I recently left my job at a major technology company to go elsewhere, and I’m often asked why.
It certainly wasn’t because I didn’t like my previous role. For the last eight years I worked at a company I loved. I loved the people I worked with and the products we developed.
It also wasn’t because I was forced out or felt that I didn’t provide value. Over the course of my eight year tenure, I helped to grow the business to over $800 million in revenue.
So why say goodbye?
Our approach to career changes is different than it was a generation ago, but even in an environment of rapid shifts and changes, career moves should not be made on a whim. The key is to make the decision to move for the right reasons and to choose a new company or role that enables you to move forward towards clearly defined goals.
Below are a few points I found critical in evaluating whether, where, and when to make the move.
No one can deny the impact coworkers have on your working environment, especially the executive team. The CEO specifically sets the tone for the whole company, and it’s important to make sure you are in sync, not only with their vision and professional skill, but also with their leadership style.
Give preference to leaders that have management styles you’d like to replicate or you feel you can learn from. Personally, I’ve always valued working for people who can balance professional effectiveness with kindness.
By prioritizing not working for jerks, I’ve been able to learn first-hand how to make sure you get results without sacrificing how you treat your colleagues.
Obviously, a company is more than just their CEO or executive team, but it’s important to surround yourself with people you want to learn from and who possess traits you admire.
Equally important is understanding how much power you will have in your new role, and I don’t mean power in the traditional sense.
How much will you be empowered by your employer, boss, or supervisor to take initiative and run with an idea or a project?
We all need a certain degree of direction or guidance, especially when starting somewhere new, but when considering that move, look for a place that will empower you to discover and develop your unique contribution. It’s important to find a home that values your skillsets and has faith in your capabilities.
Another important factor to take into account is timing. Being good at something is not reason enough to carry on doing it. Momentum is only positive if it’s carrying you in the right direction.
If you’re not learning and growing then you’re stagnating. Moving forces you to jump out of your comfort zone and into a place where you must develop new skills and leverage old ones in new ways. When you’ve reached the ceiling, it’s time to move to a bigger challenge.
It may seem counterintuitive to put yourself at an initial disadvantage, but in order to make a move truly worthwhile, actively look for a steep learning curve.
Putting yourself in situations where you have to start from scratch (even if only in certain small areas), can be infinitely rewarding. For the company you join, you bring fresh eyes and a new outlook, and as an employee you gain the opportunity to learn a new set of skills.
Joining a company for personal growth alone is not a winning solution. Expectations are often high, and it’s important to show value quickly. Your unique perspective and capabilities are in part a result of every job or role you’ve ever had, and it’s important to be able to make use of that background.
Learning from a new role is a huge plus when making a change, but it’s equally critical to find a place where you can immediately leverage the skillset you already possess.
Company culture might be the most difficult thing to define on this list, but it’s also in some ways the most vital. People looking for a new place to work often seek out successful, growing companies, and it’s a savvy move to hitch your wagon to a company that’s doing very well.
But it’s also important to be wary of a place that is solely results-oriented, where management only cares about the bottom line. Eventually, that kind of attitude will burn through employees instead of empowering them to become more creative, productive, and ultimately valuable workers.
In today’s smartphone world, your work can follow you home, to dinner, and into bed. Particularly in the startup world, you’ll be working long hours to help a company grow. It’s equally important that the company does the same for you. You’ll end up a better, happier worker with more to contribute if the company you work for factors in fun and decompression time to balance out the always-on quality of today’s working world.
Seek out a company where there are spaces–even small ones–dedicated to non-work activities, where you can decompress and refresh your creativity. That’s the kind of company culture where everyone wins.
—Marc Liebmann is president of ironSource US Operations.