Plan Your Career Change While You Are Employed

“The frog in gradually boiling water story…” In a strange moment of conversational serendipity, Mark blurted out what I was about to say.  Mark had come to office only due to the urging of his wife who had heard about me from a friend. She was concerned for both his emotional well-being and the financial well-being of their family. Mark lived in Hamden, CT but worked for a national manufacturer. He was a sales manager who either telecommuted or drove up and down I-95 for client visits throughout Connecticut and parts of New England.

“Every year, it has become a little bit worse.” Mark said before he mentioned the ill-fated frog. For those unfamiliar with the reference, frogs can be placed in room temperature water and then not notice slight increases in water temperature until it is too late. Mark felt the same way about both his company and his job. The bonuses had shrunk every year in the last decade. The recession couldn’t really be blamed any more. His team had been reduced. While Mark had the title of “manager”, he was a full member of the sales team that he was managing as he had as many accounts as did those under him. The company had moved away from a defined pension plan five years ago and also from contributing to worker’s 401(k).  Other benefits had similarly dried up. Mark’s contemporaries had mostly left through some combination of being laid off or jumping a sinking ship.

Mark had stayed. He admitted that he was paralyzed with fear. Searching for work seemed to be an acknowledgment that he might be out of work soon.  Mark had been with the company since 2002. Prior to joining the company, he had bounced around in some sales jobs in local Connecticut businesses. He felt fortunate to be with a national company and was clinging to the hope that he could stay with the company forever. Mark was 40 years old when we first met for a career counseling session.

Simply because one of college classmates is in the same general industry as Mark, I know a bit about the massive restructuring and consolidation going on within the sector. “You have two choices: you can plan the next stage of your career while you are employed or you can wait until you are unemployed.”  Normally, I’m more kind and tactful but Mark needed to be pulled out of the water before it was too late.