Are you feeling it is time for a change in your career? Do you believe you have gone as far as you can in your current role? Can you recognize the signs it is time to make a job transition? Are you uncertain if the timing is right to make a change and how you should begin the process?
Every job has a life cycle. There is an exciting or interesting starting point and then a natural progression that occurs over time. After a period of growth there will be a point when the job will peak. At this maturity point there may be a change made that allows the cycle to restart, or the job enters the decline and the employee loses interest, becomes complacent, works to just get by, and/or begins the search for a new job. Regardless of the final outcome, most every job goes through this cycle. It can occur over a short period of time if the employee was overqualified or they learned the job duties quickly and now find the work to be too easy or mundane.
A job that is at its peak, when maturity has begun, may also extend for a long period of time – if the employee enjoys this job, decided this is their ideal career match, or they need the income and are content with it for now. A job that is in a state of decline is generally experienced as a feeling – perhaps there is a desire to do more, perform something different altogether, or there could be a sense of boredom. Whatever the reason may be for a job in decline, it is an important reminder that you need to be in control of your career at all times.
Conduct a Career Self-Assessment
Taking charge of your career begins with a clear sense of self and an established purpose. This is one of the first aspects I address what I am working with clients as a career coach. Someone will tell me that they are unhappy with their job and yet they do not really have a sense of where they want to be because they haven't established career goals. They let the job be the deciding factor and when they are no longer interested in that job for whatever reason, they know it is time to find a new one. And if they don't have a specific plan it generally shows up in their resume or description of their background during an interview.
An employer wants to know you have a plan and act from that perspective instead of waiting until a job peaks and goes into mental decline. In other words, there is a purpose for changing jobs. What you can begin with is a self-assessment and see if you can determine what your ideal job may be. You can also consider what indicators you may be looking for as you evaluate your job and determine if it is time for a change. As part of your self-assessment you should also determine if you have goals or checkpoints to examine your progress along the way.
Have You Obtained Maximum Value?
It may be likely that your current job has already peaked some time ago and now before it enters into a decline phase you can re-examine your career plan. For some people financial obligations will dictate the choices they make about their job. However, if you have reassessed your career at the established checkpoints you already know that you can plan ahead. You always have a choice with your career and if the income received from your job is the only perceived value then you may need to establish new goals.
Every job has value, even if the purpose is to help you decide that this is not of long-term benefit for you or your career. But there are skills required for this job that you are using and improving along the way. This job can also help you make a better assessment of your desired or preferred job. In other words, no job is without value of some kind – even if you have mentally peaked with the required job duties. To obtain maximum value, decide if this position is no longer a perfect fit and if not you can prepare for the next one, which may involve acquiring new skills or knowledge, cleaning up your resume, or preparing a dialogue for an interview.
Important Indicators of a Needed Transition
One of the first indicators you will find that is signaling a needed change are your emotions. If you have begun to feel bored or that you need something different to do, consider your career plan. What can be gained by staying in this position both short-term and long-term? Will there be any possibility of a future promotion or transfer? In other words, can you manage your feelings if it is of benefit in the long run? Of course negative feelings can produce emotional reactions and that is much more difficult to work with. I've addressed this is a career coach and know that negative feelings can become toxic – whether or not they are justifiable reactions.
If there are negative emotions then it is important to examine the triggering event and work forward. For example, if there is a feeling of resentment and the emotional reaction was to mentally shut down and only perform the minimal requirements, look for the originating source and work through it. Do you need to adjust your perception or expectations? Do you need to talk to that person or just let it go? Another indicator may be working in the same position for an extended period of time without any possibility or hope of changing responsibilities. Before acting on an indicator, base what you decide to do on your career plan and goals.
5 Essential Transition Steps
When you have conducted a thorough self-analysis and decide that it is in your best career interests to change jobs, here are some strategies that you can follow.
#1. Explore Existing Options: You have established yourself with your current employer so ascertain if you can develop a career for the long term. Do they have other job openings or is there a possibility of a future opening? Keep in mind that timing matters for your career.
#2. Take Inventory: As you begin to plan for your next job start itemizing your strengths, along with achievements and accomplishments. What you have learned from this job adds to your personal inventory of skills, knowledge, and capabilities. This will help you develop self-confidence when you decide to search for a new job.
#3. Determine What You Will Need: For the next job, do you need to obtain a degree or certification? Are their classes or webinars that you can take to refresh or renew your skills? Do you have a polished resume? Now is the time to consider if everything is well-prepared – and this includes a clear and concise cover letter, along with materials you will need for an interview.
#4. Decide on an Exit Strategy: It is rarely a good idea to resign without making a plan – even with the worst working conditions. Make a strategic move when you either have a job lined up or you are so well-prepared that you can make the jump and trust that your career field offers many opportunities.
#5. Form a Resignation Letter: If you can, schedule a time with your supervisor to discuss your resignation. If you telecommute you can try to schedule a phone call before sending an email. While you may want to express your disdain for working conditions or a particular person, try to avoid taking this approach. This only creates and sustains your negative feelings. When you decide to resign this is your time to move forward.
Establishing a Renewed Purpose
As you make a transition away from your existing employer, approach it from an attitude of moving forward. This is a time to realize that despite the job or employer no longer being a match to your career plan, you are in control and free to move on. If you had experienced negative feelings, a challenging work environment, people with personalities that did not mesh well with yours, or any other reason – this is a time to feel good because you were able to recognize the need to make a plan and then move on. If circumstances and feelings were positive but you established a goal that cannot be met with this employer, again congratulate yourself for the recognition.
The reason for an attitude of moving on is that you want to begin a new job from a positive perspective. With this new position you have restarted the job lifecycle and do not need any lingering feelings to interrupt this time of renewed self-purpose. You are taking action because it aligns with your career development plans. You may have made this decision even if the job was enjoyable and you could have stayed. But you understand the power of purpose and always having a clear vision of your career, along with a well-defined strategy.
Here is the most important advice I can share with you: Make a decision to change jobs when it is of clear advantage for your overall career goals. Remember you are always in control of your career, regardless of present circumstance. Even the seemingly worst job can teach you a valuable lesson. As long as you remember your ability to learn and grow, you will always find new and rewarding opportunities.
About Dr. Johnson
Dr. Johnson has worked in the field of higher education and distance learning since 2005. He specializes in distance learning, adult education, faculty development, and online teaching. His roles have included Chief Academic Officer, Dean, Faculty Director, Dissertation Mentor, Faculty Workshop Facilitator, Manager of Faculty Development, and Online Faculty. Dr. J has also served as a mentor and coach to students and faculty.
Dr. J has a Ph.D. in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement, and a Master of Business Administration, MBA. Dr. J has extensive experience with curriculum development, having authored courses and curriculum for bachelors, masters, and doctorate programs. He has also built professional development courses and curriculum for faculty development programs.
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As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference. He has also published over 200 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and career development.
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