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How to be a quitter: When leaving your job for a 'better job' is a great idea

Published: Saturday, Feb. 15 2014 8:55 a.m. MST

More people are quitting their jobs as the economy improves.

Jacob Wackerhausen, Getty Images/iStockphoto

After working for Vanguard for 13 years, Laurie D. Battaglia quit in 2011 and started a new job at a large bank in downtown Phoenix. Three years later, she is still glad she made the switch, even though there were some tradeoffs.

About 2.4 million people quit their jobs in November 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — the most since the recession officially ended. In December the number slipped a little to 2.37 million, but the trend seems to be increasing. More people are leaving their jobs, which some experts, such as new Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen, think indicates a strengthening economy.

Presumably the quitters had, or hoped to have, a new job lined up, but were they making the right choice? In any economy there are things people can do to make better decisions about the costs of changing jobs.

Why leave?

Battaglia, who also has a side business as a certified professional coach, doesn't change jobs willy-nilly: "I don't tend to hop fast from employer to employer," she says.

The reasons to stay at a job, she says, include whom she was working with. One role she had at Vanguard, an investment management company, lasted six years. "The reason I stayed was I had a great boss. There were great people around me and I like the role," she says. "People leave bosses more than they leave companies."

Joseph Terach, CEO of the career services firm Resume Deli, says there are good reasons to leave a job, but that people need to consider the strength of the economy both nationally and the place where a person may move for work.

"If you thinking changing will make you significantly happier or significantly more money or open more job opportunities, then it is almost always a good idea to make a change," he says. "But if prime reason is to make more money in the short term, it could backfire."

Battaglia says it is important to look at the total picture.

"People look at base pay," she says. "And they also look at vacation and health care. But there are a lot of nuances in the way workplaces pay their employees."

These variations can range from programs the company offers, such as 401K matching to the community and economy where the job is located.

Other compensation

One of the differences between working at Vanguard and a large bank is incentive pay, Battaglia said. Vanguard didn't offer much in this regard, but banks offer money for hitting various goals and have bonuses: "Incentive pay even shifts from job to job within a company," Battaglia says.

J. Todd Rhoad, managing director at Bt Consulting in Atlanta, said that pay raises are also important to consider.

"Would you stay in a job that provides no raises in five years?" he asks. "These are hard questions to investigate but can be accomplished by networking with existing employees."

Terach says people should compare the 401k program at his or her current job versus the new one. What matching do they do for contributions? Is there a vesting period for that matching? It could be years before the company's contributions are 100 percent yours, he says. It could be years before they make any contributions.

He also says to look at stock options as well.

"People get all excited about salary," he says. "They forget about the total compensation package."

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