Are you daydreaming about what life would be like if you had a different job? Are you finding it harder and harder to focus at work because you just want to be out of there? Before you indulge in your fantasy of shouting, “I quit!” at your next meeting, take time to walk through the 5 steps below.
If you want a meaningful career change, start with these 5 things to do before looking for a new job.
1) Get clear on what you want
If you’re dissatisfied in your current situation, there’s likely something else you want instead. So what is it? Get clear on that now, so you can explore different paths towards it. There are multiple ways to reach any career destination, so focus less on the actions you need to take at this point (in other words, don’t get too hung up on actually quitting your job yet), and focus on clarifying your long-term vision for the life you want.
Some things you might consider are:
- Where do you want to live?
- Who do you want to spend time with?
- What parts of yourself do you want to bring to work?
- What activities do you want to pursue outside of work?
- What level of compensation is required for the lifestyle you want?
For every thing that frustrates you about your current situation, flip it around to uncover what you DO want. You can also use the free job search assessment workbook to track your reflections.
2) Determine if a new job is necessary to give you what you want
With a clearer picture of what you ultimately want, it’s time to answer the big question, “Do you need a new job to get there?” Both yes and no are equally valid answers!
Example: Let’s say your current commute to work makes you want to pull your hair out. The unpredictable traffic erases hours from your week, is burning a hole in your wallet, and causes you to miss out on your children’s activities which has led to conflict between you and your partner. You know that you want a job with greater flexibility around working from home. One option is to find a new a new, fully remote job. Another option is to discuss remote work options with your manager. If you haven’t done that yet, why not? What would help you advocate for your needs in your current workplace? Are there conversations at home that can also help alleviate stress? What’s holding you back from having those conversations?
Investigate different paths to what you want and look closely at your role in making them reality. Whatever you decide at the end of the day is not a right/wrong decision. Aim to be empowered in the decision making process and that will lead to a decision that you can feel confident about.
3) Capture your career highlights
Start a log of all the amazing things you’ve done! This step can happen at anytime, and is helpful even if you’re not thinking of job hopping. It’s an effective exercise for prepping performance reviews and updating your LinkedIn.
You can capture your accomplishments in physical writing (say in a dedicated notebook) or you can keep electronic notes (say in a Google doc). Here are some ideas for what to document:
- Projects you’ve worked on and the results achieved (with numbers to back it up!)
- Teams you’ve collaborated with and your role in those interactions
- Examples of meeting or exceeding expectations
- Situations where you took initiative
- Topics you’re learning and mastering
- Praise from your manager
- Thank you notes from coworkers
- Testimonials from clients
- Anything you’re personally proud of
Capturing these details will do two things:
- This information will continue to hone the vision for what you want and how you can shine in the future.
- These stories will become content for your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, networking introduction, and interview answers to support your job search.
Note: Be mindful of what details can be shared publicly and what needs to be kept confidential based on your past work agreements.
4) Network and rally your community
One of the most impactful things to do before looking for a new job is to let other know about your intentions. You can do this with those you already know in your existing community or with new contacts through networking.
Inner Circle: If you’re feeling too nervous to tell others about your potential job hop because you haven’t made up your mind yet, start by confiding in your closest circle. The process of sharing how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking can help you work through some of your own anxieties and confusions. Those who care for you will be a source of support and accountability as you move forward. You can even ask them if they could introduce you to folks they know to discuss the career options you’re considering.
Outer Circle: Once you’re feeling more confident, reach out to acquaintances that have experience with the career changes you’re exploring. A message over social media could be enough to spark a conversation and to initiate a casual coffee chat. You could also chat up colleagues within your current organization to explore possible internal career moves.
New Connections: Finally, gather courage to reach out to new contacts. You might do this over LinkedIn or you might attend events to meet new people engaged in your interest areas. Hopefully after speaking with your inner circle and acquaintances, you’ll realize people are generally very eager to help and love to talk about their experiences. As long as you’re being genuine and respectful, there’s nothing to fear about asking for support!
5) Clear a path for job search activities
Researching career options, networking, applying for jobs, and preparing for interviews all take time. To see results, you must dedicate time and energy to job search activities. This means you’ll need to shuffle your priority list.
To maintain healthy relationships in your life while you shift around priorities, it’s a good idea to clearly communicate with others about what you’re working on and what you need. It could be as simple as saying to your partner, “I’ll be in this room with the door closed for 1 hour tonight. Please do not disturb me during that time so I can submit this job application before the deadline tomorrow.”
Besides communicating with others, communicate with yourself honestly as well. What are realistic expectations around how much time and energy you can spend on job search activities? Based on that, what is a realistic timeline to see results? Is that okay for you? If not, you may want to look at alternate ways to carve out space for your job search.
When you’ve completed the 5 steps above, you’ll be ready to launch into action. And with the prep work you’ve put in, your journey will be much more smooth, efficient, and aligned with your life and career goals!
Crystal Lee, MPH, CPCC is a holistic career coach who helps relocating job seekers and career changers find clarity, confidence, and community in their new environments. Let her know if you have a career question! If you find her content helpful, you can donate to her tip jar.
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