Career Resources

Is It Time to Change Jobs?

Today's healthcare executives must honestly evaluate the professional and personal costs of their current jobs.

Reed Morton

Restructuring, cost-cutting, and downsizing are just a few of the many factors reconfiguring the formerly linear career paths of today's healthcare executives. In the 1960s, the typical healthcare executive expected to work for two or three different employers over the course of his or her career-and most likely, solely in acute care. Today's executive not only moves from employer to employer but from field to field-and often, with great success and satisfaction.

This newfound mobility can be simultaneously threatening and liberating. Admittedly, job instability can be financially, professionally, and emotionally stressful. Yet timely change can bring new opportunities-financial, professional, and emotional-as well. Sometimes to seek gains and other times to avoid loss, healthcare executives are increasingly asking themselves if it is time to consider changing jobs.

Evaluate Your Motives

Numerous factors influence the way an individual considers this question. Serious concern can stem from external issues, such as changes in the marketplace, or from more personal concerns, such as a change in one's family unit. Professionally, we must constantly assess the opportunities provided by our current positions. Although changing jobs on whim is inadvisable, inaction in the face of potentially career-stunting developments is an equally unattractive prospect.

Consider the following compelling issues to help you decide if it is time for you to move:

  • Organizational stagnancy. Is your organization managerially, clinically, and technically lagging, making you feel trapped and preventing you from working on the cutting edge? Have you maximized your skills in your current organization, leaving no more to learn and no opportunity ahead?
  • Organizational instability. Have formerly profitable divisions become threatening to your company's bottom line? Is pressure for merger, restructuring, or realignment placing your current job in a precarious position?
  • Compensation. Do you feel that your paycheck accurately reflects your responsibilities and the value you contribute? Are your superiors willing to renegotiate?
  • Vision. Are you philosophically in synch with your employer? Can you embrace new programs, directions, products, or marketing plans? Do you receive the cooperation you need from your coworkers?

Although many corporations try to cultivate a clear separation between one's work and personal life, most recognize that such a split is nearly impossible to achieve. You must honestly evaluate the personal costs of your job by examining these points:

  • Balance issues. Work is not everything. Are there other "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunities that you cannot let slip by? Are you experiencing "burn out" from an unrealistic workload or courting "road rage" with a taxing commute?
  • Personal development. Have you earned a new credential (academic or professional) that might qualify you for a more prestigious position? Do you want more opportunities to learn, travel, or volunteer?>
  • Quality of life. Do you have a challenging child or an elderly parent who needs more of your time? Are you or a member of your family convinced that relocating to another part of the country would improve your quality of life?

Weighing Your Options

Once you have addressed these issues, do you stay or go? One of your most important resources when making this decision will be your network of professional and personal contacts. Too many executives err by thinking of networking only as part of a campaign to find a new job. Ongoing networking, however, can be an invaluable resource for comparison and assessment. An objective outside source can often clarify uncertainties regarding the viability of your position and your organization. Such information can also provide guidance as you assess your marketability and help you decide whether you should move on or renegotiate your current status.

Networking will be crucial in gathering the data to make an informed decision about the personal, professional, and economic satisfaction one can expect to derive from switching positions. Use your network of colleagues who have expertise in other facets of healthcare to help you gauge the marketplace. If you work in a hospital setting, seek the experiences of executives in integrated delivery systems, long-term care facilities, or insurance companies. You may know what kind of business they do, but how they do it might be quite different-and more or less appealing-from your initial perceptions.

Time to Go?

When you do decide it is time to go, you must manage your leaving appropriately. It is as important as ever to avoid burning bridges when making a change. Sound references are an important consideration in hiring decisions. With more frequent position changes as part of our career patterns, leaving on good terms and staying in contact makes good sense and preserves good feelings.

This article is reprinted from Healthcare Executive.