the Fear of Change
Presented by The David Anthony Group
By Bill Radin
©1998 Innovative Consulting, Inc.
Career Development Reports
You and I are lucky -- we live in a world
rich in possibilities. Besides being able to select from an unlimited
variety of occupations, we also have the right to find happiness in our
Naturally, everyone has a
different definition of job satisfaction. For example, the job that seems
fine to you may not be of much interest your best friend, and vice versa.
The fact that you live in a free
society gives you the privilege to decide your own fate. You have as much
power in determining where you work as you do in selecting a spouse, a
home, a car, or a pet. Your choice of jobs really depends on how much you
want to shape your career, and how much effort you’re willing to spend to
make the necessary improvements in your life.
If you’re considering a job
change, it’s probably for one of three reasons:
 Personal -- You want to change your
relationships with others. For example, you may have discovered that
you’re incompatible with the people in your company. Perhaps they have
different interests than you; or they communicate differently or have
different educational backgrounds.
 Professional -- You’ve determined
the need to advance your career. For example, you’ve found that you won’t
reach your professional or technical goals at your present company; or
that your advancement is being blocked by someone who’s more senior or
more politically oriented; or that you’re not getting the recognition you
deserve; or that you and your company are growing in different directions;
or that you’re not being challenged technically; or you’re not being given
the skills you need to compete for employment in the future. Or you’ve
simply lost interest in your assigned tasks.
 Situational -- Your dissatisfaction
has nothing to do with personal relationships or career development; it’s
tied to a certain set of circumstances. Maybe you’re commuting too far
from home each day, or you’re working too many hours, or you’re under too
much stress; or you want to relocate to another city (or stay where you
are rather than be transferred).
Whatever your personal,
professional, or situational reasons may be, you’re motivated by the
desire to improve your level of job satisfaction and make a change.
A few years ago, when I packed
up my bags and moved from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, my decision had
nothing to do with my career or the people I was working with. My
dissatisfaction was purely situational. I wanted to trade a high-stress,
long-commute, manic routine for a more livable, slower-paced lifestyle.
(And by making the change, I became a statistic in a larger demographic
The Complete Job Description
In order to translate your needs
into results, let’s begin by evaluating your present position -- it’s the
first step in any job change.
You’d be surprised how many
people are unclear about what they actually do for a living, and the way
their jobs make them feel.
For example, whenever I
interview a candidate, the first thing I ask for is a complete job
“So tell me, Bonnie, ” I begin.
“What is it that you do at your present company?”
“Gee, Bill, I thought I told you
already. I’m a systems analyst.”
“All right, fair enough,” I
reply. “But would you please describe to me in detail the following two
 What are your daily activities? That
is, how do you spend your time during a typical day; and
 What are the measurable results your
company expects from these activities? In other words, how does your
supervisor know when you’re doing a good job?”
Often, I discover that people
are hard pressed to come up with solid answers about the specific nature
of their work. They’re not exactly sure about their job responsibilities,
and their lack of focus results in stress or counter-productivity.
While a little bit of stress may
is natural in any job, a steady diet of it can destroy your incentive to
work. In fact, a recent study indicates a direct correlation between a
person’s lack of task clarity and their level of job dissatisfaction.
Try this exercise: On a sheet of
paper, write a complete, current job description in which you list your
daily activities and their expected, measurable results. This exercise
will not only help you clarify your own perception of your work; it’ll be
useful later on when you begin to construct a resume and communicate to
others exactly what you’ve done.
The Positive Power of Values
Once you’ve described all the
facets of your job, the next step is to understand the relationship
between what you do and the way you feel.
I use the term values as
a descriptor of personal priorities; as a yardstick to help you:
• Understand what types of work-related
activities you really enjoy;
• Determine which goals or
accomplishments are important to you and give you a feeling of
• Evaluate whether your personal
priorities are in balance, or in harmony with your job situation.
Although it’s fairly simple to
decipher which daily tasks you really enjoy, the task of scrutinizing your
personal priorities can be tricky. That’s because there are often factors
unrelated to your job that can come into play.
To demonstrate the importance of
values in our decision-making process, consider the following:
• I witnessed a job-seeker turn down a
position because he was an amateur athlete and he didn’t like the air
quality where my client company was located.
• Not long ago, I placed a candidate who
was a long distance runner. He took the position largely because his new
boss was also a runner, and would understand his need to take off work
twice a year to run the New York City and Boston marathons.
• I arranged for an engineer to take a
job with a company that offered him a demotion, since being highly visible
within his current employer’s department made him feel uncomfortable.
• I helped a radar engineer change to a
lower paying job. The reason? The engineer was a member of the 1988
Olympic rowing team, and the new company was near a river.
• I once found an excellent job for a
chemist who was also an avid taxidermist. At the last minute, the chemist
turned down the job, which would have required his relocation from Utah to
northern California. The chemist explained that the climate in California
was unsuitable for stuffing ducks.
Later, I discovered the
duck-stuffer’s true reason for turning down the new job. He had a hometown
mistress, and he couldn’t convince her to relocate to California with him.
The point is, we all have highly
personal motivations which guide our career choices.
The Job Description Makeover
Now that you know how to clearly
define your values, the next step is to describe the changes you’d like to
make in your new job.
To illustrate, listen to the way
Pat, Craig, and Neil talk about their respective situations, and how they
take their values into consideration:
Pat: “I want to have more
autonomy where I work. That would mean having a flexible schedule, working
different hours each day at my discretion, without having to ask
permission. I’d be able to leave early on Thursdays to take my daughter to
her acting class, and in return, I’d be willing to spend several hours
working at home during the evening and on weekends. With my personal
computer, I’d have access by modem to the database in my department, and
I’d be able to make a significant contribution to the workload, any time,
day or night. Most importantly, I’d be evaluated solely on my performance,
not by the number of hours I’ve punched on a clock.”
Craig: “I’d prefer to work closer
to my home. I didn’t think the amount of time I spent commuting was very
important when I joined the company two years ago, but now it really wears
on me to sit for an hour a day in traffic. It’s not only nerve-wracking to
deal with all the crazy people on the freeway; I could be using the
commuting time to be with my family. The reduction of stress would improve
my attitude, and give me a higher quality of life. If I could find a job
similar to what I have now within a few minutes of home, that would make
Neil: “I’m interested in my own
career advancement. If I stay at this company too much longer, I’ll work
myself into a corner technically and never achieve my potential. The
people here are nice, but I don’t share their ‘lifer’ mentality. Look at
Ed, my boss. He’s been here 17 years, and although he’s a really solid
engineer, he’s not familiar with any of the latest advancements in
technology. He’d have a hard time finding another job in this market, and
it makes me worried, knowing I might someday be in his situation. Besides,
I won’t be promoted until Ed retires. So I’d better leave soon, while I’m
still attractive to other companies. That would give me the salary
increase I deserve and the opportunity to learn new skills with people who
are upwardly mobile and aggressive like myself.”
Now it’s your turn. As any
advocate of goal-setting will tell you, the more specifically you’re able
to communicate what you’re looking for, the faster you’ll be able to get
what you want.
Naturally, you’ll want to be
realistic with your expectations, and think like a grown-up when
considering your gripes. I’ll never forget Barry, an engineering candidate
I interviewed a few years back, who came into my office with a suicidal
look in his eyes.
“Bill, you’ve really got to help
me,” he moaned. “My job is ruining my life.”
“Your situation sounds pretty
serious,” I replied in my most empathic tone. “How long have you felt this
“Gosh, I don’t know, but I’ve
got to make a change. My personal life is awful.”
“How do you mean, Barry?” I
“I mean I’m never at home, and
don’t have any time to spend with my wife and kids. My company makes me
“Well, I can see how that might
make you feel torn between your work and your home life. What can I do to
“See if you can get me a job
where I don’t have to travel all the time. I just can’t stand the
separation from my family,” he pleaded.
My heart went out to him. “Sure,
Barry, anything to help. But first tell me something. Exactly how often is
your company making you travel?”
“Oh, it’s terrible,” he cried.
“They make me stay overnight in a hotel at least one night every three
Your Job Changing Strategy
Someone recently asked me
whether I helped people get “better” jobs or jobs that made them happier.
My answer was that the two were
Of course, if you were to look
at your career from a purely strategic point of view, I could give you
four good reasons why it makes sense to change jobs within the same or
similar industry three times during your first ten years of employment:
 Changing jobs gives you a broader
base of experience: After about three years, you’ve learned most of what
you’re going to know about how to do your job. Therefore, over a ten year
period, you gain more experience from “three times 90 percent” than “one
times 100 percent.”
 A more varied background creates a
greater demand for your skills: Depth of experience means you’re more
valuable to a larger number of employers. You’re not only familiar with
your current company’s product, service, procedures, quality programs,
inventory system, and so forth; you bring with you the expertise you’ve
gained from your prior employment with other companies.
 A job change results in an
accelerated promotion cycle: Each time you make a change, you bump up a
notch on the promotion ladder. You jump, for example, from project
engineer to senior project engineer; or national sales manager to vice
president of sales and marketing.
 More responsibility leads to greater
earning power: A promotion is usually accompanied by a salary increase.
And since you’re being promoted faster, your salary grows at a quicker
pace, sort of like compounding the interest you’d earn on a certificate of
Many people view a job change as
a way of promoting themselves to a better position. In most cases, I would
However, you should always be
sure your new job offers you the means to satisfy your values. While
there’s no denying the strategic virtues of selective job changing for the
purpose of career leverage, you want to make sure the path you take will
lead you where you really want to go.
For instance, I see no reason to
make a job change for more money if it’ll make you unhappy to the point of
distraction. Not long ago, I placed a project engineer with a company that
offered him a $47,000 a year job. Later, he told me that the same day he
agreed to go to work for my client, he’d turned down an offer of $83,200
with another company. The reason? The higher offer was for a consulting
position with an aerospace company in Detroit -- a job that would have
taken him down a road he felt was a dead end.
To me, the “best” job is one in
which your values are being satisfied most effectively. If career growth
and advancement are your primary goals, and they’re represented by how
much you earn, then the job that pays the most money is the “better” job.
Your responsibility when
contemplating a change is to evaluate what’s most important to you.
Whether you focus on a single aspect of your job (like Pat, Craig, and
Neil did), or on the overall nature of the job you’d like to improve,
The more clearly you connect your values
with your work,
the greater the potential for job satisfaction.