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Are You Changing Jobs or Making a Strategic Career Move?

A cup of coffee and a newspaper with the word classifieds.

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 


What is a "strategic career move"? I'm changing jobs but staying in the same profession and industry. Could that be considered a strategic career move?


There's a big difference between changing jobs and making a strategic career move. In general, most people look for new jobs when:

  • They can't stand working for a boss or company a moment longer than necessary, and they just want to get out as soon as possible because anywhere has to be better than where they are now.
  • They've lost a job—through firing or layoff—and need to find a new income source fast.

In both instances, there is internal pressure (emotional stress) and external pressure (financial stress), and all too often, we grab the first job offer that comes along. This is a simple job change, not a strategic career move, because it's reactionary and often done without thinking it through. Then, a few months later, we realize that we might be in a different building and office chair, but we've essentially landed in the same job and situation, and maybe even for the same pay.

This is why some people get to midlife and suddenly realize that they haven't been advancing their careers—they've just been repeating the same old job in different buildings. This is what happens when you aren't paying attention and reviewing where you stand or if your skills are staying current with the changing demands of the marketplace. Many of us don't engage in much objective analysis of where we want to go in our careers and what it will take in terms of skills, time and money to get there.

Strategic Career Moves

On the other hand, making a strategic career move means you aren't job hunting because you are under financial or emotional pressure. Rather, you have committed to managing what happens to your career and are making realistic plans.

You are ready to build steppingstones to take you where you want to go in your career. You are prepared to take the time to identify and analyze the skills, experience and accreditations—plus time and money—you'll need to make the journey successfully.

As you start thinking ahead and planning like this, your performance in your current job will likely improve, and colleagues and higher-ups will take notice. Relationships will evolve with the people who can help you advance, and as you are pursuing the experience you need to grow, you will be increasing your chances of winning a promotion right where you are.

In more than 25 years of coaching professionals, I have noticed that those who go the farthest tend to stay longer at each job, and each job is frequently marked by promotions, which are much easier to get at your current employer than at a new one.

Plan your strategic career moves well ahead, starting with winning a promotion at the job you have today. If you run out of promotion options, switch into job-search mode and make a strategic career move that will take you down the path you've chosen to follow.

You will need a brand-new resume and to identify all possible employers in your target market. Your plan of attack should include a robust and profession-relevant network where you've leveraged professional association memberships and social media relationships with many of the professionals who have the authority to hire you.

Then, when the time comes to pull the trigger on your transition, you will have greater self-knowledge, better skills, more accomplishments and enhanced credentials. Knowing all the potential employers and having taken the time to prepare, you can execute a successful transition that is accurately focused on helping you take that next step. This is a strategic career move. It takes more effort and more time yet delivers greater rewards.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!


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