Having doubts about your current role or company? Considering changing roles or making an even bigger career shift? Changing jobs can have a huge impact on your daily life and there are numerous considerations to be aware of.
For me, this topic hits close to home given I left my corporate job in January to pursue growing my two side businesses. Leaving the comfort of a known routine, steady paycheque, and lovely colleagues was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, and I didn’t take the responsibility lightly.
One of the most important factors is something my parents taught me:
Only leave if you’re moving towards something, versus away from something.
In other words, jumping at the first job posting you see because you’re desperate to get a new boss isn’t as solid a plan as applying for a job that you want for its own merits.
Ideally, you should have a sense of what you’re looking to move towards (a specific experience, industry, or culture, for example). This will make it much easier to assess what leaving your current job will bring you.
Today I’ll share five questions to consider in deciding whether to leave your current job. I actually asked myself these questions, and they really helped me get clear on how to move forward.
Question 1: Am I learning, growing, and developing? (And are there greater opportunities for growth if I were to change roles?)
Is your current job building your skillset and providing you with opportunities to boost or round out your experience? Are you developing in areas that are meaningful to you and your aspirations? Do you find yourself learning more about your field, yourself, or collaborating with others? And are you farther along now than you were 6 months ago?
In my case, I had been in my role for about 6 months so I was still relatively new and learning quite a bit. I was working with really bright, collaborative people. They shared their subject matter expertise and taught me about how to get the most out of people, rally a team, and work strategically. The skills I was developing would serve me in the future (and are serving me now while self-employed!)
Looking at the opportunities self-employment could bring, I felt I would be able to accelerate this by working for myself. Reflecting, I realized that I had already taught myself so many things including how to write a blog, create and run a YouTube channel, and make and sell products for my Etsy shop. I had witnessed the immense growth self employment could offer. I also believed that working for myself would expose me to challenges that would make me stronger, like:
- Learning how to motivate myself without a boss or team of peers;
- Bettering my prioritization and focus skills; and
- Staying positive and energized when working alone.
Ultimately, I recognized that staying where I was would make me a more strategic, collaborative, and productive employee. But I also knew that pursuing my own ambitions would open up an entirely new world of growth. Opportunities that would test and challenge me at a far faster and more rigorous pace than the corporate world could offer in my role at the time.
As you ask yourself this question, consider your options and which one(s) will give you the greatest growth potential in the areas that matter to you. And give some thought to whether you need to look outside your role to get them. For example, if your current role is entirely analytical but you’re looking for a career with more strategic thinking, maybe a new role is the answer. But if you’re looking for a role that enables you to influence others, maybe you can find opportunities in your current job.
It’s important to consider whether you can get this desired growth in your current role by asking. Speak to your manager about the areas you’d like to double down on. There may be special projects or assignments that can give you greater exposure to these areas. And in some cases, joining an “extra-curricular” team (like a fundraising committee or Toastmasters group) may be just what you’re looking for.
Question 2: Is the opportunity I’m considering feasible?
While it’s great to identify a potential next step, it should be one that makes sense. Do you have the skills and qualifications for this new opportunity? Do you have the experience required to set yourself up for success?
For me, my major question was around financial feasibility. I was earning a decent income from my side hustles, but it wasn’t as much as my corporate job. The income streams were also fluctuating and irregular. I had to do some number crunching to confirm I’d be able to cover my expenses, ensure I had enough saved up, and determine back-up plans and timing. If I wanted to give myself say, 12 months to try this out, I would need enough savings to support this should my monthly earnings dip for whatever reason. Planning is critical.
As you ask yourself this question, consider the nature of the change you’re exploring, and what the new job will entail.
Question 3: Is this likely to be the right fit for me?
Fit is the difference between two equally-skilled people having vastly different impressions of the same job. This is where things like corporate culture, leadership styles, and team norms come into play, and they have a major impact.
My biggest question was whether working from home alone would be the right fit for me. I’m an extrovert who feeds off the energy of others, so the thought of sitting at home alone all day was a bit daunting. At the same time, I knew I could work in coffee shops, meet friends for lunch, and Skype with my Dad who also works from home. This knowledge made me more comfortable with the idea.
One of the factors working in my favour fit-wise is motivation. I motivate myself easily and find it pretty natural to create a to do list and stay on track. Knowing this, I wasn’t concerned that I would slack off without direct supervision.
As you ask yourself this question, consider whether the role, team, manager, type of work, office environment, and even commute will be the right fit for you. If you’re more of a casual, relaxed type and you’re considering a super conservative office environment, give some thought to how comfortable you may be and consider ways you can honour that part of yourself while still fitting in.
An informational interview may also be helpful in answering this question. (And my post about how to ace every exploratory interview shares some food for thought on how to make the most of one!)
Question 4: What does the future look like? Specifically, what potential can I see?
While it’s easy to get swept up in what the next few months could look like, take a longer term view. Does the new opportunity present opportunities for growth? Can you see yourself there for more than a few years? Does it get you closer to where you want to be in 5 or 10 years? What is the team or company’s vision and how does that line up with your expectations?
When it came to my decision, I often thought about the future. I had initially thought I’d pursue self-employment once I had kids. After thinking about it more, I realized that I may want a head start. Giving myself a few years to get things off the ground before kids enter the picture seemed to make more sense.
Working for yourself offers near limitless potential, and I’m excited by the potential of achieving financial freedom. My goals for the next few years include growing my businesses, making a difference, and earning more than I could have in the corporate world. Having that longer term view also acts as motivation for me on tough days.
Consider what you want your future to look like and how your options help you get there.
Question 5: Is the new opportunity aligned to my strengths, passions, and values?
Ideally this would be the first question you’d ask yourself. However, I’ve placed it last so that we can take a more objective view to the first four.
Ultimately, many of us would like our jobs to reflect our truest selves, to align with our deepest values, and to reflect something we’re passionate about. Here are some specific questions to ponder:
Identify and reflect on your strengths. Are you a strong collaborator? Great at leading a team? Do you have the ability to both see the big picture as well as focus on details? In most cases, working in a job that plays to your strengths will lead to greater job satisfaction. Now this doesn’t mean to avoid jobs that are challenging – in question 1 we spoke about the importance of growth and development. It is, however, important to look at the meat of the role and see how it lines up with your strengths.
It’s important to look at passions as being plural. Let’s assume you’re passionate about running, for example. But your job isn’t in the fitness industry. There could still be alignment! First, does the new job allow you more time or flexibility to pursue your passion of running? For example, is the start time flexible? If so, maybe you can squeeze in a morning run in before heading to the office. Do you have other passions, like mentorship (being a mentor or mentee) that you’d be able to explore in the new gig? Are you a holiday lover and does the new company do big bashes for every festivity? Think outside the box on this one and you may surprise yourself. (And if you’re stumped, check out my post on how to find your passion!)
This is one of the more non-negotiable considerations, at least for me. Take some time to reflect on your core values and think about how they align with the work, team, and organization you’re considering joining. While it may not be critical that they all align, in some cases you may not want them to conflict.
For me, self employment is very much aligned to my core values. Blogging has let me explore my passions and empower others to do the same. It allows me to tap into my authentic self and make a difference in the lives of others. Also, the flexibility of working for myself has enabled me to cater to my strengths.
Those are the five questions I asked myself before I took the plunge, and they offer valuable food for thought in your own decision making. I would also invite you to check out my post on how to turn around a bad work day, in case your antsy-ness is related to something more temporary.
I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment and let me know how you’ve made important career decisions!
What is your work personality? Take this quiz to find out!