August is Career Exploration Month inside Glassdoor, with a series of events designed to open new doors for our employees. We’re on a quest to help people everywhere find jobs they love and part of that is making sure that all Glassdoorians are equipped to manage their own careers.
For some, the best place for them to grow is at Glassdoor. For others, their best next step will be outside — a different company, a return to school, or time out for family or travel. It all depends on individual priorities and how each person views their opportunities to learn and advance their careers.
Some people know early on what they want from their career. For some, it’s a title: the top job in their profession, like CFO or CMO. For others, it’s recognition, like a patent or award. For others, it’s less about the work and more about what the work gets them: a secure retirement, good work-life balance, a stable income, getting to live in a desirable location, or being their own boss.
For most of my own career, I didn’t have a clear destination in mind. I was happy as long as I was learning and didn’t set my sights beyond the next step up. This was great for much of my early career, but eventually, I reached a point where my growth slowed and it seemed like what I was good at and passionate about was not aligned with what I had to do to excel in my role. That was a low point for sure. In hindsight, that was a pivotal time in my career. After a lot of reflection, research and networking, I figured out what I wanted to do next and got deliberate about going after the experiences, relationships, and education that furthered my goal.
Once you have an idea of where you’d like to take your career — whether it’s toward your next goal or toward your ultimate career goal — then you’re ready to explore options for getting the experience and making the connections that will propel you forward. Which leads to this question: is it better to try to grow at your current company (bloom where you’re planted), or pursue opportunity elsewhere (uproot yourself and find more fertile soil)? Changing companies can sometimes give you a bump up in pay, but is it always the easiest way to get ahead?
There are some advantages to jumping to a different company. There are benefits to having a portfolio of skills and experiences — working in a different geography, different industry, or different-sized company can round you out professionally. Even if you stick to a similar space, at a new company you’re likely to get:
- Instant Credibility. It can be hard to reinvent yourself when you have long-standing relationships, and that can make it a challenge to fully step into a new role at your current company. This is the experience that a lead data scientist told me about — over the course of several years she elevated her role through education and alliances and got to work on some high-profile projects… but she was aware that many people still saw her as a data analyst. As an outside hire, you have that credibility right out of the gate.
- A Reputation for Innovation. They might be old ideas to you, but what you bring from your last company is fresh to your new teammates. It’s pretty great to go to a new company and be the person who is bringing innovative solutions and getting your team unstuck or helping them get to the next level.
There are also advantages to targeting your own company for your next job.
- Insider Perspective. You have an insider’s understanding of business priorities and changes. You will likely hear about job openings and new positions before they are posted. The key to tapping into these opportunities is to let people know what you’re looking to do next and make sure that your professional brand is memorable and trusted. Get to know the recruiting team and your company and ask them to let you know when jobs are coming up. Most applicant tracking systems let you sign up for alerts, so you can be notified if your target job is posted.
- Relationship Currency. You have established relationships so people will be more willing to take a chance on you when you want to try something new. This is especially important if you’re trying to pick up skills and experience in adjacent roles, or when you want to convince your company to let you do something completely new. At a previous company, I worked with a content marketer, a solid writer who knew the industry well, who spotted an opportunity to grow the social channel. He started experimenting and getting good results, and was able to make a case for creating a role for himself as Social Marketing Manager.
- Access to Key People. You don’t have to do a ton of research to figure out who runs the team you want to move to. Take every opportunity to get to know what people do and how they got into their current roles, and make sure they know about your career aspirations. Not sure how to get started? Invite a coworker to coffee and tell them you admire something they’ve done or said, and let them know that you’re interested in learning more about their field. People are usually generous with their time in this situation.
So, to put yourself in the best position to grow your skills and experience and move into your next job, should you stay or should you go? You are really the only person who can answer that question. Think about what you could do at your current company and what you could do with a fresh start, and start working on your career plan!
Marca Clark is the Director of Learning and Organizational Development at Glassdoor. She has over 10 years experience in organizational change, talent management, culture change, internal communications, and leadership development.