Updated: May 16, 2019
Whether you’re feeling a little dissatisfied in your current role or have that feeling of dread about going back to work on Monday, before you move jobs (or even start looking, for that matter) it’s crucial you take the time to consider why you’re unhappy and what you want from your next role.
Back in my previous career as a professional recruiter, I’d occasionally be approached by a candidate who was unable to clearly articulate what they wanted in a new role. If you can’t explain why you’re looking for a job and what you’re after, it’s unlikely you’ll convince a potential employer in an interview that you’re the right candidate for the job.
Before making any move, follow these 6 steps to get 100% clear on your career goals…
Step 1 – What’s your ‘why’?
If you’re dreading going into work on Monday, ask yourself – why? Reflect on your current role and why you are unhappy. Be as specific as possible.
Are you no longer finding the work challenging or satisfying? Or, is it the people, your boss or their management style, or the workplace culture that you’re not enjoying? Perhaps you simply feel that you have achieved all that you can in this role, that you’re not being paid enough, or that progression opportunities are limited in your organisation?
Whatever the reasons, note them down. This will help you identify what’s important to your career and crucial in your next role. And should you decide to move roles, it will assist you in being able to clearly explain to prospective employers why you’re in the market.
Step 2 – What are you going to do about it?
If you’re unhappy with aspects of your current role, it’s always advisable to take steps to try and improve the situation first. If you then decide to move on, you’ll do so knowing you did everything in your power to work it out with your employer. You can then also explain to prospective employers how you addressed any issues in your role, giving them greater assurance about your motivations for moving.
Consider – is there anything that I can do to improve the aspects of my current role that I’m not happy with?
Start by looking at what is within your own personal control to change. For example, be proactive and make a point in asking your supervisor for more complex work, or approach your employer about a pay rise, being sure to do your research on market rates and explaining the reasons why (based on performance) you deserve an increase. If you want progression, apply for a promotion or start volunteering to take on additional responsibilities, such as business development or supervising junior staff, so you’re more likely to be considered for one.
For anything you wish to change that is outside of your control, give your current employer the opportunity to improve the situation first. This may mean initiating a career discussion to talk about what progression opportunities are available to you in the organisation.
Alternatively, it might involve a frank conversation about any aspects of the workplace you’re not enjoying such as feeling isolated from your team, wanting more flexibility or less supervision in your role. If you’re uncomfortable having this discussion with your direct supervisor, consider approaching a senior mentor you trust within the organisation, or HR.
If after doing everything within your power to try and improve what is making you unhappy, consider whether it is time to move on.
Step 3 – What makes my current role enjoyable (or bearable)
Assessing the positive aspects of your current position, as well as those that you’re not so satisfied with will allow you to get a very firm view on what is important to you and the key criteria you should look for in any role you consider moving forward.
For example, do you love the challenging work you are doing and the level of client interaction, but feel you are not getting the level of training or mentoring you need to develop your skills? Perhaps you need to consider a role with a more structured training or mentoring program in place, which still gives you some exposure to clients and stimulating work.
Or, do you enjoy your working environment and the people you work with, but are no longer feeling stimulated with your work? Perhaps it is time for you to specialise or to seek out a team doing more complex work in your area, but important for you to find a new employer with a similar working culture.
Step 4 – Know your strengths
Identify your strengths and what sets you apart in the market. Consider your areas of technical expertise, whether in a certain specialist area, or specific industry knowledge. Personal skills are also vitally important, with employers increasingly placing importance on soft skills, such as communication and ability to work as part of a team. Think about what personal skills you have that set you apart.
Your best chances of securing a new role are to play to your strengths. You’ll also be more marketable to non-advertised positions with specialist teams or employers who can immediately benefit from your skills, cutting out the competition that you’d otherwise encounter applying to an advertised role.
Step 5 – Get real
Be realistic. Consider the types of employers or practice areas that are recruiting and whether your skills will be competitive. For example, private practice lawyers with no corporate experience may struggle to secure an in-house role against more suitably qualified candidates. However, an experienced oil & gas lawyer from a leading first-tier team is going to have a good chance of success if they apply to a specialist position with an oil & gas company.
In this instance, it is worth considering alternative opportunities that might also meet the criteria of the role you are looking for, such as moving to a boutique organisation if your motivations are about finding better work/life balance and more client exposure.
Do be realistic about your salary expectations and realise you’re not always going to get a significant uplift in salary by moving roles. Salary should never be a key motivator to move jobs anyway – only a consideration. And if you do decide to make a major change, such as moving into a new practice area, set yourself a realistic timeframe to do so.
Step 6 – Be strategic about your job search
Once you’ve identified the ideal criteria for your next role, what you are willing to negotiate on and where you will be most competitive, the final step is to put a final action plan in place and go out and find your next role.
Make sure your resume is up to date, identify a list of target companies that you’d like to work for, utilise your networks and be strategic about any advertised positions you apply to.
I hope these 6 steps assist you with clarifying and pursuing your career goals.
Stacey Back is an Executive & Career Coach and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps professionals transition from the corporate world to starting their own consulting businesses, as well as assisting consultants, managers and business leaders in professional services based organisations to develop their current careers.
If you have any queries about how MyLifehouse can support you, get in touch to arrange a complimentary consultation and find out if coaching is right for you.