The cost of changing jobs
Thursday, January 30, 2020
What is the cost of changing jobs? Make no mistake, there is always a cost involved that has nothing to do with salary.
Gone are the days when the norm was to work one job at one company until retirement. We have a much more mobile workforce with more opportunities, and people change jobs often to avail themselves of perceived advantages, better pay, and better work-life balance.
But sometimes when you change jobs, the benefits don’t materialize as you’d expected, and regrets ensue.
So, the challenge is to accurately evaluate whether the perceived payoffs will become reality and if they’re worth the cost of changing jobs.
Early in my career, I accepted a position in management with a great salary. I thought this was an ideal job. Wrong.
I didn’t fully assess the cost of this employment. I hadn’t studied their mission statement, which would have flashed a neon warning that our values were not aligned and would become a daily, stress-filled battle. The job was a full hour’s drive away in gridlock traffic, which consumed two hours of my “leisure” life. To get to work on time, I had to drop my infant daughter at the babysitter’s by 5a.m., and it was dark when I picked her up at night; she thought I was the babysitter and the babysitter her mother. Then there was the cost of childcare.
When all these negatives finally converged, I realized this “great” job cost too much in terms of quality of life and the quality of relationship with my child.
So when you consider accepting a new job, think of how it will affect your home life. Take off the rose-colored glasses and think brutally. Does it require too much time away from family? Money is no substitute for rewarding family relationships, so don’t assume that your family wants things more than it wants you.
What about your quality of life? Are you going to be spending much of your off hours sitting in a car in traffic? What about the cost of commuting—for example, fuel and time? Even if you’re keen on audiobooks, that still limits any time you can spend with friends going to the theatre, to a concert, to a pub, to the bowling alley. Is this job worth the cost of impairing your social network?
Don’t diminish the cost of leaving familiar co-workers—even the annoying ones because there are always more annoying co-workers in a future job. One co-worker has the latest jokes; another has the latest grapevine news, and there’s the one who always makes you smile with his music trivia. There’s also the familiarity of a routine—mundane things like where and when you take your breaks or eat your lunch and with whom.
There’s a loss in leaving familiar co-workers and routines behind. This is why “comfort food” is comforting—because it’s familiar and filled with memories. When you leave a job, you’ll be out of your comfort zone, learning new things, acclimating to new people, establishing new routines. Until the new becomes old, there will be a cost to pay for the loss of familiarity.
And, of course, leaving your comfort zone can make you anxious. How well do you cope with anxiety and the stress of the unknown? Don’t underestimate the mental resources needed to cope successfully with your new challenges. And again, the stress you face will likely impact your family as well.
If a higher salary is the reason for your change, then how much more will you reasonably earn? Not just the salary on paper, but the real cost? That supposedly great job early in my career? After I’d calculated the costs of fuel, time, babysitter, special clothes, I figured I was sacrificing all that was important to me for only a few hundred dollars per month! Not worth it.
How many more hours per week will you be working to earn this higher salary? On a per hour basis, is it as much as you’d expected?
I remember one co-worker changing jobs because he’d been offered two dollars more per hour, which sounded like a hefty pay increase to him. What he did not factor in was his total pay and benefits he was exchanging. He didn’t consider that he was contracting to work fewer hours per month, and in the process, lost his medical benefits.
The upshot was that his two dollar an hour pay increase actually caused him to lose pay to the tune of $500 per month! Not a smart financial move. So if pay is a major consideration in your next career move, make sure you compute actual take-home pay, not a theoretical pay raise.
It’s not that you should never take another job. The upshot is that you need to fully consider all the costs of changing employment and analytically decide whether the cost is worth the rewards.
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