Changing Jobs, Leaning In, & Moving Forward
To recap, late last year I left my employer of 11 years and started at a new company. A lot of people were surprised; actually, probably most people were surprised. Changing jobs brought questions, lots of questions. One of the most common questions was “Why?”, a question I have asked myself. “Why was it time to change?” “Why go from one job to the other?” “Why put yourself through the hassle?”
Good question, why… and a tough one to answer, at least conclusively. As in most of life’s decisions, there was no single factor, no single reason. There were a lot of pieces that came together, over time, that influenced my ultimate decision.
Challenges. I knew there would be challenges, and that was one of the primary answers to “why change jobs”; the challenge. But there were some challenges that I could never have imagined (see part 1 for more on that). Although I’m working at a new company and with a new group of people, the industry is the same and the business challenges are familiar, but some of the personal challenges are brand-new.
I’m not a job hopper, over the last 24 years I’ve worked for two (now three) companies, but I’ve been fortunate to have changing roles in those companies. They’ve kept me challenged and allowed me to explore different ways of doing things. I once thought that I wanted to downshift. I thought I wanted to find a career path that was routine, safe, and direct. I had that for awhile, but for me, there was something missing, but I couldn’t name it, until I did; challenge. I think it’s amazing when I meet someone that has worked in the same job for 40 years, there’s a certain level of tenacity, continuity, and loyalty that’s admirable. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I discovered that’s not me. And now it’s now chronologically impossible, or at least incredibly unlikely, for me to be in the same place professionally for 40 years.
There are three categories (at least) of people when it comes to career continuity. There’s the LIFER, I’ve known many really good people that fall into this category. There’s the JOB HOPPER, as a manager this type is frustrating. And then there’s what I will call the SEEKER, they actively seek out new information, want different opportunities, are curious, and will sometimes change jobs to be challenged. They grow tired of the routine.
It’s simply a fact, comfort makes some people uncomfortable. While there is safety and security in routine, some people get itchy for something new, something mysterious, a new problem to solve, a new puzzle to ponder. It’s that itch that motivates explorers and inventors or anybody that challenges the status quo. It is an essential ingredient that makes them question, test, ponder; curiosity. At its center are two words, “I wonder” or maybe “What if.”
The point of discomfort is where growth starts. Safety is safe, but we build “muscle,” we build new capacity when we push ourselves to the edges. By intentionally seeking discomfort we grow. By pushing ourselves into the unknown, leaving our comfort zone, we get stronger. We get better. Routine, for some of us, leads to complacency, and while it can be safe, it can also be stagnating and stifling. Pushing through uncertainty forces us to improve.
It’s almost like the uncertainty of walking up stairs in the dark. When we expect there to be one more step, but there isn’t, for an instant, we feel like we are falling. Leaving the safety of the known can feel a little like falling, taking a big step into nothingness, running the risk of failing. That might be the biggest fear there is for some, the fear of failure.
Change is scary and hard. The known unknown (when we know there’s stuff we don’t know but don’t know what it is) can be hard to overcome, and it can often make us stuck in place. But change is constant, we can’t control it, the external world is continuously changing. When we are the impetus for change, while still scary, it can be a little better, a little more controllable. Intentional change is a form of mini-revolution, change is evolution.
So, the real answer to the question, “Why change jobs?” Or really, “Why change anything?”