Most people by now can name friends and colleagues who have changed jobs over the last year, and we have all become familiar with the many accounts of how the "great resignation" is changing the employment landscape, so it may be tempting for many people to join the trend and seek out something new, too. But the enthusiastic focus on changing jobs is beginning to shift and put spotlight on the potential downside of job switching: job-switching regret. Employment trends over the last few months suggest that falling too quickly into the job-switching mode has led to a sizeable amount of regret for a lot of workers, many of whom have even returned to their old positions after only a matter of months in a new one.
With over 11 million current job openings and a national quit rate of almost 3%, it is not surprising that workers are reevaluating their current jobs and wondering if there is something better out there. People are more likely to make the most solid career decisions, however, when they are thinking clearly, not acting impetuously, and when they are looking into changing jobs for the right reasons. In the excitement to embark on something new—or to get out of an unsatisfying position—job seekers sometimes make assumptions about a new job or overlook the warning signs. Before ditching an old job for a new one, asking some specific preliminary questions particular to the national trend going on right now might prevent feelings of regret later:
Does this new job offer enough flexibility?
The pursuit of more flexible work is one of the top reasons people are changing jobs right now. The widespread adoption of remote work over the last couple years has introduced millions of office workers to the benefits of working from home, setting more of their own hours, ditching the commute, and integrating more family and personal time into their week. Not many people want to give that up to return to full-time in-person work, making jobs with remote and hybrid flexibility the most desirable and most sought-out among job hunters. If the pursuit of more flexible working conditions is compelling, it is important to evaluate the location and scheduling flexibility of prospective offers, even when the salary is higher. While a higher salary can seem enticing at first, a worker may learn quickly that he or she misses the flexibility to which they’d become accustomed, leading to feelings of restlessness and resentment.
Is the new job a good fit for my skills and goals?
Ambitious professionals tend to welcome challenges, but feeling prepared and qualified for a job is absolutely essential to meeting those new challenges. Many of the workers who leave new jobs after only a short time complain that the job was not a good fit for their skills or that the responsibilities were not as advertised. As many companies desperately try to fill large numbers of job openings simultaneously, and are often competing with one another, it is not uncommon for new employees to feel that they were overpromised or that a position was mischaracterized to generate and maintain interest. While no one can guarantee a candidate a perfect job fit, job candidates should use the interview process to learn as much about the position as possible and ask probing questions about the specific responsibilities, commitments, and degree of autonomy so that there are no disputes later about what is expected.
What are the advancement opportunities?
Research over the last few months has shown that lack of advancement opportunities is one of the top complaints among job-switchers. A Pew Research Center survey about job resignations, for instance, found that 63% of respondents cited lack of advancement opportunities as a reason for resigning. If a job seeker is not in a rush to get out of his or her current job, taking the time to research companies that offer greater opportunities for advancement will preclude the possibility of outgrowing a company in only a few years. The best resources for learning about companies and the potential for advancement often lie with peers in your field who can share industry experiences.
Did I give my current employer an opportunity to match?
Many of the new hires by companies over the last few months are actually previous employees who are returning, so-called "boomerangs." Giving the current employer an opportunity to match the salary or terms of a new job ensures that a worker did everything possible to improve the current position and make it competitive with the new offer, thus reducing feelings of regret later. It also makes the decision-making process clearer, as a candidate can contrast the two jobs more accurately knowing how much the current employer is willing or able to compromise.
Workers who are dissatisfied with their current salary, job responsibilities, schedule, or company culture are in a good position right now to branch out and find something new. But changing jobs requires a lot of effort and adjustment, and the decision may affect other people besides the employee, such as a spouse or children, so it should be considered carefully. Investigating new opportunities and making the switch for the right reasons cuts down on the possibility of regret later.