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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  November 23, 2004
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With an Improving Economy, More Execs Choose to Leave
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By Laura Stevens, CareerBuilder.com

More employees, executives included, are quitting their jobs for better offers elsewhere.

Voluntary turnover increased in the 12 months ending in May, with the rate now standing at 11%, a new survey indicates. About a third of employers surveyed by Compensation Resources Inc., a Saddle River, N.J., consulting firm, say this pace is higher than the prior year. Another third say it's about the same, while about one-fifth report that fewer employees quit.

Among industries, employers in business services heard "I quit" most often, with 20.7% of their employees choosing to leave. Companies primarily in sales followed with a resignation rate of 13.4%. Only 4% of executives quit their jobs voluntarily.

Human-resources consultants and recruiters say employee mobility gained even more steam in the past six months as employees left for increases in pay and better opportunities for advancement, all fueled by an improving economy.

Turnover should continue to grow in the coming six months, with nearly two-thirds of recruiters surveyed by ExecuNet saying they're confident or very confident the executive employment market will improve during this period, up from 56% in September. According to the online career-management and recruiting network for executives, recruiters expect a 20% jump in client assignments over the next few months.

Alan Johnson, managing director of Johnson Associates Inc., a consulting firm specializing in compensation and turnover issues, says the recent increase seems more dramatic because voluntary turnover during the past two years has been abnormally low. He expects the upward trend to continue for the next year or two.

"We're going to see turnover from the executive to the front lines," says Roger Herman, chief executive officer of the Herman Group, a Greensboro, N.C., consulting firm that focuses on workforce trends and strategies. He also notes an increase in recruiting, especially "stealth" recruiting, where employers reach out to candidates without publicizing their openings.

Candidates, for their part, are job hunting on the sly, making sure they have a new position secured before they resign their existing jobs. "They're being very, very discreet and deliberate about the steps they're taking to really create that opportunity before they jeopardize their current job," says Liz Ryan, chief executive officer and founder of WorldWIT, an organization that facilitates businesswomen's networking.


Employee mobility is greater in business services because it includes such fields as accounting, consulting and law, which typically involve transferable skills. Sales professionals also tend to be more mobile for the same reason.

With transportable skills, it's easy to shift from job to job, says Rick Beal, a senior consultant with Watson Wyatt Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm. "You're going to have more willingness and ability to move," he adds.

Executives tend to be more cautious as a group because of the difficulty involved in finding another job if a new position doesn't work out. "Executives as a rule are more conservative about taking jobs...and slower to jump ship," Ms. Ryan says.

A Lawyer Moves On

Lawyer Andrew Shackelford decided to leave his job in July. He had been an associate with Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP, a law firm based in New York that specializes in immigration services for corporations. After three years in the same job without moving up, he had enough.

"Nobody wants to feel like they're stagnant," he says.

Mr. Shackelford found a new position as director of client services for VisaNow.com, a legal company in Chicago that helps immigrants prepare and submit applications for visas, permanent residencies and citizenship. The 32-year-old says he enjoys the opportunities a smaller company offers. "I feel like I can make this job what I want it to be," he says.

A Customer-Service Manager Explores Her Options

Susan Strucinski O'Keefe spent nearly 25 years with a large telephone company in sales and customer service, most recently as a manager and instructor. She says she expected to retire with a gold watch on her 30th anniversary. "I grew up in the telephone industry," says the 47-year-old Chicago resident.

But after the company merged with and acquired other organizations, it became more impersonal than when she started. Newer employees earned more money for performing the same job due to changes in the compensation program, and her retirement benefits were cut. After considering her finances and her dreams, she walked away while she was still young enough to begin a new career. That was 18 months ago.

Ms. O'Keefe experimented with different career options by working as a substitute teacher at a high school and an adjunct professor at a local community college. She also worked part time enacting a sick patient's symptoms so that medical students could practice making a diagnosis.

Through her connections with the medical school, she met a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He helped create a position for her as an assistant to the associate dean, which she started in August. Among other duties, she coaches first- and second-year medical students in business-communication skills and also serves as project coordinator of a new course for third-year students. This position incorporates her management skills and love of teaching.

"I would encourage people to go with their gut, trust their heart," Ms. O'Keefe says. "Don't get stuck in a job that you feel is dead end, because there really is another world out there."

A Senior Manager Resigns

Unlike many executives, Anna Nash, 48, didn't want to play it safe and wait for another job to come along before she quit. In April, she left her position as PepsiCo Inc.'s senior manager of e-business and sales capabilities in New York after becoming frustrated by the lengthy decision-making process and long hours at the company.

"I've always worked endlessly," she says. "I said, 'I don't want to play this game anymore.'"

She's now catching up with friends, traveling and doing yoga while considering what her next career steps will be. She's living off savings and hopes to find another job in the New York area by the end of the year.

"It's been the best thing I've ever done," she says of quitting. "I recommend it highly."

-- Ms. Stevens is an intern with CareerJournal.com.

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