Leadership and career

The 4 Biggest Mistakes Career Changers Make

By July 15, 2016 No Comments

Remember the old movie, “The Seven-Year Itch?” The “itch,” of course, refers to the burr-under-the-saddle feeling we supposedly get when we’ve been married just shy of a decade.  Change starts to look appealing, and some people wander off in search of greener pastures.

That’s enough clichés. What I’m referring to here, of course, is an “itch” you might feel in the workplace.  Maybe a different assignment or a different employer would solve all your problems.  Or, maybe all you need is a new desk chair to give you a fresh perspective.

My point is, a drastic change is sometimes too…drastic.

As an executive recruiter, I want the professionals I work with to make a change if it means they will be more fulfilled or more suitably challenged in the new environment. But I caution them to be cautious – and to avoid making these career change blunders:

Don’t Leap Without Looking (Back)

You already know not to make a change without doing due diligence about your new employer. But you also must look at your current situation and ask yourself about your role in it.  Is there something salvageable there – and does it depend on you?

Maybe repairing a broken relationship or acquiring some new skills would result in a sense of renewal and re-commitment. If you haven’t tried to make your current situation better in some way, you might be angry and reactionary and, therefore, more likely to make a bad career move.  In the workplace, as in life, you can’t run away from your problems (you tend to take them with you!).

Make Sure You Can Afford This

You’re about to enter a period of transition, especially if you are making a move into a new field or industry. Make sure you’ve planned accordingly and have kept in mind the possibility of a “last hired, first fired” scenario.  If you’re being relocated, make a realistic estimate of what the financial impact will be, both short- and long-term. Don’t let financial anxiety cloud your early months and years in your new role.

Ask Yourself the Right Questions

What is the main thing you’re trying to accomplish with this change? If it’s just to get away from the Boss from Hell, then go back and re-read item number one.  If your itch goes a little deeper than that, then fully explore the urge by responding to soul-searching questions such as:

  • What skills and talents do I most want to use?
  • What business goal or outcome do I most want to be part of?
  • What kind of people am I most likely to be successful with? Same question re: environment, company culture, geographic area, etc.
  • What personal values most need to be supported through my work?
  • What kinds of challenges do I relish?

If you don’t take the time to mull over these questions, you could get distracted by the shiny aspects of a new opportunity and overlook the fact that it’s really not a great fit for you. Perfect example: lots of people consider themselves to be bold and independent and therefore think they should go into business for themselves.  In reality, the slice of humanity that’s truly suited for successful entrepreneurship is relatively small.  I’m not saying don’t take risks.  I’m just saying know who you are before you do it.

Embrace the Pace

Is something this important worth rushing? Don’t expect the process of making a change to be completed without significant time, effort and commitment.  I know you’re eager, but it’s probably not going to happen overnight.  The price you pay for impatience could be leaving behind something that was salvageable or waking up to realize you should have held out for something better.

As I said, I talk to professionals every day who want out of their jobs. I invite you to set yourself on a path to exploring options – but do it with care and with your eyes wide open.  You – and your career – deserve the very best.

Want a great resource if you’re in the job market? Corporate Compliance Insights’ weekly e-newsletter offers GRC news and views, an events calendar and job postings. Click here to sign up. 

Note: if you’re on the other side of this equation and have an open position to fill in your organization, contact me today to learn about my network of governance, risk and compliance professionals!  


Maurice GilbertMaurice Gilbert is Managing Partner of Conselium Executive Search, which specializes in placing Compliance Officers and Legal Counsel for clients in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Maurice is also CEO of Corporate Compliance Insights, a worldwide publication devoted to governance, risk and compliance issues. Maurice can be reached at maurice@conselium.com or maurice@corporatecomplianceinsights.com.

Published by Conselium Executive Search, the global leader in compliance search.  

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