I’m currently in a position I’ve never found myself in before: struggling to decide if I should even entertain the idea of applying for an attractive job when I am fairly satisfied and secure where I am.
Some context: My education and first few years of professional experience were in media and communications, but I ended up joining the corporate world as a lowly help-desk tech at Company A, a large, global manufacturer, for better pay and benefits.
I did pretty well, but that success didn’t translate to a meaningful promotion. After nearly four years at Company A applying to internal positions and being rejected for lack of experience, I started to look outside. I found a media-related role with Company B, a smaller but stable business. I’ve thrived here thanks to a wonderful manager — the best I’ve ever had by far — and a team environment where I have been able to grow a lot in just a few years.
That is where I am right now: I have a role with a lot of freedom and projects, great professional development, good work-life balance, and a manager whom I see as an outstanding mentor. Some things could be better (benefits, pay, flexibility), but it’s nothing that makes me complain. There’s been no reason to look at the grass on the other side, and I didn’t, until now.
I received a message from a recruiter back at Company A about a position there, this time in my field, that honestly sounds like a perfect fit for my skills and current experience. I know Company A already, my salary and benefits would be bigger, the role would have more direct influence and a global scope, and I’d see many work friends who are still there. But I would be going into the unknown regarding my manager and team (and in a rather sketchy economy), and I’d be abandoning a manager and team I’m eternally grateful to for giving me the shot I needed to jump-start my career.
Am I being stupid? Should I just continue to grow where I am and pay no mind to the opportunity? Or is it fine to take a stab at it and get the experience of applying to something without anything to lose?
First and foremost, gratitude is a lovely emotion to have, but it’s no reason to stay in a job. When your manager and company gave you a shot at the position you have now, they weren’t doing you a favor; they hired you because they believed doing so would serve their interests. You owed them your best work in exchange for their faith in you (not to mention your salary), yes, but it sounds like you’ve provided that. You’re not obligated to stick around for longer than is in your best interests. In fact, a good manager (like yours, as you’ve described them) wouldn’t want you to do that; good bosses expect and even want you to move on eventually, when you’re ready to take on something new. In fact, one of the joys of managing people is seeing them grow into new opportunities even when it means losing them from your team.
So please don’t think about this question in terms of what you owe your current manager. You wouldn’t be abandoning her if you left; you would be moving on to the next logical step in your career after offering several years’ good work, which is the normal course of events.
That leaves the question of whether it makes sense to pick an unknown (the new job) over a known quantity you’re pretty happy with (your current one). You will need to choose at some point, but you’re not there yet. You won’t need to answer that question until Company A offers you a job; at this stage, you’re just contemplating interviewing. If there’s any part of you that’s intrigued by the opening and thinks it could be a good fit, it makes sense to take the interview and learn more. There’s no point in preempting the opportunity before you’ve had a chance to talk with them.
Go on the interview, meet the manager, talk through the role, and get more information before you let yourself feel any pressure to decide one way or the other. In fact, one of the nice things about interviewing when you’re not desperate for an offer is that it’s a lot easier to conduct a clear-eyed assessment of a job’s potential fit. You should always consider it part of your role in interviews to interview your interviewer right back, to ask hard questions and really think critically about whether the job is one you want and would thrive in, but that’s a lot easier to do when you would be perfectly happy to stay where you are. So you’re in a good position!
Plus you have an advantage in knowing the company and still having friends there. A new job will always come with risks (the manager could be a nightmare, the role might be poorly thought through, the hours atrocious), but you’ll be able to mitigate some of those risks by using your connections to get the inside scoop about the team, the manager, and the role itself. Your contacts are much more likely to give you the dirt than they would be with someone they didn’t know.
Once you’ve interviewed and talked to other people there, you’ve reached the point where it makes sense to begin measuring the new job against your current one. You’re likely to find it a lot easier to do that after you’ve done that information gathering because you’ll have substantive, concrete data points informing your decision. There will still be some uncertainty in making a move — that’s always the case when you change jobs — but all this research will leave you well equipped to decide.
And keep in mind that there can be risks to staying where you are, too: Your skills or your wages could stagnate, your manager could leave next month and someone less wonderful could replace her, your company could have layoffs, and on and on. That’s not to discount the security of already being in a job you’re happy with — or the risk of leaving one you like for one you could end up unhappy in — but it might make you feel less trepidation about giving new opportunities genuine consideration when they come along.
Find even more career advice from Alison Green on her website, Ask a Manager. Got a question for her? Email email@example.com.