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Q&A: When to change jobs and should I be a manager
Readers submitted questions and answers
#1 I have been in my job for 6 years. I love what I do, but I feel that I could be learning more at this stage (this was my first job). When do I know I should be changing jobs?
This is a great question and one that I come across often. When to change jobs is a very personal thing. I think first of all it is important to ask yourself why this is coming up. Then check a few other signals: are you learning in your job now? Is this job enabling the life I want to live?
Why this question is coming up seem clear in your case: you think you could be learning more. The jobs I loved the most in my career were the ones where I was feeling challenged most of the time (vs frustrated or bored most of the time). Being challenged is a proxy to learning for me: I will be doing things I haven’t done yet, working with people who question what I am doing, and resolving interesting problems.
The other issue is about the life you want to live. This can mean a lot of different things to different people. As an example, it can be that you do not feel fairly compensated for your job and your current salary level does not allow you to do things you’d like to do in your life. It can also be that the lifestyle that comes with your job is one that you dislike. Perhaps you’re traveling too much or maybe not enough and this is important to you.
Six years in a single job is a good run. I would double check that feeling that you could be learning, and ask yourself if you feel plato’ed in your current situation. If the answer is yes, I would then definitely see what else could be out there for you.
#2 I love my job. Quite often though people say that I should become a manager because I am so good at dealing with people. How do I know if I should become a manager?
I assume you already have a good portion of “dealing with people” in your current job, hence the comments. Is that the part you love the most? If you’re a specialist (individual contributor) perhaps is that part of the job that you really love.
Being a manager is career change. If today you work as an engineer and part of the job is to lead people, imagine that as a manager you will do zero engineering work, and most of your days will be handling the people side. I made a post a while back about the role of the manager, you can read it here. The further you advance in your career, less and less of your work will be connected to what you do today, and more and more will be connected to managing people, teams, organizations or companies and that’s a completely different job, no matter how much people might think it is the same with a little extra.
The one thing to consider though is that becoming a manager isn’t a irreversible change. Depending on the company you work at, you can even intentionally set things up so you can try it out, and if you dislike it, then go back to what you did before.
Once I spoke to an engineer who was considering to become a manager because she wanted to be more respected and have more impact. That’s not a great reason to become a manager because a manager doesn’t get respected by default or even have impact by default, and if you do your job badly the negative impact you have then can be even bigger than the positive.
I once had a terrible past manager tell me I should work in marketing, because I was so good at communicating with people. I always saw myself as an engineer and that advice made no sense to me. Needless to say I never moved to marketing, and I have zero regrets for ignoring that advice. You need to trust your gut a bit sometimes.