Fewer of us are staying at our jobs for decades like our parents. People are less likely to tolerate toxic work cultures, no advancement, poor leadership, and want more out of life than just work. Are you ready for a change? Pick up Dr. Dawn Graham's book Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers - and Seize Success. Here is some advice or perhaps the kick in the behind that you may have been needing to make changes in your own career.
While it’s not unusual to have bad days at work (and some that even lead to dreams of quitting and retiring to a sunny island), deciding to actually resign is a big deal. How can you tell if you’re just going through a tough phase in your job or if it’s time to explore new opportunities? Consider these:
1. Identify the root of the problem: Is the boss hindering your professional growth or maybe the culture isn’t a great match? Is your work environment toxic or maybe your daily commute or travel schedule is slowly killing you? Some things can be changed. Other problems will follow you. Either way, when you can pinpoint the major hurdle, you’ll be more equipped to overcome it.
2. Craft an experiment: If the company is interested in retaining you and the root of your problem is boredom, they may be open to you taking on special projects or transitioning to a different department to learn a new function. Think about your longer-term career goals and identify skill gaps you’d like to close. Even if you plan to leave the company down the road, you can use your remaining time wisely by building up your resume and relationships.
3. Know where you’re going: You’ll always be more successful when you run TOWARD an exciting opportunity versus running AWAY from a bad situation. Once you identify the problem (see #1), next map out what your ideal situation looks like so that you can aim for that target. Even the least skilled interviewers can recognize the difference between motivation and desperation, so clarify your goal and communicate why you’re excited about it.
4. Evaluate the landscape: If it’s been a while since you’ve changed roles, the market and skill sets may have shifted. Take time to understand your current value in the industry you’re targeting and be able to relay how the problems you solve contribute positively to a company’s bottom line. Reconnect with your network and get feedback on your candidacy. Also, get up to speed on the latest hiring trends. You don’t want to be blindsided by a request for a one-way video interview or miss a job opening because you’re not on social media.
5. Look before you leap: Unemployment bias is real, therefore, it’s easier to land a new role while still employed since you’ll seem more attractive as a candidate. Sometimes a workplace is so toxic that it’s not possible to stay a moment longer, but if that’s not the case, continue to deliver your best work while engaging in a stealth job search after hours.
6. Get creative: If you’re not able to change jobs now or the job search is taking longer than anticipated, keep your energy and motivation high by finding career fulfillment in other ways. Join a nonprofit board, take on a mentee, or enroll in continuing education courses. A positive attitude will be your best friend in an interview, so avoid feeling “stuck” by taking action. Bonus: These actions are great for networking, which may ultimately lead to your next opportunity!
7. Don’t look back. Trust your gut to tell you when it’s time to move on. Most jobs have difficult periods, but if you constantly feel stressed, are getting physically ill (e.g., headaches, etc.), or if your relationships are suffering, it’s time to go.
Dr. Dawn Graham, PhD is one of the nation's leading career coaches. She is the Career Director for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School, where she counsels business leaders on making strategic career choices. A licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter, she hosts SiriusXM Radio's popular weekly call-in show Career Talk and is a regular contributor to Forbes.
Her latest book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers - and Seize Success is written specifically for people thinking about changing career paths. Packed with psychological insights, practical exercises, and inspiring success stories, Switchers helps these individuals leap over obstacles and into a whole new field.