The thought of changing jobs can be alluring. Imagining yourself in an organization where you finally get the respect you deserve, the money you crave or maybe even the work-life balance you need is downright intoxicating. But like the morning after being actually intoxicated, a job change can also leave you feeling worse: same problems, new setting.
Many times, people realize too late that the job change they thought would solve their problems actually made things worse- and now they have added a “jump” on their resume. How can you tell the difference between genuinely wanting out of your organization and misdiagnosing the issues you are facing? Start with these simple steps.
1. Acknowledge the emotion behind your desire to make a change. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
“I’ll show them.”
“They’re not going to have me to kick around much longer.”
“These people are idiots.”
“No one appreciates what I am doing.”
If so, you are going to want to back off of thinking about a change until you can think rationally. Everyone gets to this place at times, and it is natural to think about the possibility of something new as a means of overcoming frustration. But more often than not, people who make decisions that are driven by emotions come to regret their choice. If you are in an emotional place, take out your frustration in a healthy way and come back to the idea of a new job once you’ve cooled down.
2. Create an inventory of your current situation: make a list of what you don't like about your current role (this should be easy) and what you do like (dig deep, it’s important). Consider two categories for each list: daily life and potential for growth (professionally, financially and personally), For example:
Daily Life Likes:
- Work with great people,
- Enjoy the work and am good at it
- Office location is great for going out, running errands
Daily Life Dislikes:
- Quality of my work is not appreciated
- Manager is driving me crazy
Potential Career Likes:
Would enjoy doing my manager’s job
Potential Career Dislikes:
- Don't think my manager's salary is that great
- Annual salary increases are small
3. Get some perspective. Make a list of the top three things that are most important to you in both your professional life and your personal life. How many do you have now? How many more can you get with a job change?
4. Using the results of these exercises, identify what you really want. Is there any way you can meet your goals without switching? Set aside some time to really think through what is behind your interest in making a change. Take a walk, a drive or whatever you do to clear your head and consider what you have written down in the steps listed above. Ask yourself critically:
- Why do I really want this change?
- How will I feel if I make the change and it doesn’t provide me with what I had hoped?
- Am I entirely comfortable giving up what I have now?
5. Make sure you think about the “soft” elements of starting over in a different career. As with any new job, you will be an unknown commodity and everyone will be watching your performance very carefully. In your current role you might have enough goodwill built up that no one thinks twice if you take off for a doctor’s appointment or make a small mistake. The new job may also have a steep learning curve that will initially tax your brain and increase your hours. Finally, remember that in the event of a cutback, managers sometimes rely on the “LIFO” method (last in, first out).
6. Consider a frank discussion with your manager about why you are frustrated and what recommendations you have for improvements. Always frame this in the context of what you believe is best for the organization and not for you personally. If you do this and things don’t improve, you are probably ready to start looking.
A few other things to consider:
- Avoid the temptation to commiserate with co-workers. It just makes things worse and you don’t want to become known as the “unhappy” or “hard to please” employee.
- An infinitely better strategy than quitting is to get your head out of work when you are not there, and remember that you are more than your job.
No matter how frustrating your days are in your current role, avoid a period of unemployment at all costs.
Lastly, give it time. Do these exercises and really think about whether changing jobs is going to leave you better off. Then wait a week. Repeat as necessary. If after all this your gut is still telling you to make a change, take it seriously and get started. Talking, worrying and thinking about the decision after this point is counterproductive.