No matter how good or bad the employment situation is right now, if you aren't happy in your current job, then you may think it's time to ready your resume and start looking for opportunities with other companies. Before you take the plunge and switch jobs in this volatile economic and employment climate, there are some things you should consider.
TUTORIAL: Financial Careers
Will the New Job Have a 90-Day Probation Period?
Many new jobs come with a 90-day probationary period, during which the new employee is on trial. Sure, the employee is paid for the work they do during this period, but they have few if any benefits and can be fired during that time, if the company doesn't feel the relationship will work. In many states, it is actually beneficial for a company to fire an employee during the first 90-days, rather than giving them more time to test the relationship, because the employer will not be charged if the terminated employee asks for unemployment benefits. (For more check out Job Hunting: Higher Pay Vs. Better Benefits.)
If your new potential employer does institute a 90-day probation period, it's important that you have a back-up plan in place, before you make the switch. Either have savings to rely on while you search for another job or have a plan that can get you employed elsewhere, quickly.
Is the New Job In a Growing Industry?
Some job transitions aren't necessarily meant to be lifelong commitments, but stepping stones to bigger and better things. Choosing a new job in an emerging industry can be a great way to get your foot in the door of the industry early, before competition gets stiff and you need additional education and skills to gain a competitive edge. However, if you choose a dying industry, you could be creating a career setback. That's why it makes good sense to research trends within the industry you are considering.
When Do Benefits Begin?
As mentioned above, new employees often have to wait for benefits such as sick time, health insurance and disability coverage to kick in. Additionally, you may not be able to get FMLA through a new employer, until you've been employed for 12 months (not necessarily consecutively).
Before you decide to leave your current employer for a shiny new gig, make sure you will be able to pay for COBRA or an individual health insurance policy until benefits kick in, so you can avoid breaks in coverage under HIPAA guidelines. It's also a good idea to have a little bit of savings set aside for supplemental sick time coverage and, if you have a family member who could need you to miss work in order to provide care, to wait until the family member's health is more stable before you leave your current job. (Find out what you can do to avoid a financial meltdown when there's a medical emergency, see How To Avoid Medical Debt.)
When Will You Be Vested In Your Retirement Plans?
One easy way to give yourself a raise with your current employer, is to max out your retirement plan contribution so that you get every penny offered in the employer's match. However, you only get to keep that money when you have been employed long enough to be fully vested in the plan. The same goes for employer contributions to profit sharing plans. Before you go to a new job, find out how long you have until you are vested and what you stand to lose if you don't wait until then. It may be worth the loss to get the job of your dreams but then again, when you look at the hard numbers, you may decide that it's not.
The Bottom Line
So much of life, and your career, is about risks and rewards; the decision to switch jobs, no matter how shaky the economy, is no exception. Measure all the risks and sacrifices that you must endure in order to make the switch, and offset them by the possible rewards, both tangible and intangible, in order to make the safest and most well-thought-out decision possible.