A career move or job change is never easy. Lots of thoughts, factors, and pros/cons go into a decision as important as this one. Sometimes it helps to ask yourself a few key questions to decide whether or not to make that first move.
What is motivating you to make this change?
Take a close look at and put deep thought into where your desire to make a career change is coming from. Are you unhappy in your position? Do you feel stagnant in your role? Are you looking for a challenge? Does it seem that there are no further opportunities for career advancement in your workplace? Do you yearn for a change in responsibilities, environment, industry, or area of focus?
What could be the benefits of this change?
Consider the possible financial gain that could come from a change. Could you receive a potential increase in income or benefits? What about workplace dynamics? Are you in a toxic environment and would changing companies have a positive effect on your mood, mental health, and overall coping, while recognizing there is no guarantee that things will go perfectly in a different setting? What possible opportunities for professional development, growth, and learning could a new position or career bring?
Carefully think about all of the positives that could come from taking this leap.
For what reasons would you stay in your job?
There is also the flip side about all of the reasons why you may want to stay in your job for now. This doesn’t necessarily mean forever – it could just be for some time longer until you feel more ready to make a shift.
For example, are there familial or parental reasons why you may need to stay in your role for now (e.g. job security, pension/benefits, proximity to your child’s school or your elderly parent who you are caring for, dealing with a separation or divorce, or managing your health issues or the health issues of your family)?
Are there logistical or practical reasons for remaining in your job? Some ideas may include access to transportation, recently moving into the area near your job, being close to retirement, and having concerns about making a change at this time from a financial and resource perspective).
Could there be personal reasons, such as the close bonds you have developed with your colleagues that make it hard to imagine leaving at this time, or your immense job satisfaction or pride and joy in the work that you do every day?
Weighing the benefits of making a change versus the reasons for remaining in your current job will be an important process for helping you figure out your next steps.
Where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years?
This is a common question that everyone probably hears often although it is an important one in this predicament of making career choices.
Sometimes we get stuck dealing with the present and we forget to think about how the decisions we make now can affect us in the short term and long term future. Try to expand beyond the current time and consider how the career changes you make – or don’t make – could impact your life down the road.
For example, do you want to go back to school to learn about a new subject area or explore more in-depth training or professional development in your field to increase your chances of finding a new job in the future? Do you envision being in a different industry or running your own business? What would you like your daily work life to look like? What are you passionate about and what could you see yourself doing and not getting tired of quickly?
If you are close to retirement, are you content with continuing your current role or would you like to try something different before you retire? If you are seeking change, could that new role possibly become a part-time job or a volunteer position post-retirement?
The choices you make will of course depend on your life stage, personal and professional goals, and interests and desire for change. Do what you think is best for your present and future self.
What will help you make a career decision?
What practices do you engage in that helps with reflection? Is it meditation, journaling, taking some quiet time to reflect in silence, talking out your thoughts and feelings with loved ones? Whatever it takes to help you make a decision, do that and see where it leads you.
If you do decide to make a career move or a job change, what’s your first step? Second step? Make a plan.
Before you make any changes, you need an action plan. A solid action plan will outline some of the initial steps you need to make now, a week from now, a month from now, and so on. Planning out these steps will help make your career or job transition as successful as it can be.
Consider such action plan ideas as: do you want to devote some time to updating your resume or getting someone you trust to review it and share constructive feedback? Is there a course you’ve been meaning to register for and are now committed to taking? Would it help to sign up for job alerts in your field or industry – or new fields or industries you are interested in breaking into – so that you get a sense of what is out there and what the expectations and requirements are? What skills would you like to brush up on or develop to get you that much closer to your goal?
How will you know that you are making progress in your career development? What will you observe in terms of certificates attained, interview requests, and job offers? How will you know that the job or career change is working well for you? How will you feel, what will you think, and what will you notice around you?
Your career path is fluid and ever-changing. It’s ok to stay where you are if you don’t want to make a change. Or, you can take that leap if you feel ready to jump in and if that’s what you want.
Reflect regularly, assess where you are at, weigh all the factors so you are making an informed decision, choose what’s best for you, and re-evaluate over time as you continue your journey down your career path.