When you're stuck in a rut and dreading each day of work, a change of job may seem to be the answer. As the old saying goes "the grass is always greener on the other side". But is it? You need to look at your current situation clearly and logically, and not emotionally. You want to be running towards a good opportunity and not away from a bad situation. A purely emotional decision could make a bad situation worse.
Consider firstly some of the features a good (but not necessarily a perfect) job should provide:
- Work you like to do
- A role you are satisfied with, or are even happy about
- Career growth opportunities
- A boss / management you like working for
- Co-workers you like working with
- Fair compensation
- Professional and personal growth
If you are not getting any of these - it's time to move. However, most people find their jobs not all that bad. Too often people leave good jobs and regret it after the change, so if you are thinking that you might actually want to change job, make the decision using a logical approach and not an emotional one. Here is six crucial questions, which, if answered honestly, will help you to think it through, evaluate your position and view the prospect with a steady gaze.
1. Why do you want to change?
Be clear about why you want to leave so that you don't jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. The most common reasons are:
- You've been there too long and you are feeling bored and stuck
- You're no longer interested in the subject or the work
- You feel undervalued
- Reorganisation and restructuring have changed your role
- You're making no career progress
- You're too young to sit it out until you retire
- You don't get on with your co-workers or your Manager
- A general need for change (some people need the stimulus of change in their lives more than others).
2. Do you really want to change job?
Think about whether it really is your job that you want to change and not your career direction. If you are considering a change in direction, go to the Changing Direction section of this site.
It is important to be very specific about what you do and don't like about your current job - it may be your role, your boss, the working environment or your terms and conditions. Think about exactly what would make your working life more enjoyable. Make sure you explore all your options and don't rush the process.
- List everything you like about your present job, and be honest about any and all advantages
- List everything you don't like about the job but you can actually live with
- List everything you hate about the job - you can't tolerate and the ones you just can't change
- Now ask yourself honestly - is it really that bad? If it is - head for the exit as soon as possible. If it's not that bad maybe you can live with it, and work on changing the specific things that you can?
3. What kind of work do you want to do?
You may already have a good idea of what you want to do. Answering the first two questions may have helped clarify your needs. Now think about what your ideal job would entail on a day-to-day basis, for example:
- Less paperwork and administration
- Working with different kinds of people, fewer people or in a team rather than on your own
- More or less direction / management or support
- More outdoor work, more or less travelling
- Working from home
- Working more flexibly
You may be able to negotiate these changes within your role at present. Your boss or manager may be able to help you with your problem, but you could make it easier for both of you if you already have some realistic and practical ideas. If you have an idea, write it down and approach your boss with it. Don't forget to include any benefits for your manager or the institution/organisation.
4. What are your skills and capabilities?
Think about your transferable or employability skills (Career Skills) and capabilities, aside from the specific subject or job area, for example:
- Organisational skills
- Communication skills
- People skills
- Task skills
Take stock of your skills as these will guide you in terms of what you have to offer a new employer, or in terms of what skills you need to improve in order to make you more employable. Take this self-assessment exercise (pdf) to audit your current skills and set goals to develop further skills.
5. Do you want to use your existing skills and capabilities?
You may be thinking that you want a complete change, away from everything, but be sensible. Think about other roles or jobs where you can use the knowledge, skills and capabilities that you have built up. Talk to the people you work with to find out if there are opportunities associated with your work: suppliers, fellow project members or members of a professional association, if you belong to one, may give you ideas to explore.
6. How much money do you need to make?
Crucial! Are you prepared to drop your income level to get a new position or are you only going to consider higher earnings? In the current economic downturn it may be more difficult to get a position with more pay. Often there is a compromise needed between getting the conditions you want, the company you want and the pay you want. If less pay is part of the package, then take a long hard look at your current finances and write it all down: outgoings, income, and extra expenses. See where you can make cuts and get a very clear idea of exactly how much money you need to make over a year. Then do the same with any new position or job that you are looking at.
Once you have determined that moving on is the best choice, you will need to start looking for work. Select your next employer carefully. Don't jump at the first offer, or even the highest paying offer, without further research. Evaluate your options. Which companies are industry leaders or on a solid growth path? Which sections of the labour market are likely to grow over the next few years? Lack of future growth will limit your long-term prospects.
Find out which company cultures fit your work style and temperament. Look for firms with open, honest communication and demonstrated integrity. Some companies are very structured and autocratic, whereas others offer a lot of personal freedom, while holding employees accountable to be self-starters and deliver results. Effective research will help you find a good fit rather than ending up in misery.
Before seeking new employment, determine whether you will consider alternative work arrangements with similar work responsibilities and pay. There are three logical reasons to accept a lateral move:
- Your current situation is so bad and negative that you just need to get out.
- The move will lead to a better career path with better training and advancement possibilities, or
- The move will enable you to achieve important personal goals, such as reducing your commute time by forty minutes a day.
Regardless of your motivation, consider your decision carefully.
Before you accept a job offer, talk to your spouse and three trusted friends who know you well and will give you honest feedback. It's easy to get caught up with the emotion of the job hunt and fail to notice key elements. And most importantly, avoid resigning your current position until you have landed another one!