Better pay, that extra $20,000 certainly would come in handy. Better conditions. Better prospects. Mmmm, you can just about taste the sweet life. But should you make the jump?
If you are in a stone-carrying job with no prospects of career progression, the simple answer may be YES! On the other hand, if like the majority of professionals, you are seeking a fulfilling lifetime professional career, some more detailed thought is required.
Don’t be lazy
Simply leaving for any short-term pay increase is the “lazy” option, compared with first building a case to justify it.
One of my juniors was once poached by a larger firm in a bigger city. He told the other professionals of the significant pay increase he would receive in his new position. However, he was not prepared to work the long hours to justify the increased pay and so he did not see out the year. The reality is that he could have been paid the same amount at our firm, had he first produced the work to justify it.
Beware of ridiculous pay offerings from those who do not know you. You must remember that increased pay in professional services is directly linked to increased performance expectations.
Any firm takes a chance in employing you. They extend themselves to take you in, provide you with training and support, and expose you to their clients for your benefit. It goes both ways, and professional integrity involves repaying the faith.
You have to be committed for the long haul. In his book, The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck advocates the advantages of the ability to delay gratification. The hard yards must be done before the reward is received. There are no shortcuts and no getting something for nothing. Do not take your eye off the prize by looking at moving to a competitor instead of being committed to your current firm. Where possible, you are always better off fixing any deficiencies at your existing firm in preference to shifting firms where the grass often only appears greener.
Our responsibilities are to generally service the client, the firm, and then ourselves – in that order. In serving the client, we serve the firm. In serving the firm, we serve ourselves. Provided that the client and the firm treat us with respect, these responsibilities are never in conflict. A termination in our employment from the firm would neither serve the client nor the firm well. We must therefore ensure that our professional needs are met to avoid such a disaster.
It is always best to talk in terms of the firm’s interest, rather than your own interest at the firm’s expense in ensuring that your needs are met. For example, there is nothing more career damaging than indicating that you can get more pay elsewhere with a view of leveraging a pay rise.
Even if you do get the pay rise in the short term, your lack of commitment to the firm will be remembered. It never ends well when you advertise to the firm that you are not committed to your practice or your firm. If you are prepared to walk away from the practice, you are building on the basis of money alone. You are actually doing your firm a favour.
Compelling reasons to leave
Our ability to stay motivated as a professional depends upon our firm choice. We are all individuals and all firms are different. It follows that not all individuals and firms form a perfect match.
Professionals who are well-matched with their firms will do well and thrive, whereas professionals who are poorly matched will always struggle. Recognising a misfit earlier is best so that corrective action can be taken. We should always remember that we choose to work at our firm and there are always other options.
The two essential ingredients for professional success within the firm are: (1) the firm environment; and (2) the job itself. If you have exhausted all avenues to obtain these ingredients at your current firm without success, then a quick exit is a good exit.
It is always unpleasant when any relationship ends badly. Both parties enter the relationship with the best of intentions, and both share in disappointment when it doesn’t work out. But life goes on.
Money should never be the determining factor in whether or not to leave an employer. In fact it should often be the last factor to consider. A professional’s worth is easy to calculate and is based upon performance, which is largely up to the professional.
The number one way to increase your value to your employer, and your remuneration, is to increase your productivity.
It is as simple and as difficult as that!
Bradley Postma is a principal at Cullens Patent and Trademark Attorneys. He is also an author of the book Junior to Partner in Under 5 Years.