When it comes to the security clearance workforce, the word churn comes to mind – today’s professionals are on the move, and job hopping is the norm. Recruiters over and over again are noting that the days when job hopping was a negative on a resume are over – now job tenures as short as six months can be common, and stints over three years are sometimes unexpected.
With so much focus on job hopping, you may find yourself being too short-sighted when it comes to your career. What if you don’t need to change your job – you need to make a pivot in your career? Perhaps you’re a career service member transitioning out of the military. Or you could be a career civil servant looking to transition to the private sector. Maybe you’ve been in the private sector for years, and are wondering if the government grass is greener?
Join the Intelligence and National Security Alliance for an upcoming program ‘Mid-Career Reboot: Challenges and Choices.’ Leaders from across the intelligence community will share how they successfully navigated a mid-career change.
Navigating a career change is a much bigger prospect than simply changing your job. And if you find yourself hopping from job to job, it may be time to look at the bigger picture. Here are five signs it’s time for a career reboot.
1. You’ve had the same job title for years.
If you’ve had the same job title for years, it may be time to consider whether you’re growing, expanding your skills, or stuck in the status quo. If your career is on autopilot, it’s time to shift. Maybe you simply need a promotion within the same company or career track, or maybe it’s time to change gears. What does it look like to pivot in your career? Would you have better career opportunities in your industry if you pursue a job with the government? Do you need to find another contract that offers better career progression? If you’ve been stuck with the same job title for years and it doesn’t bother you, just make sure you’re not also stuck doing the same things. A stagnant career is not a healthy one.
2. You Can’t Do the Work You Want.
I worked as a Department of Army civilian at the Pentagon, and I knew for certain that I didn’t want to work as a contractor – as a career public affairs officer, I could do work as a spokesperson and have an active voice in policy. As a contractor, I would have shifted to the back. Then life and workplace circumstances changed, and flexibility was more important to me than getting the ‘credit’. I took a job as a consultant, and had no regrets. There is always an opportunity cost in making a career shift. Consider the qualities that are most important to you today, or in what you want to accomplish in 3-5 years. Maybe flexibility is important. Maybe project ownership is. Those will all look different depending on where you choose to align your career.
3. You need to relocate.
Security clearance holders frequently site location as a key factor in deciding to make a career transition. In general, cleared workers are highly mobile and open to relocation. But as a part of a niche industry, sometimes the work you want to do isn’t located in the area where you want to work. When that’s the case, it’s time to make a career pivot. If you’re tied to a specific location – whether that’s due to family constraints or simply desire, take a look at what career advancement is available, not just in your industry, but across your region. You may find better upward mobility as a contractor versus as a government civilian. Or if you’re in the military, you may need to transition out of uniform in order to be where you need to be. Location is often an important reason for making a career pivot. And for good reason – happiness with where you live is critical to healthy work-life balance.
Making a career change can be stressful. Good decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Take your concerns to your mentors, your peers, and in some cases, your boss. They may have the key to helping you make the right career pivot, at the right time.