your New Gig Sucks” choppy work history is a big red flag.

Hope that’s enough food for thought, good luck with your decision and keep those questions coming!


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