Now What? When Product Managers Make The Wrong Job Move…

by drjim on June 6, 2011

 Oops -- That Job Change Was Wrong, Now What?

Oops — That Job Change Was Wrong, Now What?

Sure you did all of the research, you talked with all of the right people, shucks you even followed up on every Google link that you could find on the company that you were thinking about going to work for before making the jump. However, now that you’ve made the jump you are finding out that perhaps you’ve made a mistake. Now what do you do?

How Did This Happen?

Product managers are supposed to be smart people, how come we can end up making mistakes when it comes time to switch jobs? The good news is that we are smart; however, what can happen is that we can find ourselves under a great deal of pressure and this can adversely affect how we make decisions.

One such type of pressure is mental pressure – how do we see ourselves? When we are considering making a job change, we tend to make up our minds about how we think the next job is going to be and then we only pay attention to the information that we encounter that confirms this view. Researchers call this thinking “confirmation bias”.

In order to counter this kind of thinking we need to be constantly asking ourselves one question: what happens if I am wrong? Only by doing this will you be able to make yourself aware of information that might not fit the way that you want the world to be.

Another type of pressure you need to deal with when you are considering changing jobs is social pressure. This is most often evident when you have become so unhappy with your current job that you’d almost rather be anywhere else.

Far too often these types of situations could be dealt with if you would only find the courage to sit down and talk things over with someone at your current company. However, all too often we are so resistant to having this kind of discussion that we’re willing to leave the firm and run to a new job.

Finally, the ever present specter of time pressure is always a factor when it comes to considering moving to a new job. When we don’t feel that we have very much time to make a decision, what happens is that we end up hastily making a bad decision.

The lack of time forces us to focus on the short-term gains that we’ll make by switching jobs. What happens is that we forget to take a look at the long-term impacts of making the switch. A good way of countering this tendency is to ask yourself questions such as “if the salaries & benefits were the same, would I make the job switch?”

What Do You Do Now?

Despite having taken the time to carefully consider all of the issues and to try to counter the pressures that will be driving your decision, sometimes we still end up making poor job change choices. The question then comes up: what should we do now?

The experts all agree on the answer to this one. You need to cut your losses and move on once again. However, this time around you need to do a better job. Don’t just flee a bad job and jump yet again into another poor position. Take the time to understand why you made a bad job change decision and make sure that you don’t repeat this mistake.

Ultimately the best way to protect yourself from making another bad career decision is to become more self-aware. You want to be able to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can evaluate your next job opportunity in a way that will reveal if it is really the right career move for you.

What All Of This Means For You

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we make mistakes when we are switching product management jobs. There can be a number of different reasons that we make this kind of mistake but more often than not they all come back to the different types of pressures that we are under: mental, social, or time.

If you find yourself having made the wrong choice in switching jobs, your next step is very clear. You need to cut your losses and move on to your next job. You need to be careful and make sure that you leave your new job carefully so that it doesn’t look like you are running away from it.

None of us is perfect – we all have the ability to make the wrong decision at some point in time. What can make us a great product manager is the ability to be aware that we’ve made a poor decision and then the ability to react and make the right decision.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think that you should stay at a job that you know is the wrong job for you?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’ve got a quick quiz for you: how many different types of toothpastes are being sold right now? According to survey company Spire LLC which tracks the shopping data for more than 30 million U.S. households, we are currently faced with 352 distinct types of sizes of toothpaste. The good news is that this number is down from 412 back in March of 2008. What the heck is going on here?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tien Anh Nguyen June 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Hi Jim,
Great post about a very common issue with product management recruitment. Great advice for product managers who might be contemplating a move. I will be very interested in your insights on the employers’ perspectives – how to quickly identify a mis-hire or prevent a mis-hire. After all, recruitment is about the two way fit between the candidate and the employer, and either can make a mistake in the process.

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson June 15, 2011 at 9:45 pm

Tien: you make a very good point — the wrong product manager in a spot is bad news for both parties involved! When an employer discovers that a mistake has been made, they need to determine two things: 1) what went wrong — they don’t want to repeat this mistake, and 2) what to do with the product manager that they have. Moving an underperforming product manager to a supporting role is a quick and easy solution. If this doesn’t fix the problem, then it is probably time for the product manager to go…

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