New Year, New Job?
The beginning of a new year may prompt you to reflect on the results of the past year and evaluate your circumstances. This year, news about the “Great Resignation” may have already sparked a little fire under you as we move into January. It’s easy to hop on the bandwagon when others around you are making changes. But if leaving your job has really been a serious consideration, do it right. It might be just the right time to start making some changes, so if you’re ready to make a move, make it count.
Don’t assume that just because everyone else is making changes, the perfect job will miraculously appear for you. Jumping ship may sound like a great idea, but without a plan, you could end up in a situation that is no better than what you’re leaving. Avoid a knee-jerk reaction to apply for any posted position that catches your eye. Start the year with a solid plan for making a strategic change that steers you toward your ideal situation.
Start the year with a solid plan.
Randomly applying to a posted position with a company you know nothing about is like playing the lottery. It certainly could turn out to be better than your current situation, but odds are you’ll simply be trading known issues for new ones. So don’t allow your boredom or discontent with your current circumstances cause you to make a mistake.
Don’t stay stuck on the reasons you want to leave. Instead, focus on what you want to move forward to. This year, prepare yourself to make a meaningful and sustainable change. Develop a plan for moving forward that allows you to control what happens next. The following key points will help you get started.
Prepare yourself to make a meaningful and sustainable change.
Clarify your interests. The first step to successfully heading in a new direction is to get very, very clear about what you need and want. Establish a concrete list of what you hope to gain from a new position/employer/business endeavor. Refrain from using vague words like “better” or “more”, and be as specific as you can be. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to measure or weigh one opportunity against another. List the skills you want to leverage and describe the environment you want to be in.
The more detail you can include, the more you will recognize it when you’ve found it. Imagine doing an internet search for a shirt. The more information you include, such as the brand, style, fabric, color, size, the closer you will get to finding it. The fun part can be when you find exactly you wanted although it looks just a little different than you had pictured, but turns out to be even better than you imagined!
Give your ideas a reality check. Don’t rely on your imagination. Do your research and learn about today’s market. Find out how the work you think you want to do actually gets done and why specific skills are in demand. Find out how your skills/experience measure up to your competition. If you need additional training/skill development to be competitive for your “dream job”, then include time for this in your plan. This process for moving from your current job to your dream job may seem like it takes longer, but you’ll be more likely to save time lost by pursuing roles you’re not competitive for. Even if you discover you’re really not suited for the role you thought you wanted, don’t despair. You will have saved yourself from wasting a lot of energy going down the wrong path.
The more you learn from others, the clearer your path will become.
Cultivate your network. Once you’ve clarified your needs and interests, you can share your intent with others. Use the freshness of the New Year as an opportunity to reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with. Reach out and ask them for time to have a conversation about what they’re doing. The more you learn from others, the clearer your path will become. The surest way to learn if a new situation will be an improvement for you is to talk with someone who is already in it. They can give you the ins and outs of the work and let you know what the drawbacks might be.
If they’re actually working for a company you’ve targeted, your inside contact can also make a big difference in what happens next. With the help of a valued internal referral, you’re much more likely to be considered for a role, than if you submitted a blind application.
Establish specific objectives. Don’t just say you want to make a change — act on it and commit. New Year’s resolutions are typically abandoned by mid-February because of the failure to create a plan and commit to dates. A vision or image of where you want to be is great! The next step is to make it real by establishing timelines and accountability. Make networking and research a priority. Set objectives of what you need to find out and by when. Then hold yourself to it.
Establish new habits for carrying out your action steps and managing your progress.
Plan your activities. Let’s face it. You only have 24 hours in a day and seven days each week. How quickly you make a move depends on how much of an investment you’re willing to make. It’s important to first plan out everything you have to do in advance (regular work, doctors’ appointments, special events). Next, work around your existing commitments and schedule time for research, networking conversations, completing the application process and interview prep.
Remember that you may run into difficulty getting on other people’s calendars and the research process could take longer than you anticipated. Even when the right position opens up, other issues can cause delays. The application process could go askew and interviews can drag out. Don’t get derailed by setbacks. Planning and anticipating when you will be available allows you to be better able to adjust to any last minute changes. Don’t allow yourself to end up in June wondering how the time flew. You don’t want to find yourself exactly where you were in January. Establish new habits for carrying out your action steps and managing your progress.
Think it through.
Don’t knee jerk. If you’re currently working, it doesn’t make sense to jump on an opportunity without fully vetting it first. If you are not working, it’s still pragmatic to consider exactly where any job may lead. Think it through. If you need money to pay bills, that’s fine, but consider what the next step will be if a job is only a stop gap. Make sure it connects to your longer term goals in some way. It should allow you to build the right skills, provide potential for growth or connect you with the right people.
If you’ve already taken a job that is leaving you underemployed or bored, then use time to your advantage. If you’re able to do your job in your sleep, then stay put while you conduct the research needed to make an educated decision about changing. Chances are no one is watching you. Carve out time to talk with people and read about companies or roles that are a better fit. Watching job boards for the next posting and throwing a resume at anything that sounds interesting isn’t likely to reap a satisfying or sustainable reward. You don’t want to end up exactly where you started. Make sure that before you’re hired you know as much as you can about what you’re getting into.
Concentrate on what you want.
As you head into the New Year, concentrate on what you want vs what you want to leave behind. Check out whether your dream job or dream company is really right for you. Making impulsive gestures based on what you don’t want might bring about a change, but researching and putting together a plan for making that change is much more likely to take you where you want to go.
For more great advice from Sherri on this topic, check out her Goal Setting and Managing Multiple Commitments workshops and follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.