To Stay or Leave — Your Industry

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

May 27

One of the most searched subjects that bring people to this site: knowing when to leave your job. I have a few articles on the subject – To Stay or Leave and To Stay or Leave Part II. Also, an Exit Strategy for Your Position is critical to your sanity.

But none of those articles is a model you can follow to decide to stay or leave. Instead, they ask good questions. Questions are often enough, but I thought it worthwhile to provide more information when we are asking to stay or leave.

There are four levels of information you need to examine:

  • Your Industry
  • Your Company
  • Your Manager
  • Your Personal Criteria

I’ll do an article a day on these subjects.

To Stay or Leave – Your Company’s Industry

No one works alone from the rest of the team, department, or company. Also, every person’s position is part of an industry and every company is with an industry. While being in a particular industry is neutral, your industry affects your long-term capacity to excel – or stay employed.

Take, for example, my last company industry: mortgages. As most of you are aware, the subprime mess is having a direct influence on companies and their ability to survive. Regardless of a company’s ability to survive, the likelihood that layoffs will now occur within the industry is much higher than during the boom times (or, “stupid times,” depending on your viewpoint…). Even if you work for the best company in a particular industry, the company will not be immune from what is happening in other companies – your competitors.

This collective interaction impacts your decision to stay or leave. Or getting laid off.

Your position’s industry

Another critical impact is your position’s industry. While your company may be in the consulting industry, you work in technology within your company. Your position’s industry is technology. Both your company and position’s industry need examining for trends to help in a leave or stay decision.

One of the laments of today’s pundits, for example, is the lack of graduates with Computer Science degrees here in the United States. Yet, the technology industry has relentlessly outsourced tech positions from the United States to other countries. And other countries have outsourced their technology to other countries. Is it any wonder that people in college looking for degrees shun Computer Science?

Both of these – an industry in a cyclical downturn and outsourced positions within an industry – are good examples of broad-brushed warning signs that it may be time to leave.

And if you were in both the mortgage industry and worked in technology as I did, it should come as no surprise the chance of layoff or outsourcing to drive down costs would potentially happen. I was fully aware of this risk, but it shows how an industry can help you decide to stay or leave. Or have that choice forced on you.

An important consideration: if your entire industry is falling apart (for example, the mortgage industry), then leaving your company for another in the industry has limited upside. At best, you will hold on to a job because you are now with a stronger company. Leaving one of the 150+ now bankrupt companies for a stronger company in the mortgage industry is an upside!

At worst, you will lose your internal network, your personal brand while proving it at your new company, and the people who best know your work who could maneuver you into a safer position in your old company. When the industry is going to hell in a handbasket, there is a constricted operating space for a Cubicle Warrior.

I use industry information as an early warning system. If the industry is expanding, profitable and growing, I’m OK. If the industry, or my position segment in the industry, is shrinking, starting to lay people off, and the chatter is all about costs instead of revenue, my early warning system goes off.


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

  • Great info Scot.

    I left my first ‘industry’ in 2004 when I stepped out of the wireless telecom space. My education was in wireless telecom…and I worked for almost 10 years in that space but the time had come to move on.

    I found my adopted industry to be monotonous and boring….but that was mainly my own fault for becoming very specialized in that space. I had allowed myself to become branded as an RF Propagation Software person….that’s all I came to know.

    I realized that it was time to leave in 2004 when it became clear that my entire career would be in the RF space and most likely in the RF Software space….not bad but not exactly what I wanted to do.

    So…I stepped out completely….and it hurt a bit 🙂 My network was almost worthless (if I’d built a proper network, it wouldn’t have been) and it was difficult to show how my experience would benefit other industries. But..I did it and I’m glad I did.

    Great article for people in the same boat that I was in.

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  • Robyn says:

    My industry left me when my company closed our local office and the dot com bust made employment a buyer’s market. The laundry list for tech writers started to resemble an IT manager’s experience with an ability to write thrown in. A couple of years ago I realized I’d never get back in, but it’s freed me to explore other territory.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Both Robyn and Eric bring up good points here.

    When I originally thought and then wrote this post, I was looking at the industry as a way of deciding to change jobs and an early warning system for the job itself — but not the industry.

    Eric and Robyn point to looking at the industry to leave it altogether, an added point that I missed in my posting.

    Nice going.

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