7 things to consider before making a job or career switch

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

I’ve taken a number of risks in my life (hello, living alone in Spain at 16 for a summer!), but the biggest one so far has been leaping from the corporate world into entrepreneurship — starting Haven Coaching. It was profound, life-changing, and so worth it.

I talk about this topic often with my clients, more than 50% of whom have considered a career shift in the last 12 months.

Below I’ve listed my seven biggest pieces of advice about switching jobs or careers. Even if you’re not currently at the beginning of such a journey, bookmark this link for later, when you may need it!

  • Ask yourself: are you moving for the right reasons? You’ve possibly heard the mantra, “run toward, not away” from things. But don’t misunderstand me…. if you’re on a toxic role, team or workplace, I’m NOT suggesting that you shouldn’t leave it. Instead, I’m suggesting that leaders sometimes run into the arms of another bad role just to get away from a bad one. In the words of brilliant comedienne Ali Wong, you’ve suffered enough. There’s simply no good reason to run away from one bad thing toward another. Until you CAN run toward an amazing role, what else can you do? Check in with yourself and be honest – are there other solutions to try? Is there feedback you can listen to? What is in your power to change?

  • Also ask yourself, is now the right time to switch? Have you given your current role sufficient time? Each company has its own norm for a typical role tenure, but my guidance is learning-curve based. Take a look at the diagram below – at all points except the plateau of the S-curve, you’d be learning an incredible amount at a fast clip, and likely wake up most mornings feeling slightly to very nervous about what might hit your desk. You’re in learning mode! At the plateau of the S-curve, you may not know what will hit your desk in the morning, but you do know that you can handle it with your eyes closed. You’re all but done learning. Check in with your progress in your current role. If you haven’t yet hit the S-curve plateau yet, there may be more learning to do, and it may be worth staying a bit longer.

  • Create a list of 3-5 non-negotiables, and stick to them. This is a list of characteristics you’re looking for in a future job/role. They’re non-negotiable. This list should be aligned with your strengths, passions, and values. It should also focus on bringing you internal fulfillment, rather than on external achievements. Finally, it should be broad enough to encapsulate a variety of different career paths. “A role that lets me coach others” is a good non-negotiable. A word of caution – don’t start compromising toward the end of this process! These are called non-negotiables for a reason. If a role only delivers two out of four of your non-negotiables, it isn’t the role for you – even if it’s got the fanciest title.

  • Ensure your new job/career has a two-to-one ratio. Studies suggest that high-achieving professionals are at their most productive when working in a 2:1 ratio: on two projects/things that are strengths, one that’s unfamiliar or a weakness. If the ratio is too skewed in the opposite direction, we can be quickly overwhelmed and overcome by paralysis or procrastination; if we aren’t working on anything challenging, we land in Boredom Town almost immediately. Keep this ratio in mind as you consider your next career move as well – does the leap you’re making land you too far in one direction or the other?

  • Remove job-type filters wherever possible. Clients and mentees consistently box themselves into too-small opportunity sizes — completely without meaning to! They do this through the job-type filters they place on themselves. If a client studied economics and worked in a consulting firm for 12 years, specializing in banking, the filters she might place on her job search might include “hedge fund,” “consulting” or just “finance” in general. Why? She didn’t need to place this filter on her search at all – she did it because of familiarity, perhaps. Characteristics of roles (e.g. leadership, individual ownership vs. teamwork, etc) may appear in the non-negotiables list, but actual job functions, roles, departments, companies, company types, industries, etc. should not. Removing as many of these filters allows you to utilize your true strengths, passions and values in the most fulfilling possible circumstances. Network via your non-negotiable list and see what pops out. Yes, this client may end up in a finance or consulting role, but perhaps not! And even if so, it is likely to be a different one than if she had gone about it in a narrow, traditional way to start. The important thing is to start with your non-negotiables, not with a specific industry that may (or may not) line up with your strengths, passions and values.

  • Utilize a coach. One of the most invaluable resources I had as an executive at Amazon was a career coach. Having an expert, neutral, ICF-trained advisor help guide you through this incredibly personal and life-changing process makes all the difference. Ensure you do your research to find a coach who not only meets your high standards but also will get to know you holistically.

  • Do your homework PRIOR to networking. Recruiters, hiring managers, headhunters and your next-door neighbor with an open role he’s been trying to fill for months are motivated to move QUICKLY. Once you get the ball rolling, there’s no stopping it – and it’s a snowball. My clients often find themselves overwhelmed once they start networking if they haven’t determined what their non-negotiables are, or if networking is the beginning of their process. Your networking should feel proactive and purposeful, not reactive and luck-of-the-draw. Do the steps above first!

Set up a free consultation with Haven Coaching today, and have a trusted expert on your side as you navigate through a role, company, life, or career transition.

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