One of the best things about being a recruiter is the opportunity to chat with a range of talented Public Affairs, Policy, Corporate Comms, and PR professionals at all stages of their careers. The industry is social by nature, making it rather simple to have casual coffees and conversations regardless of whether or not someone may be actively looking for a new role. As we are all politics junkies ourselves, it’s fantastic to chat about new projects, campaign strategies, and celebrate recent achievements of those in the industry. However, a common affliction known as ‘stagnation’ often triggers job hunting in those from the entry level all the way through to CEO. If you are feeling similarly, it may be time to start thinking about other opportunities.
A feeling of stagnation in one’s career or daily work, whether it is fleeting or lasting, can have a serious impact on career and personal satisfaction. Without a sense of excitement and challenge, it can be difficult to fight the magnetism of the duvet in the morning and battle a crowded commute into the office. Perhaps the feeling of restlessness has cropped up in the midst of Parliamentary Summer Recess but by Party Conference season you are buzzing with activity, engaged, and excited by added responsibilities and new campaigns. It is important to think carefully about your career growth from a business perspective, respecting your own emotions yet not allowing them to cloud judgment.
Candidates cite a variety of reasons when discussing the possibility of leaving their current position or the desire to make a move. Sometimes it is a simple logistical issue such as a lengthy commute or a personal need to re-locate. Other times it may be a more complicated decision. A sense of uncertainty in the future of the company itself, whether that means insecurity on a larger scale or the erosion of a position or department, is often very difficult for potential candidates. We spend so much time at work, building up wonderful close-knit relationships with lovely colleagues and employers, that it can be easy to unknowingly risk our own career security out of fear of looking disloyal. If you are unsure about the future of your employer, I would highly recommend exploring new opportunities. A sense of loyalty is excellent, but sadly we do often meet candidates who have not looked further afield, and a few months later have been left in the lurch by being made redundant.
When stepping back to assess your career, there are a few questions to ask of yourself:
Have you added anything new to your CV within the past six months?
Whether that be new responsibilities, notable achievements, or other demonstrable growth. If the answer is ‘no’, it may be time to explore the market.
Are you feeling fulfilled and/or satisfied with the path your career is taking?
‘Fulfilment’ can have drastically different meanings for all of us, but the bottom line is that you are deriving happiness from the work you are doing, and feel that you are making or on the way to making an impact if you wish to do so.
Are you valued and able to make a contribution to the work of your organisation?
Another reason people have for leaving is a general sense of being under-valued and unable to make a genuine contribution. This can come from bureaucratic red-tape, or be an issue with team structure. Along the same lines, are you feeling stretched and overworked?
Looking towards the future and the upper echelons of your organisation, do you see the possibility of a space for yourself?
I often hear from candidates that they have ‘hit the ceiling’, even at a more junior level, because there just does not appear to be space for growth.
Do you feel able to have a frank conversation with your manager or employer about your career path?
This is also something for managers and MDs to take note of, as having regular conversations regarding the future of team members within the organisation can give a major boost to morale. People want to know that there is room for advancement and fight that sense of stagnation.
Are you feeling ‘pigeon-holed’ by your current workload or sector?
Candidates often say that they fear continuing in a specialised area (i.e. healthcare, planning, financial services, and so on) because they worry about being less ‘marketable’. However, it is important to remember that you are simultaneously fine-tuning highly transferrable skills, building valuable relationships with external and internal contacts, and have the opportunity to attach your name to campaigns, policy, or organisations which can exponentially advance your career and sense of fulfilment.
Of course, even for the best of jobs and the cheeriest among us there will be days when we have doubts and want to draft up the resignation letter. After taking a breather and having a think about answers to the above queries, it may be time to seriously reassess what you are actually gaining from your workplace. It is crucial not to forget your own advancement – which is of course not limited solely to a higher pay check or more prestigious title – while helping your organisation to progress and prosper. It can be very helpful to write down a set list of what you’d like to achieve on the long and short term, using that list as a malleable benchmark and reference point. This list can also be discussed when having a chat with your manager or organisation to see if any changes can be made. The change and uncertainty of the situation can be daunting, but the gratification that comes with a new opportunity or an enhanced role in your organisation is well worth the risk.