I loved my job and had no thoughts of leaving. But a funny thing happened when I went on maternity leave; half my 30-person work group left for a competitor. The news came as a shock to me, even in my rather emotionally removed state. I hadn’t seen the change coming and felt a mixture of betrayal by my ex-colleagues and insecurity about my place in the remaining group. If others had chosen to leave, my job must not be the perfect career launch pad that I thought it was. I also began to worry about the future success of my group. How were we going to recover and how long was it going to take?
My company went into triage mode to ensure that the remaining officers didn’t similarly exit but I still had an empty feeling when I returned to work. I knew there could be a great opportunity for those of us who stayed, I just wasn’t emotionally attached to the new environment; it wasn’t the same place. I felt rudderless and needed to gain some control over my career.
The timing was good when a friend soon called me about a position with her husband’s firm. I began to interview with them. The more interested I became in the outside position, the more comfortable I became with my new environment at work. The outside job would be a promotion, which helped me understand my professional value for the first time. My confidence grew and I arranged to meet with my manager to discuss my career. I eventually cut off discussions with the outside firm but the benefits from interviewing were invaluable. My talks distracted me from the negatives of my current situation at work and gave me a feeling of control over my destiny. That control translated into a new confidence which prompted and enhanced my career discussions with my manager.
The interviews also inspired me to openly discuss compensation issues with my boss since I gained a feeling for my true market value. They also gave me perspective on my professional value in the industry and available alternatives should I want to access them in the future. Lastly, the discussions gave me a contact in the industry that I could call later in my career if the opportunity for a change were more appropriate.
I learned not to be afraid of testing the waters during my career. Even if you love your job, you may find another you love even more. If not, your career will likely still benefit from the experience.