You know the drill: you psyche yourself up for new year, new you and decide that it’s time to call time on your current role and add new job to the list as well.
With statistics showing that January is one of the best times to make a move onwards and upwards on the career ladder, it can be tempting to pour all your motivation into rushing a desk switch without taking a step back to ensure it’s really the right thing to do.
So before you make any snap decisions (like telling your boss where to stick it), take a minute to ask yourself these six questions.
Am I Fully Prepared?
In an ideal world we’d all be free to pursue our creative passions without being encumbered by details such as ‘how am I going to pay my rent if this doesn’t work out?’ However, that’s unfortunately not the case.
Before even considering leaving your current position, make careful financial calculations on what exactly you have (or don’t have) tucked away should this new career move not work out.
If you don’t make your three-month probation, do you have enough to pay your bills until you find another job? The Money Advice Service recommends that you have a cushion of at least three month’s salary in case of the worse.
Did I Time This Right?
Bradford Agry, founder of career management firm CareerTeam Partners, suggests that if you are going to quit, consider your timing carefully.
If in the midst of the busiest time for your team and you leaving is likely to send them up a creek without a paddle, bear in mind this could severely burn bridges that you may need in the future.
More pressingly, Agry recommends using your departure as a time to maximise the financial payoff. If you’re about to get your bonus, unless the job you’re going to is making up the difference, be smart and hold off. Firms often don’t have to honour the bonus if you’ve already handed in your notice, even if you’re still technically employed when they’re given.
In other words, keep your cool and don’t get caught out by resigning earlier than planned just because you’ve had a rough day.
Have I Done A Self-Assessment?
We all have that mate who splits up with his partner only to get with an exact replica down the line for the cycle to begin again. The same can easily happen with a career.
To avoid getting into this pattern, career advisor, British Navy Commander and Schweppes senior executive Edward Whitehead suggests drawing up a personal balance sheet: “Only you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie,” he explains. On your positive balance sheet, list your skills, experience, qualifications and earnings, as well as any unused talents that your job doesn’t currently make use of.
On your list of work debits, make note of your limitations. Do you hate criticism? Paperwork? Be brutally honest, as this is the time to fully self-assess before jumping into a situation that could make your life difficult. “Unless you own up to what those limitations are, you won’t cope with them any better in the future than you have in the past,” adds Whitehead.
By doing this, you can start to actively look for jobs that will bring out the best in you, rather than jumping on the next thing that comes along.
What Exactly Is It That’s Making Me Want To Leave?
Once you’ve settled on the concrete factors of security and timing, working out the reason behind your urge to leave is vital in nailing the right career move.
The first step should be identifying how your current role is failing you. What is it that you dislike – is it your job or your career? After you’re certain why it is that you want to leave, you’ll be able to remedy the specific problem.
“Network with people in similar positions at different firms,” says careers psychologist Dr Richard Orbe-Austin. “If you find out that what you’re experiencing is the nature of the industry, then you’ll need to make a bigger shift.”
If it’s the industry itself that’s getting you down and you’re planning to stay within it, chances are you’re not addressing the underlying issue of disliking your career rather than current role – you may well end up in the same situation next January.
Will This Help Me Reach My End Goal?
So you’re confident that within your current role, you’re not going to get what you’re looking for. But what exactly is that for you? A flexible schedule? Something more fulfilling? Or is it about hitting a certain salary? Being truthful about what you really want both now and in the future (and how you plan to get there) will allow you to whittle down a list of jobs that would make quitting worthwhile.
Career blogger Kat Boogaard says that each career step is equally important, no matter how far up the ladder you currently are, so jumping into a role because it’s come along can add unnecessary obstacles on your way to the top. “Even if your career goals seem like pipe dreams that are far down the line, it’s still important to think about them. Not only does it keep you focused on your end game, but it also helps you ensure that every choice and move you make is pushing you closer to your objective.”
Is What I’m Looking For Actually Out There?
According to a recent study by the University of New Jersey, half of all people aged 40 and below when asked said they would take a pay cut to find a job that would help them reach their end goal and achieve job satisfaction. Yet the majority of those people never make the jump.
Former Microsoft senior executive Robbie Bach says he knew it was time for him to leave when he realised his ultimate goal would never be possible in the role he was in: “Changing jobs or leaving a company is not a decision to be made lightly, but if your work is not aligned with your purpose, change is necessary.”
The key here is to be sensible and not let emotions cloud judgement. If you’re leaving a bank to become a potter, for example, then consider all the necessary steps to get to where you ultimately want to be. Will you need to get extra qualifications? Will you need to take a pay cut to work up from the bottom again?
Then decide if the end goal is worth the sacrifice: “Ask yourself if you have the character, the willpower and the sheer grit to take on difficult challenges, climb over or around obstacles, and to strive to be better,” says Bach.