Switching costs could affect your career choices

Have you ever been locked into a contract for a service that was seemingly impossible to get out of? Maybe it was because there was some type of cancellation fee, or the company providing the service made leaving for a competitor too difficult. If you have, then you've encountered switching costs. 

In a world where every choice carries implications (positive or negative), understanding switching costs doesn't have to do with customer engagement alone – it's a strategy that can shape your career trajectory. It could affect your decision to move to another company, develop a new skill, or even start a business. 

In this article, you'll learn the definition of switching costs, why they're important, and strategies for taking advantage of them (or overcoming them, whichever the case may be). First things first, though, what are switching costs and how do they manifest in various aspects of our lives?

Switching cost definition

Switching cost is exactly what it sounds like – the cost associated with switching from one thing (a product, service, or job) to another. It impacts everything from money and effort to time and emotions. Originally, companies implemented switching costs as a customer retention strategy designed to build loyalty. The strategies ranged from simple loyalty programs to more complex initiatives that presented major barriers to switching from one company to another.

High and low switching costs

These variances led to the differentiation between high and low switching costs. As you'd expect, high switching costs mean you could have a really tough time switching, while low switching costs are probably not going to require much effort. 

Over time, though, switching costs evolved because of changed consumer behaviors, emerging technologies, and pressure from competitors. Technology has empowered customers to make quicker changes, because of easier accessibility to information. This means that consumers are less tolerant of high switching costs. Instead, they want more seamless experiences and flexibility. 

How switching costs impact career progression

Much like products and services, there have been changes to switching costs as they relate to your career progression. The same mobility and accessibility that consumers enjoy when choosing products or services are also available to help you navigate career and job choices. 

Improved job mobility

Welcome to the digital age, where networking opportunities abound, allowing you to connect with peers, mentors, and other collaborators worldwide who can open new career doors. When they say the world has gotten smaller, networking is one of the things they're talking about. 

Consider these switching costs associated with job mobility:

  • Time and effort: Job searches and transitions require you to research job openings, create and tailor your resume, attend interviews, and adjust to a new work environment

  • Emotional adjustment: Moving from one job to another can bring about emotional adjustments, including adapting to a new workplace culture, meeting new colleagues, upsetting your work-life balance, and changing personal routines

  • Learning curve: Depending on the complexity of the new role, there may be a learning curve associated with adapting to new job responsibilities and expectations

  • Potential income fluctuations: Switching jobs can sometimes involve fluctuations in income, especially if the new job offers a different compensation structure or benefits package

Transitioning across industries

The evolution of switching costs has encouraged a lot of people to explore new careers and diversification. In fact, you'll likely run into very low switching costs if you decide you want to transition into a new career. 

These are some of the switching costs associated with career changes:

  • Skill development: Acquiring the necessary skills for a new industry can be time-consuming and may involve the cost of education or training

  • Networking efforts: Building a professional network in a new industry may require additional time and effort to establish connections and relationships

  • Potential income changes: Transitioning to a new industry can impact income, particularly if the new field has different salary structures or income potential

  • Market knowledge: Understanding the nuances and trends of a different industry may require significant research and learning

  • Risk of rejection: Switching industries can sometimes be challenging, and individuals may face rejection when applying for roles without direct industry experience

Competitive awareness

Again, just as consumers can easily research competitors of brands they love, you have access to information about companies who are competing to fill open roles. The availability of this information will allow you to make informed career decisions, stay competitive among other job seekers, and adapt to evolving job markets. 

The switching costs associated with competitive awareness include:

  • Time investment: It can take quite a bit of time to read up on industry publications, attend webinars, or participate in networking events

  • Information overload: You may get a sense of overwhelm or information overload if you try to take in everything at one time – be sure to filter and prioritize relevant information effectively

  • Continuous learning: Remaining competitive often necessitates ongoing education and skill development to keep up with industry changes

  • Networking commitment: The consistent effort and engagement required to build and maintain a strong professional network could be considered a high switching cost, depending on what you're willing to put into nurturing those connections

  • Balancing work and learning: Finding the right balance between staying competitive in the job market and fulfilling job responsibilities can be a challenge

How to manage career-related switching costs

Just like a customer might have to pay a fee to cancel a contract with one company to switch to a competitor, you'll encounter switching costs during your career, whether you're new to the job market, trying to change careers, or want to open a new business. Fortunately, you can manage those costs by implementing a few strategies for making informed decisions and navigating career development exercises. 

Leverage low switching costs to your advantage

Because of the changing nature of switching costs, the barriers to job entry and career transition are relatively low. Of course, this presents a huge opportunity for you to explore new career paths, industries, and opportunities. Here's how:

  1. Invest in acquiring new skills that align with your new career goals – take online courses, attend workshops, or earn new certifications that expand your skill set

  2. Find mentors and advisors within your network who can provide guidance

  3. Research companies within your target industry and stay up to date on industry trends

  4. Craft a compelling resume that resonates with employers 

Overcome high switching costs

Even though most of the switching costs you'll encounter will be low, you can overcome the rare high switching costs by:

  1. Embracing a growth mindset and being open to change

  2. Not letting rejection set you back; accepting that persistence and resilience will get you through the challenges

  3. Being agile so that you can quickly adapt to changing industry landscapes

Curate the career of your dreams

Switching costs may have originally been designed for consumer loyalty, but the opportunities available to consumers can easily be taken advantage of by job seekers. Continuous learning, strategic networking, and adaptability will be the keys that help you to successfully navigate both low and high switching costs – no matter where your career leads.

When you're ready to sail through the changing winds of switching costs as they relate to career progression, TopResume can make sure you're sending a strong resume that will help you to keep those switching costs low. Take advantage of our free resume review today! 

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