Is there a perfect amount of time to stay in a job? Is 3 years enough? Is 5 years too long? Deciding when to leave is a complex decision. The time, energy, and passion we put into earning a living is considerable.
As a Head of Comms, you are paid well, your role is seemingly secure, you are well respected. You have the ear of the CEO and the board; you have handled a huge volume of work and reinvented your skill set several times. Where next? Are you ready to explore a new trajectory on your career path? Amid ongoing economic instability and outgoings continuing to increase, is now the right time to leave a stable job?
A frequent request of comms professionals is to work for an established, ‘stable’ or growing company. But are those jobs as stable as we think? Just look at the swathe of recent unpredictable layoffs (Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, X, to name but a few). We also know there are several London comms agencies who are quietly letting go of a small number of comms professionals as they look to reduce costs, not having met their financial targets.
It’s a complex decision for a Head of Comms as it may have taken months, perhaps years, to secure their prized and sought-after role. However, in 2023, we have met many professionals who are now re-evaluating their careers. While it may feel safe to just stay put, there are plenty of organisations in relatively better stead than companies that are actively laying off employees, and they are latching onto this opportunity and hiring the talent being laid off. Surprise, surprise, this may well be a golden opportunity for you too!
Something’s telling you that it’s time to move on. Perhaps your passion and sense of purpose are dwindling? There comes a point in every job when you may start to feel that you are ‘painting by numbers’ and the excitement and challenge have waned.
Have you thought about what you want to do instead? How do you go about looking for a new role, and how long will it take to find one?
Look at yourself in the mirror and examine the signs that you may be approaching the sell-by date of your role. Ask yourself these questions:
If you have answered ‘yes’ to more than half of these questions, you may want to read on. So many people move into a Head of Comms role and then stay for 5, 10, even 15+ years. They have finally ‘made it’; perhaps it took a long time to find the role in the first place, so they have no intention of going anywhere quickly. There’s also a huge reservoir of things that have gone well over the years, people they love working with, teams that they’ve helped build, and company successes they were part of. We find that many Heads of Comms and their teams take on all sorts of responsibilities – external comms, internal comms, stakeholder engagement, financial comms, ESG comms, social media, digital marketing, content creation. You name it, they can turn their hand to it, or find someone or an agency to support them. For many, being a Head of Comms is an important pillar of identity, and that’s hard to walk away from.
It can be scary leaving a ‘safe role’; it can take a huge leap of faith. However, having been in recruitment for a very long time, I can tell you this, very few roles are really ‘safe’. It only takes a new CEO to come in, a company take-over, or a change of heart about the value of comms and things can change overnight.
When talking to Heads of Comms grappling with this intersection of identity and frustration, there are four ‘deep-dive’ questions I ask them to help with making the decision:
According to a recent poll we carried out on LinkedIn, 58% of senior comms professionals think that the perfect amount of time to stay in a job is 3-5 years; 23% think 1-3 years; only 2% up to 1 year. Yet we meet so many people who have been in their roles for much longer than 5 years.
Our Annual Salary Guide from 2022 found that the main motivators to move jobs are career progression, development and learning; money follows on from these two, but it doesn’t top the list by any means.
If you have been in a company more than 3 years, your pay may be slightly behind market rate. Your employer may not have made any hires in comms recently and therefore doesn’t know the market rates. Perhaps your HR team isn’t doing annual benchmarking. Base pay can stay stagnant for years or increase only marginally. This can mean that your salary falls below market rate.
When we look at all the comms professionals we placed during 2022 (agency and in-house), we helped our candidates get a 16% uplift in their base salary on average. This is certainly more than most annual pay rises.
Change is good for you and for the team who will bring in new ideas and ways of working.
If you’ve been in the same spot for years, striving to get that seat on the board, expressing your desire for professional development and asking for a pay increase, but things haven’t changed, and it feels as though no one’s listening anymore, it’s probably time to move on. Another employer might be able to provide all these things for you.
Any job can become repetitive when you’ve been doing it for a while. While repetition doesn’t necessarily mean boredom or exhaustion – it can put you in a comfortable groove – if you regularly feel uninspired and unengaged, you could benefit from a change.
If your company or industry is struggling, it could be another sign for you to venture to pastures new. You can’t always control the forces around you. Situations like a declining industry or a company that can’t make ends meet are clear signals to look out for yourself and seek a more stable work environment. A good comms professionals can change industry sectors and it can be fun to learn a new industry.
Fear can easily hold us back so take a deep breath and take the first step and update your CV. That exciting Director of Communications role could be just around the corner.
And finally… the Career Advice section of our website shares important things you should know to make your job seeking more targeted, efficient and rewarding. We hope it’s helpful!
For a free download of our full Annual Salary Guide 2023, click here.
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The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email: email@example.com.