My e-mail correspondent was worried about making a bad career move. Since it is unlikely that people starting out in the gear trade today will work for one company their entire career, worrying about making a “bad move” is valid. If you change jobs or employers to advance yourself, you will occasionally have regrets.
In 43 years I have worked for eight different companies, including my own. There were days when each and every one of them seemed like a career mistake, and there were days when each seemed like a dream job. Each assignment taught me something that I have applied elsewhere, so none of those jobs was a complete waste of time.
My biggest regret in moving around was the toll it took on my family. Fortunately my wife came from a family that relocated frequently and my now adult children considered the moves good preparation for “modern life.” All of us learned to adapt to new surroundings and make new friends quickly.
Coming back to my correspondent’s question of, “How can I tell if it’s going to be a bad career move?” the worst moves I made were made under the pressure of “needing” a new job. When you have bills to pay you can sometimes overlook warning signs. Leaving a “leaking ship” for a “sinking ship” is understandable when the situation is not clear.
My young friend pretty much answered his own question though. The way to avoid bad career moves is networking. Whether you need a new opportunity, are stagnant where you are, or aren’t sure if an opportunity is worth pursuing, the “answer” starts with networking.
Alumni groups, LinkedIn contacts, and friends in the industry are all good sources of opinions on your situation. Be careful to protect yourself from “word” getting back to your current company. I once learned my boss was trying to trade me to a customer for a “favor to be named later” and wasn’t sure what to do. It was awkward to discuss my career goals with him under those circumstances but eventually my work responsibilities were rearranged to better use my skill set.
The worst career move is leaving a job you enjoyed because you were afraid to ask your employer for a job you could love. Be the best gear guy or gear gal you can be and you might be amazed at what doors open up for you.