Take Control of Your Career Before You Start the Job Search

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Determining whether or not to shift careers is challenging. Even if you aren’t content in your current role, there are many benefits of remaining with the company rather than embarking on a new job search. Before making any move, you should first determine whether it’s better for your career to find a way to move up in the company, or begin searching for a new job.

It’s important, however, not to wait until you’re “burned out” to begin planning your next career steps.

Use these tips to gauge your satisfaction level in your current career track, determine if there are changes you can make to make the shift in your current job, and how to know it’s time to move on:

1. Assess the situation

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is my job affecting my quality of life?

If you’re irritable at work and/or bringing work home so that your bad mood affects family members, your quality of life — and that of those around you — is bound to suffer.

Pay attention to these signs: you constantly complain about work to anyone who’ll listen, you think about work when you’re not there and the thoughts are always negative, you dread team-building or work-related social activities because you have to be “on.”

You also should not just become complacent and accept “good enough” as the standard for your work and personal life.  

  • Do I dread going to work?

Being unhappy at work can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Mood swings and depression should not be accepted as a normal part of your personality.

In addition, if you find yourself in a state of constant physical sicknesses, such as stomach pain, headaches, and other ailments associated with anxiety that have not been addressed by a doctor, it’s likely that unhappiness at work is the culprit.

  • Do I call in sick when I’m not, take breaks just to get away from my desk, or make excuses to get out of meetings or attend team-building exercises?

Avoiding problems ensures they’ll continue to be problems. If you’re constantly trying to escape work functions, social engagements, even the workplace, it’s time evaluate why you don’t want to be in these situations and where you do want to be in your life and career.

2. Be realistic  

Keep in mind, however, that there’s no such thing as the “perfect job.” Few people enjoy every single aspect of their work. It’s important to be realistic about your current role and determine if it’s really time to start a new job search, or if you’re just unhappy with one or more areas of the job you can improve upon.

If you’re not satisfied with certain aspects of the job, speak with your manager about options for improvement. This could include a new role, new office, work flexibility, or other options.

On the other hand, if you were made aware of certain work requirements you’re currently struggling with before you were hired, you’ll need to reassess if the job specifications truly match your wants and needs from a career. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to change company policies based solely on personal preferences, however that doesn’t mean the company is a wrong fit.

For instance, if you’re unable or unwilling to meet certain sales quotas but align perfectly with the company vision and mission, you should seek another position that doesn’t have these requirements or restrictions. That position may be within the same company.

It’s also possible that the current work culture at your company doesn’t align with your needs and values anymore. In this case, it’s best to look for a company culture that engages and inspires you.

Finally, no matter how hard you’re working, realize that you’re not entitled to a promotion or higher salary if you lack the skills and experience for those positions.

3. Don’t make snap decisions  

Once you’ve assessed the situation and taken a realistic approach to evaluating your current role, you should be careful to avoid hasty decisions.

Despite an improving economy, competition remains fierce for jobs. There’s no guarantee you’ll get another one right off the bat and searching passively could just add another stress to your workday.

Consider whether you’re just stuck in a rut. If so, talk with your manager about leadership opportunities at your company. It’s possible to change roles and move up in your current organization, reigniting your passion for the job. In fact, that same Recruiter Nation survey found that 38 percent of recruiter placement is with internal candidates.

If you have other concerns about your role and professional advancement, performance reviews are a great time to start that conversation, since your work performance is already being discussed.

You’re the owner of your own career. You have the power to determine if the time is right to step out and find a new job, or if there are advancement opportunities that would allow you to move forward professionally while staying with the same company.

Take a realistic and honest look at your current work situation and determine what changing jobs will mean for your career and livelihood before making a shift.

What are some signs you use to know it’s time to move on? Let us know in the comments!

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Val Matta
Val Matta
Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution that gives job seekers complete control over their job search. It's available for individual users, university and military career services centers, libraries, and corporations seeking to offer outplacement assistance to former employees. Connect with Val and CareerShift on LinkedIn.