Job Transition Considerations

Recently an individual contacted me looking for some assistance in making a job/career change. Despite having experienced quite a bit of professional success with their current employer, they described being frustrated and locked in a “dead end” job with no potential for upward growth or movement in the company despite the significant revenue they brought in. The person told me that they were looking to better themselves personally, explore their professional options and perhaps even do something different.

This is a great first step – the realization that you aren’t satisfied in your current position and want to find a better, more challenging, better paying and rewarding career opportunity which is better situated to your personal and professional interests. However, in learning that the individual has a working wife and newborn, I was quickly reminded that there is so much more to making a professional decision of this magnitude when there are others involved in your life such as a wife/husband and children.

Clearly, in this depressed economic climate being unemployed has a huge impact on family dynamics and that is obvious to most of us. But what might not be so obvious to us is that so does job transition, or career change from one position to the next. In Newton’s Third Law it is stated “that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” and this is definitely true with career changes as well. “Change can be great” but the impact that career change and transition has on families is often not considered in advance of making a professional move and that may have unintended, negative and even serious consequences.

Case in point, many jobs these days have a travel (domestic and international) component to them… some more significant than others. Taking a new job with a travel requirement, one with an increase in the amount of travel time required over your previous position, definitely has the potential to affect family dynamics especially with young children at home. In a two parent family, a traveling spouse shifts the burden for all childcare responsibilities to the non traveling spouse and that often proves challenging when children are often going in two different directions to activities at the same time. Add to that: helping with homework, laundry, grocery shopping, feeding the kids, dealing with school related and behavioral issues, impact on their own job/career and “life gets very complicated” for someone who is suddenly now a “single parent. The “travel factor” might be less impactful to spouses who aren’t working or where children are older and more self sufficient but it’s definitely a consideration in any job change situation.

Aside from travel however, another significant issue is the “stability factor” and that is a major consideration in our current economic climate. Having a job and abandoning it for a job in the same field, or a completely different field or location has its risks especially if you suddenly discover that the new company, management or position “isn’t what you bargained for.” Stability is such an important factor in this economy that at Professional Development Strategies we never encourage anyone to make a professional transition without a well thought out plan, the development of a long range career vision and an impact assessment if there are family considerations. Doing so, without the advance planning, vision and family impact assessment may be “a recipe for disaster!”

Impact on family also comes in the form of geographic location. A move associated with a new job has a significant risk factor as there are house sale, house buying and corporate relocation assistance issues (which may or may not be offered in this economic climate). Aside from those financial issues, which can have significant impact, children are faced with attending new schools, leaving old friends, making new ones and even climate differences from one location to another. All of this can be quite traumatic on children who are accustomed to their friends, lifestyles and schools and may not be that interested in moving simply because “Mom or Dad got a new job.”

Making a move because you’re unemployed is one often a completely understandable necessity, but doing so when you’re gainfully employed is more of an elective which may not be so easily accepted. Taking a new gig when you’re paying for the move out of your own pocket is another topic altogether but even if there’s relocation assistance offered one must carefully consider the financial impact of that situation before agreeing to do so.

These types of professional considerations are significantly less impactful when you’re “footloose and fancy free” (single, aren’t accountable to anyone but yourself, can pack everything you own into your car and don’t have many responsibilities). There’s a time in life when that’s completely awesome but the reality is that the responsibilities associated with married life and a family change the dynamics of the job and transition decision greatly. That’s not to say that people with families don’t do it successfully… but it does mean that having a well orchestrated and executed job transition plan, which considers the impact to others in your life in advance of making the decision, is imperative.


Dan Draz