Career Brakes: Knowing When It’s Time To Go


Q: I have been with my company, a Tier 1 brake supplier, for seven years. I am getting restless. Is that a good enough reason to leave?

Knowing when to seriously think about leaving your employer is a very tough call to make. So much goes into deciding, especially if you are half of a two-career family and have kids. You aren’t in this alone.

Obviously, if you live in a place where other companies are easy commutes, you know you have options. But here are some things to consider when you are simply trying to manage your career better.

How has your professional development been?

If you feel stuck, you probably are stuck. Has your boss or the head of the unit been there a long time? Is there much movement in the ranks? If you work for a company that is not changing your assignment every 18 months to two years, then it is a company that is not driven to develop talent.

How is your company structured?

Some companies in the supplier space are structured very flat. Sure, you may be able to move laterally, but maybe there isn’t that much opportunity to move up into higher-paying leadership positions. If this is the case, you may well need to move to a larger supplier or an OEM in order to get into a company with real robust ladders.

Experiencing different cultures makes you valuable

When applying for jobs, or being recruited, experiencing different cultures and gaining exposure to different management philosophies can make you more valuable. Spending time at a few Tier 2, Tier 1 or OEM companies will give you a new perspective and can bring a lot of new ideas.  This also can be really valuable if you ever to decide to return to a former employer. Provided, of course, you exited on good terms.

Silos can limit your experience

Is your company built with silos? Many are. If you are an engineer, for example, and the company has different product and systems groups where there isn’t much cross-pollination, then that is going to limit your growth and maneuverability.

What are the economics of the company?

Is the company you work for in a long-term financial predicament? That is probably going to impact a lot of things: customer business; opportunity; bonus size, the performance of stock if you have stock options; morale. Working through tough times will make you a better manager, but the education and experience aren’t going to be that valuable or rewarding if management is struggling for answers and isn’t seeking dynamic solutions.

It’s not all about the green, but…

I would never recommend changing jobs simply for higher pay. Job satisfaction and working with other high performing colleagues can be the most rewarding. But we obviously work to get paid so what is your perception of the compensation at your company? Do you receive regular salary increases? Does the company pay above or below the market? From what I have seen, even average performers who move to other companies tend to receive higher compensation much quicker than if they had stayed with their current employer for several years. Call it the “risk” premium that is earned. Because switching jobs is a risk and the reward needed has to make sense in order to make the change. Not a guarantee, of course, simply an observation. 

Have a question about managing your career within the brake industry? What about attracting and hiring the best talent in the marketplace? Send Brian a note at [email protected].

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Brian Hagman is President of Hagman Search Group and Founder/Publisher of The BRAKE Report, an online media platform dedicated to the automotive and commercial vehicle brake segments. Brian’s mission is to inform, engage and connect the most avid members of the brake community.