Do you remember your first day on the job? If you took this new job out of need you may have felt a sense of hope. If you took the job for career advancement, better working conditions, increased future potential, or other similar reasons, you likely felt optimism and possibility a sense of excitement. There probably was an orientation period and then a time for learning all of the required policies and procedures, along with the job requirements. Eventually a routine settled in and the reality of the job and the actual work environment becomes clear. That is a time when the reality of what is experienced is weighed against the perceived expectations.
There is a natural progression as time is spent in the position and the job remains the same, eventually grows stagnant, or evolves as new tasks or responsibilities are added. The question then becomes a matter of whether or not it is time to change jobs, or should you wait and hope for a gradual improvement. Many people make a decision based upon their emotional reaction to circumstances or situations and that is not the optimal time to make a career decision. Instead, any decision about your current job needs to be made as part of a well-developed plan, when you are fully prepared and ready to present the best of your skills and abilities.
Develop a Career Plan First
Before making a decision about changing jobs you should assess your current career plan. What you want to avoid, for the benefit of your career, is making an impulsive or quick decision without first having a clear direction of your career path. Determine what your long-term goal is based upon factors such as a company, position, level of income, benefits, or something similar. You should also examine your current position. If you believe that your current job is not fulfilling for some reason, are you able to pinpoint why? It can be easy to state that you are dissatisfied because of personal preferences not being met, but what is the long-term view of this job and how does it align with your goals? It is also of benefit to establish short-term goals as stepping stones on the way to completion of the long-term goal. This helps to create a perspective of working towards something in incremental steps and makes the long-term future goals seem to be realistic.
When you develop a view of your career in this manner it creates positive feelings because you are being proactive and in control of your career. Once you know exactly where you are now, in relation to where you are heading, you can then ascertain if this current job still holds value, even while you experience occasional dissatisfaction or setbacks. Of course feeling negative emotions every day, whether due to working conditions or interactions with other people, can create a sense of urgency for the need to make a change. No matter what the circumstances are, establish what your plan consists of before you begin to act so your decision is well-informed. This will also help you determine if the warning signs about your job requires action.
What are You Learning Now?
With a career plan in place you can then evaluate what you have learned while you have been in this current position. Try to give yourself at least a day or two and itemize the responsibilities and tasks that have been assigned to your job, and then consider how you have grown. This serves a two-fold purpose. First, you begin to see that (hopefully) this job was not a complete waste of your time. The second aspect is that it creates a sense of appreciation and that can give you a new perspective, which may cause you to change how you feel about this job. Over time it can be easy to develop a pattern of thinking that eventually becomes a belief that does not serve you well. For example, a negative interaction with a co-worker may create a negative mindset and evolve from an adverse view of that person to the organization. The purpose of self-evaluation is to remember the value of what you are learning or still can learn from your present job.
Look for Early Warning Signs
Many people use their emotions as an indicator of whether or not they should make a job or career change. A challenge for relying on emotions is that you can feel differently from day to day, and these emotions may not reflect an accurate perspective of the job. What negative emotions can do is to cause a person’s work performance to become conditional, withdrawing effort as a means of reacting or responding to the circumstances experienced. The most important indicators to look for as early warning signs are related to your career goals. For example, are you no longer learning in your present job? Have you been in the same position for some time and do not believe there will be future opportunities available? Are you no longer learning in this position or believe you have outgrown it? Are the negative emotions experienced an indicator of an issue that cannot or will not be resolved in the long run? These are the early warning signs to look for as related to your ability to learn, grow, progress, and acquire new skills.
7 Steps to Be Prepared When It’s Time for Change
#1. Don’t Let Your Performance Decline
Once you have decided that the warning signs are clear, or that it is beneficial for your career to find a new job, whatever you do try not to let your performance decline. Most potential employers want to know about your employment now and are likely to check with your current employer and while specific details may not be provided it can be detrimental if the feedback indicates you were given a written warning, or something similar in nature. This is also related to the next step provided and why you should put in your best on the job even if you plan to leave in the near future.
#2. Ask for Recommendations Now
As you continue to work in your present job and maintain the relationships you have with your colleagues, along with a strong level of productivity and performance, you can do something that will benefit your career both in the short term and the long term – and that is asking for recommendations. Of course you need to be cautious about the reason you provide when you make the request and frame it from the perspective of valuing the feedback received. LinkedIn has made the process easier as you can send requests and have completed statements added to your profile.
#3. Itemize Your Skills
If you are going to begin a process of creating a job campaign then you need to be armed with a list of skills that you offer a potential employer so you can apply for a wider variety of jobs. Many people limit themselves by applying for jobs with a description that exactly matches their background. But if you know what your skill sets are you can market yourself effectively, even if you don’t match every item listed in a job description. What you will find is that job descriptions aren’t always written in stone and employers look for highly skilled employees. If you have a wide variety of skills you may also have a competitive advantage.
#4. Develop Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is the go-to source for professional networking and job searching. It provides a visual resume format, provided that you have it well-developed and know how to maximize its value. Starting with the profile headline, it needs to be developed like a marketing tagline or something that will create interest in your profile. The summary is another important section that needs to showcase your background, skills, and experience. Consider adding in keywords that will interest potential employers or recruiters. With each job be sure to include special accomplishments and achievements as a means of strengthening your potential candidacy.
#5. Plan Your Resignation Carefully
When you have decided that it is time to change jobs or your career, according to the plan you’ve developed, make it a careful and strategic move. While it may be easy to share your plans with your colleagues that could work against you and put those employees in a delicate position. When close relationships are formed at work it does not mean that information always remains confidential, especially when information becomes a commodity and could be used by someone to gain their own advantage or favor with a manager. In other words, you don’t want to reveal your plans until a new position has been secured as a means of preserving your current job. Even when you are ready to submit your letter of resignation, do so in a manner that won’t burn any bridges, in the event that you should change your mind for any reason.
#6. Monitor Your Digital Footprint
It is becoming much more commonplace for employers to monitor the activity of their employees on social media and even more so for potential employees. This means you should consider what you post online, from social media to commentary in blog posts or other similar formats. An employer may conduct a random check of websites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and possibly Facebook. You may consider changing the settings on any account where you have posts or other information that could be viewed in a negative manner. Also be careful that you don’t indicate directly that you are seeking a new job, in the event your current employer conducts a random check. You could also conduct a search of your name with a search engine and then decide if any updates or changes need to be made.
#7. Create, Edit, and Update Your Resume
Just as important as your LinkedIn profile is for your job search strategy, so too is your resume. A resume has the potential to create interest in your background. It can also misrepresent your background and potential if it is poorly written, formatted, or under-developed. As a professional resume writer I have been utilizing a skill sets based approach and that has helped my clients get noticed and increase the likelihood that they are contacted. An employer is looking for transferrable skills, along with relevant experience. But instead of writing a job description for each position, be sure to list achievements and accomplishments to strengthen your resume and always remember that this document represents you and your background.
Always Be Proactive with Your Career
The process of self-assessment and career planning does not have to occur only when you are thinking about changing jobs. It is always important to see your job from a broader perspective, even if you are happy with your current responsibilities. This will help you track your progress and allow you to be proactive with any decisions made. At the very least you could review your plan and progress made on an annual basis, and as you chart the completion of short-term and long-term goals you can make a determination of what professional development opportunities may be of benefit for your career. The more you can work on the development of your career, the more opportunities you are likely to find over time.
When you have made a decision to change jobs, from a logical and rational rather than emotional perspective, make it a strategic move and one that has been well-planned out. You experienced warning signs and through careful evaluation determined if they were valid and then decided to act. This will allow you to begin a new job or career from a positive viewpoint, which allows you to start with an optimistic perspective and a frame of mind that is open to learning. You will have then left your current employer because there was something of value for your career or there is potential for new opportunities ahead. Learn to be proactive and prepared by having a plan to manage your job and remember that you always have control of the direction of your career and that includes the outcomes experienced.