Career Moves – When is the right time?

Posted by Harper Stephenson Posted at November 21, 2022 Posted in Work and Career

(Written by Mark Whitaker – Director, Harper Stephenson Search)

Being in recruitment, I have been able to see plenty of career moves. Some are transformational career wise, as they mean career progression, joining a great company at just the right time, and getting the opportunity to work with a wonderful team who are doing interesting things. Other career moves don’t work out – perhaps the role wasn’t “as sold”, perhaps the company is undergoing change (mainly negative) and the friendly team you met during the interview process, might not actually be that friendly when you start working there 🙂 So, what can you do to ensure a career move works out, and what preparation can you make to ensure the you give the move the best chance of success? Here are some thoughts.


Firstly, this may seem basic, but when should you think about a career move? If there is a problem, you can in many cases resolve it. An example is lack of career progression (although, this can also be applied to wanting a higher salary). A question I ask when candidates say they lack career progression in their current role, is what have they done about it so far. In some cases, the reply is nothing – just that the person feels that the company alone should initiate things here. Worse, sometimes people feel the only way to get the promotion is to actually leave and look for a counter-offer (that’s another story!). What is the solution here? Again, its fairly simple, in that an open and honest conversation with your current employer about your role, your career aspirations and expectations and what the future could look like can mean you have a clear path forward. It also shows your current employer that you are ambitious and that you want to move forward with your career. Hopefully, your employer will then work with you, and you will gain that clear pathway forward. If they don’t, or if they don’t keep to promises made, then this creates an disconnect, and shows why a career move may be the best option.

Work Atmosphere/Culture

Another time when many look for a career move, is when you are in a poor/toxic work atmosphere. This may be due to either management or the team around you, but common things that happen here are highly stressful workplaces, unclear expectations and a blame culture. Especially, if you have just moved roles, this can be difficult to work through, but ultimately if you are not happy (and worse, if you dread coming into work each day) this will inevitably lead to lots of problems.

Company Performance

Perhaps your present company may not be performing well, and maybe there have been lay-offs or talk of lay-offs. You may not see your current role as having the stability that you may need. Similar to the point regarding career progression, a good way to handle this situation would be via good communication. By keeping talking with your managers and team, you can gain a good idea as to how widespread the issues are, if your role might be affected, and also if you are seen to be a strong performer (if you are seen to be a strong performer, there is obviously less chance your role might be affected). Even if you keep the lines of communication strong however, and if you are seen as a strong performer, then if there are lay-offs and instability your career progression may also be affected.

Changes to your role

What also if your role changes, or if your role is not “as sold” during the interview process. This can be challenging, but part of it does lead back to having good conversations during the interview process itself. This may mean asking for additional conversations with other team members if you are unsure about anything. Its important to note here, that many candidates feel there might be a “set” interview process, for example 2 or 3 interviews, and that cannot be changed. A career move is so important however, that I would say if you do not get the information you need, you should certainly ask to arrange additional talks, or talks with other team members, to get the clarity that you need. There is nothing wrong with doing that, and it shows your seriousness about the role, and that you are preparing well. If you are already in the role, and get asked to do some different things in your role, the same things apply – keep the communication lines open, ask questions, gain clarity and ensure you talk to several people about expectations, reasons for making changes and also the affect this might have on your future career in the company.

Passively looking

In recruitment, it cannot be ruled out that a job opportunity just happens. Perhaps you are happy in your current role, and you are not looking but you get a call, a message or whatever, putting a new opportunity in front of you. Do you take that call, or answer that message?

A note on quick career moves

I often get asked, how many career moves do you need to make before its considered “job-hopping”. This might be the wrong way of looking at it, as its not necessarily the number of moves (although the more career moves you have in short period of time the more questions that might be asked) but the reasons behind those moves. Especially, now with Covid and also recent developments, people seem to spend less time in companies and move more. Going back in time of course, many people stayed with one company their whole career, and 5 years was considered a quick move! Things have changed however, and it is more common that people will make more career moves. Something that is looked for in a CV/Resume though, is how long have you stayed in a role, what commercial achievements have you made, have you been promoted, and why then did you move to the next role. You need to ideally show progress in the commercial achievements & promotion sections and have a good reason for making the next career move. The more you have answers and evidence that are strong on the above, the better it will be for a potential new employer to understand your career development and ambitions more.

Overall, a career move can involve a few factors. Seeing how career moves have worked out for people over my time working in recruitment, the key thing I would advise is that you think very carefully on why you are making the move, and if there is anything you might be able to do to change your current situation. That may mean talking with your current company first before making decisions, and it may mean thinking about what you want from a move – is it more money, a better career opportunity in terms of progression, more interesting work, or a strong working culture. These are examples, and there may be more, but the more clear you are in your head before you make a move about what you want, the more chance you will have to make the right career move.

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