Making the decision to leave a job is never easy, but it’s a very real thing almost everyone will face at some point in their career. Whether it’s for professional growth, more money, or to cure the unhappiness you’ve been feeling, it’s a time in life that calls for deep self-reflection. Here are five things to consider when you’re thinking about making that change.
Who are you currently working for and who would you like to work for?
It could be that your current position is exactly what you’ve envisioned yourself doing long-term, but maybe at a company that is less than ideal. The company could be unpleasant to work at due to its size, an unrecognizable brand, the people, or values that don’t align with your own. If this resonates with you, it may be time to start researching other companies. No matter what stage you are at in your career, it’s always beneficial to educate yourself on companies where you can picture yourself working, be it local or across the country. Determining the key parts of your current company that you like and dislike will be a great starting point to begin looking for companies that will be a better fit. Then you can stay up to date on the company and be ready for when a great position becomes available.
What about your current position do you enjoy and what do you dislike?
In my previous position, I would go to work for days on end and be miserable. At first I thought I was just having a bad day or a bad week. But then it occurred to me that maybe it wasn't me; it’s what I was doing. Take a hard look at your current role and responsibilities. Make a list of what you enjoy, what you absolutely loathe, what responsibilities you would like to take on, and what skills you would like to learn. Jot these down in your notebook. You might be surprised to discover that your ideal job is completely unaligned with your current role. Maybe there are more aspects you find enjoyable than you previously thought. Or maybe the responsibilities you would like to take on are that of a position above you and it’s time to ask for a promotion. Taking the time to identify and write down these facts may result in the "light bulb moment" you’ve been looking for.
Where is the physical location of your current company?
Living in a commute-driven city, I know from experience that your work location can make or break you. Driving an hour in traffic back and forth to work every day can physically and mentally drain you. If you’re finding your unhappiness at work is due to your daily commute, it may be time to look for something closer to home, or perhaps to negotiate for a day or two a week to work from home. That extra time spent in the car is added stress, and time that could be better spent working productively from home, or with friends and family, at the gym, or relaxing at home.
When is the best time to make a change?
Timing is everything in every aspect of life, and your career is no exception. It’s important to think about where you are in your career timeline and if you’re progressing towards your ultimate end goal. Your current position may have promised room to grow, yet you’ve been stuck with the same responsibilities for years with a promotion nowhere in sight. You may work for a small company where you have already reached your maximum potential and find yourself at a dead end. It’s smart to be strategic with your career and know when the time is right for that next big thing. Don’t forget to think about timing in the shorter term, too. Maybe you have a great opportunity lined up, but you’re due to a get bonus next month that you really need in order to finally pay off your car loan. Or you could be up for promotion soon, and getting that experience is exactly what you need to set your resume apart from your peers. It’s definitely smart to be strategic in the short term while keeping your end goal in mind.
Why is your current job not everything you thought it would be?
Let’s get down to the root cause here. Why are you not fulfilled? Why are you unhappy? Why are you not as excited to come to work every day as you were the first day? It could be you’re working too many hours, or the pay is too low, or the industry doesn’t interest you. There are endless reasons, from your boss to your workspace, that could contribute to an unsatisfying work life. Now is the time to dig deep and pinpoint what those reasons are. Write them down. Make a list of pros and cons. If you don’t know what is lacking in your current role, how will you be able to find another job that fills those gaps? Spending the time upfront to really analyze your current situation will pay off tenfold in the end.
Reflecting on your current situation will allow you to avoid making a rash decision like leaving an awesome opportunity for a less-than-mediocre one, or could help propel you into your next big adventure. Taking the time to analyze and visualize what you want for yourself now and in the years ahead will help keep you focused and provide the mental clarity you need to make your best decisions.