I’ve had four jobs in the past seven years. Four jobs, seven years. And nothing drives old company lifers crazy like seeing young, ‘flighty’ and ‘entitled’ upstarts like me change jobs like underwear. But here’s why I don’t care: taking charge of my career by always choosing for myself when it’s time to move on is the craziest and best decision I’ve ever made. Even better than my pixie cut and highlights.
I was a few months into my first job when my then boss more than doubled my responsibilities without any mention of an official promotion. Fresh out of college career-prep senior seminars (and a natural eager beaver) I boldly broached the topic of career advancement and promotion (read: a raise) with my boss. Without even batting an eyelash, she told me that it was unheard of for anyone in the organisation to move up as quickly as I was alluding to — and certainly not to a salary hike of 22% in one promotion. That moment planted the seed for my first hard lesson about the corporate world:
the fastest way to advance your career is to quit.
And maybe it sounds absurd, but I’ve got the receipts to back it up. Between my first and second jobs, my salary increased by 50%; then 33%, then 25%. So by the time I was on my fourth job, I was making 150% more than I was when I started working. But before the old company lifers start generalising about “money hungry” millennials, let me enlarge the footnotes:
- We are up to our eyeballs in student loan debt, some 50K, 100K and up. So yes, we are money hungry… and hungry hungry. And if we want to stand a chance of paying for housing, transportation and possibly feeding a family before our eggs freeze over, we have to care about our coins.
- Yes, there are some millennials who jump from job to job with no strategy, but I’m getting to them next.
I have seen CEOs scribble notes like ‘flighty’ and ‘unsettled’ in the column of CVs with ‘too many’ job changes. Here’s why mine is different: each of my job changes represents a step up the career ladder. I’m a storyteller by profession, so naturally my CV is crafted to tell the story I want it to. For example, my current header goes a little something like this:
Digitally savvy public relations specialist with seven years’ progressive experience in the field of international marketing and communications.
Tada! See how I’ve magically incorporated my diverse experience with digital platforms, PR, international marketing and mass media? While still clearly demonstrating that these experiences haven’t just been ad hoc; rather strategically growing my skillset as I continually take on more responsibility with each passing year. And that, my friends, is what strategic quitting is all about — it’s how good you can use your experiences to shape your story.
But let me assure you, quitting is not for the faint of heart. It demands gallons of guts to get this glory.
So when do you know it’s time to quit?
I think the answer to that is pretty obvious for most people — I know several of you reading this are ready to walk off the job this instant. But here’s myexperience:
- It’s a dead-end job. Simply put, if there’s no room for growth in your current organisation, you will probably be exactly where you are in ten years’ time. If that thought mortifies you, it’s time to quit.
- You need more money. As I said earlier, there’s no shame in that. As engaged as we may be in our jobs, never forget that it’s just that — a job. Our services are being directly exchanged for cash each month. So if your job isn’t meeting your financial needs, it’s time to quit.
Conversely, here’s when you should NOT quit:
- You don’t have a better offer. Unless you’re under duress, lateral movements rarely demonstrate growth and are of no help to you. I have never quit a job without having a better offer — not just in terms of gross pay, but my job portfolio as well.
- You’re not qualified enough yet. Gaining as much educational and professional experience as possible primes you for a better offer. If you’re having trouble finding offers, you might need to dedicate some time to enhancing your hard and soft skills. Don’t just rely on what you learn at work — attend seminars, subscribe to relevant publications, do whatever you can to become the expert in your field.
Quitting your job, like any other reward-promising endeavour, is a risk. But if you’re smart about it, job-hopping can lead to fast-tracked professional growth and more opportunities down the line than you can fathom in your cubicle.