Friday, February 3, 2012

Answering Reader Mail: Seek Greener Pastures or Stay Put?

Since my last email to you, I have found an executive assistant position. I am very happy with my position, responsibilities, opportunity for learning and the support from all my colleagues and managers, but there is always the idea of greener pastures and higher salaries lingering in the back of my mind. I still have recruiters seeking me out for higher paying positions. While I do feel like I may not have enough experience for this particular role I am interviewing for, they are seeking specific skills that I do possess. I am bilingual and have experience in financial analysis/reporting and database management. A 20% increase in salary seems too good to pass up. Do you have any advice on what I should also consider? I'm not sure if a significant salary increase is a good enough reason to leave my current position I've been at for only 3 months.

Dear MJ,

So nice to hear an update after about 2 years! Thank you for being a loyal reader! Aside from what I will write below, you should consider re-reading my post from July 2011 titled The Realities of Job Hunting As a High Level Executive Assistant. If you're being headhunted now, you'll continue to be for the rest of your career. Will you constantly review your job and life every 3 months when a new opportunity comes up? You should know exactly what you are aiming for 5 or 10 years down the road and have an idea every 2 years or so of where you should be and how to get there. This means saying no to 99% of stuff. And a side note, one of the best quotes I've read recently is from Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg, "The most important career choice you'll make is who you marry. I have an awesome husband, and we're 50/50."

I'd be curious to know in what ways you may not have enough experience for the particular role. I can only go off of what you state in your email. So you should think long and hard of the risks vs the rewards at your current job versus a new job. In this economy when most people don't have a job, be grateful you got offered the current one. Most recruiters and companies want someone that is "cookie cutter" and will fit right in. It's hard enough to acclimate someone to the teams, culture, and new office, they don't want to also teach you how to do a brand new job. That's the part they are paying you for and hope you deliver on Day 1. And if you're stating you lack some of the experience, if it is key, it may mean you are the weakest candidate of 3 or more applicants. Recruiters always have to bring in a set amount of interviewees for a job. If you're supporting a CEO and you've only had experience with VPs, be warned that most people are hired for their smarts, but are fired for their hearts. Translation: Soft skills trump hard skills any day. Managing a CEO vs a VP is mostly about being able to interface and interact with a wide range of people - investors, board members, the press, general public, celebrities, public and government officials, and stakeholders. As you assist someone higher on the corporate ladder, it's also about an exponential increase in stress, deadlines, workload, being on call 24/7, and overseeing others. If your lack of experience is learning a new data base, expect an adjustment period and hope that you can hit the ground running and that you won't feel overwhelmed in the process. Some hard skills have a a learning curve that is understandable if the software is proprietary, etc. Think about your areas of improvement and how seamlessly you can fit in to this new role that pays more.

Higher salaries usually reflect a higher set of skills, more experience, and special knowledge. If you don't have that experience and they realize that gap within a year of you being at the new company, your chances of staying on are slim. Same goes for if you don't get along with your new boss or anyone on their team. If it was for a shorter commute, a much better learning/growth experience, or some other very exceptional and qualitative reason, it might understandable, stressing on the word might. If you will be put through weeks of interviewing with 10 different people, keep in mind your current company might catch on or you won't have a flexible schedule to interview on a whim. The new company may also ask if you're pretty happy why you are even interviewing. If you say it's for the money, it looks bad. It will also be hard to negotiate a salary because you're stating upfront how little you make which may also make them think you don't have the proper experience. I'm also not sure how long you were at your last company, so keep in mind how you will explain the 3-months on your resume. You don't want to appear as a job hopper.

The problem with leaving after 3 months is you didn't give your current company a chance. 3 months is very short. Typically one year will give you full picture of the role and 2 years will really help you acclimate and become a mind reader of your boss. If you're only doing it for the money, it might not be a good reason. Once you make $40k a year, studies show your level of happiness doesn't go up remarkably until you start to make "jet money." (You're so rich you can afford your own private jet.) $40k seems to be the baseline between poverty and struggling to affording a nice life. Brainstorm how much 20% is worth. Will your commute and stress level be worse that it's not worth the 20%? Will you be in a new industry that you have no interest in? Will you put that 20% to good use in paying off loans, saving for an emergency, or just buying stuff you don't need? Are you getting a better total compensation package (stock options, health benefits, free education, 401k, overtime pay)? And if you leave your current company and it doesn't work out at your new one, you can never go back. However, if you say no to this new company out of loyalty to your current one, they will always try to recruit you away and will keep you in mind. Afterall, people want what they can't have...

I hope I was of some help. Feel free to keep me posted and have a great weekend!

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