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How to Know When It’s Time to Make a Job or Career Change

There’s a saying in the careers industry that you’ll know it’s time to make a job or career change when you start asking yourself if it’s time to make a change. While there is truth to that, there’s more to making your decision.


This page is designed to help you identify some of the reasons why you may want to make a job or career change and give you practical strategies and tips to help you with your decision.

What May Make You Want to Make a Change?

The first step is to assess the reason — or reasons — why you may want to make a change. Change can be difficult — it usually is — so you want to make sure that the reason you are considering a switch isn’t something temporary that will fix itself, if given enough time. Below is a quick Career Change Assessment Worksheet to get you started.

Career Change Assessment
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Some of the reasons why you may be considering a job or career change can include:

  • How you feel about going to work. Do you dread getting up and going to work on Monday? Does that dread spread its way into your weekend? Do you start feeling anxious or depressed on Sunday afternoon as you anticipate the upcoming workweek? Do you find yourself complaining about your job to others?

  • Yofeel physically or emotionally threatened at work. If you are in danger physically or psychologically at work, you should start developing your exit strategy.

  • Your skills are becoming obsolete. Technology has had a dramatic impact on almost every industry, and if it’s affecting your job, you may find you have a gap in the skills you need to be successful in doing your work.

  • You are overwhelmed by your job. If you find yourself constantly worried at work because you can’t handle the responsibilities of the role, or you didn’t get enough training to help you master critical tasks, that can make it very difficult to enjoy your work. You may not have articulated it, but you’re overwhelmed.

  • You’re bored at work. Maybe you’ve been in your position for several years and you’re just not excited anymore about the work you’re doing. If you’re not growing in your job, it’s easy to start thinking about doing something else.

  • There is little to no room for advancement in your current job. Maybe you’ve worked your way up to the top spot you can get in the company. This is especially true in smaller companies, where a limited number of management positions are available.

  • How you feel about your co-workers and/or boss. Do you like the people you work with? Are you appreciated for the work you do? (This can be expressed in either a “thank you” or in your financial compensation.)

  • Company politics are affecting your work. For example, you work for a family-owned business and there is animosity among the family members.

  • If your job requires you to do something that you no longer enjoy doing. For example, traveling four out of five days of the week might have been fine when you were in your 20s, but it’s wearing on you now that you’re in your 30s and have a family. Or you take customer service phone calls, but you’re tired of being beat up by unhappy customers.

  • You researched competitive salaries and discovered that your company pays less than the industry average. If you’ve previously asked for a raise and were turned down, you may be motivated to seek out better compensation elsewhere.

  • There is little or no opportunity for increasing your salary significantly in your current position. How are raises or requests for salary increases handled at the company? Is there a regular performance review process? Are there opportunities to increase your salary much beyond 2-5% annually?

  • You realize you’re not getting any younger. If the thought of working for this company for another year — or five years — makes you feel your mortality, it may be time to make a change to a different path.

  • What you’re doing now isn’t your passion. Is there an opportunity for you to turn something you’re doing as a hobby into a full-time job? Or could you start a business of your own — either doing something related to your current work, or a current hobby or interest?

  • You have a different plan for yourself. Maybe you didn’t see yourself staying at this job, or in this career, for this amount of time. If your long-term goals aren’t aligned with what you’re doing now, it may be time for a change.



Things to Consider

Career Change Assessment

Now that you've identified that there are one or more reasons that you may want to consider making a change, ask yourself this: “Is there an opportunity to improve my current situation?” As previously mentioned, some of these things may be temporary and the issue may resolve itself. But the other piece of the puzzle is you. Is there some way that you could make a change that would improve the situation? For example, could you transfer to a similar position in a different part of the company? Could you talk to your supervisor and see if there are opportunities for additional responsibility or advancement that you may not be aware of? Could improving your skills (for example, pursuing additional education, training, or certifications) help you?



If you feel your current situation can’t be improved, the next thing to do is develop a plan. Make sure you have a plan for what you want to do next before you decide to make a change. Think before you act — don’t be impulsive. Change can be difficult — the bigger the change, the more difficult it may be. Also, you want to make sure you’re running towards something you want to do, and not running away from something you don’t. Being impulsive may lead you to do something you may later regret — like one of those viral “I Quit” videos that are fun to watch, but may lead to long-term ramifications when prospective employers Google your name.



Finally, Before You Leave

Assess your marketability at another company or for another career path. What skills, education, and experience do you have to offer? Inventory your accomplishments. In the next section, where we address practical strategies, we’ll talk about the value of having your résumé professionally written so you can see how you stack up on paper for your desired next job or new career.

 

Consider the timing of making a change, if you decide that’s what you want to do. For example, you may not want to leave your job in November if you’d earn an annual bonus if you stayed another month. The same is true for things like vested options in a stock plan or retirement account — make sure you manage the timing of your departure to maximize your benefits. Basically, don’t leave money on the table if you can help it.

 

Along with considering the timing of your departure, do you need to do some things before you change jobs or careers? Perhaps you need to take some classes or earn a certification before you’ll be prepared to make a job or career change. Create a Personal/Professional Development Plan (PDP) for yourself, outlining the steps you need to take to bridge the gap between where you are now (skills, education, and experience) and what you need in your new job or career. Checking off as many of those items as you can will help make the transition smoother.

 

Finally, it’s easier to find a job when you have a job, so don’t just quit your job. And don’t burn bridges at your former employer, if you can help it. Give ample notice, offer to train your replacement, prepare a checklist or cheat sheet for your replacement, etc. 



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