Why is it important?
There are many reasons for changing jobs, but top of the list are job dissatisfaction and career progression. All too often though, job changes are something that happen rather than are planned, or we make hasty moves that we later regret. So ensuring that your next job move works for you on a personal level, isn't a painful or difficult process, and forms part of a longer-term career strategy, requires some guiding principles to steer you in the right direction.
Where do I start?
Any move needs to be carefully thought through and sensibly planned to ensure you will not be taking a risk with your career.
Why do you want to change jobs? If it is for career development, work out your long-term career objectives and what specific skills and experiences you need to bring about these aims.
Be realistic though - high expectations are less likely to translate into workable solutions.
If the motivation for change is dissatisfaction with your present role, you need to ask a few questions to get to the root cause. What made you take the job in the first place and what were your expectations of it? When did this great-sounding job turn out not to be what you thought it was?Has this happened before?
"From this reflection, you may well be able to plan your change to avoid being in the same position when making your next move," says Malcolm Higgs, professor of HR management and organisational behaviour at Hen-ley Management College.
Conduct due diligence
If you fail to adequately research and understand a new role in another organisation, or to assess whether the corporate culture fits with your value system, this could lead to difficulties. Use the company's website, publications and newsletters, company reports and even other recruitment ads to clue up on its philosophy and HR practices. But don't rely on desk research alone: talk to as many people as you can in the department to gain insight into the culture and politics of the company and what it's like to work there. If you can, meet the person who previously held the position you're interested in.
Look into sideways moves
Some organisations actively encourage employees to make lateral moves as a way of helping their professional growth and giving them a broader outlook on the world of work. Not only will this do away with the expense of recruiting and training a replacement, but could rejuvenate you if you're stuck in a career rut. It is also likely to be less stressful and unsettling than starting a new job.
"Going through this process may lead you to recognise that you could make the change within your current organisation rather than by changing company," says Higgs. "Equally, if the opportunity is not available in your current organisation, you will have a clear idea of the opportunity you need to find elsewhere."
Prepare a functional CV
While frequent job-hopping can be a great way of gaining experience and boosting your salary, a pattern of short-term job occupancy will signal high risk for a prospective employer and limit your chance of interview. One way round this is to create an experience-based CV, which avoids exhaustively listing specific job titles or sectors and instead highlights your achievements and transferable skills.
Seek advice and support
When contemplating a job change, it is smart to consult with everyone who might be affected, particularly a spouse or family. It is also important to cast your net wider than your personal network, as the more honest opinions you hear, the better-informed your choices will be. Hiring the services of an impartial career coach might be another route to uncovering the pros and cons of a particular career direction. Weigh up the evidence before reaching a decision but ensure you can get by, economically and emotionally, in case things don't go as well as planned.
If you only do five things
- Think carefully about what you want to do.
- Have a well-constructed and realistic plan.
- Properly research and appreciate what any new role involves.
- Compile an experiential CV.
- Consult with everyone whose opinion you value and trust.
For more info
Somewhere Else You'd Rather Be
Barbara Quinn, Pearson Professional Education Momentum, £14.99, ISBN: 1843040077
The Which? Guide to Changing Careers (2nd Ed) Sue Bennett, Which? Books, £10.99, ISBN 0852028504
How to use lateral moves to advance your career
Expert's view on changing jobs
Professor of HR management
and organisational behaviour, Henley Management College
What is the most important thing to remember when thinking about a new career direction?
Once you have a clear idea of what you are looking for in terms of a change, you can then plan the search. In my experience, it is always useful to start by exploring opportunities within your own organisation - unless the organisation is the main cause of
If that does not prove to be fruitful, you then need to consider alternatives, such as responding to ads or talking to recruitment agencies. In following either of these routes, you will become clearer about what you want. This will not only increase your likelihood of success, but also help you avoid future disappointments.
One further route is to use your own networks, such as colleagues from other organisations. You may find that you hear of opportunities at an early stage, and gain good insights into the organisation which could give you an advantage in the job market.
Is there too much emphasis placed on getting the 'perfect job'?
If you're disappointed, it is worth remembering that chasing the 'perfect job' can be a frustrating process, a bit like trying to find the Holy Grail.
Once you have made the move, what is the most significant thing you can do in your new role?
Have a clear plan to help you ensure your expectations are met. Try to agree clear goals with your boss at the outset and identify the support you will need to meet these. Also, invest time in finding out how the organisation works in practice and where the informal networks are. This can help you to perform effectively and pave the way for future opportunities. Overall, managing your career is important and you would be well advised to invest time in this on a regular basis, and not just when dissatisfaction sets in.