You’ve probably already heard a thousand times that you should never leave a job without first finding another one. Well, in most cases, it’s good advice! Although it’s tricky to look for a new job while already in a full-time position, it does provide more room to carefully plan out your next steps.
Changing jobs should be about improvement, whether you want to change industries completely, look for more responsibilities and a higher salary, or simply shorten your commute. But you should tread carefully on your job hunt to ensure the transition into a new job is a smooth one.
Sometimes, it can be hard to determine whether you’re just going through a rough patch at work or your role has become irreversibly unsuitable for you. Here are some signs that indicate the latter is happening:
- You’re long overdue a promotion or raise. You’ve been respectfully nudging your manager for months to no avail.
- There are no prospects for career advancement. Some roles don’t easily cater themselves to progression.
- The work environment is unhealthy. Think inexcusable behaviors, toxic competition and very little reward.
- The work clashes with your personal values. You can’t really feel proud of any accomplishments.
- Your job is consistently impacting your personal life. It’s creating tension between you and your loved ones.
- You get the Monday blues five days a week. Getting up in the morning is becoming impossible.
As the saying goes: you win some and you lose some. Although there is no perfect job out there, there might be one that ticks more of your boxes than your current role does. Before you decide, consider how your current and prospective jobs compete in the following:
Knowing where you want to be headed is vital when taking steps forward, otherwise you wander aimlessly. With no clear vision in mind, it’s unlikely that a new job will satisfy you. Sure, the change might be nice (and necessary, in some cases), but with no clear targets, you could hop from one job to another, getting nowhere.
So, set some short- and long-term goals for yourself and your career. Do you envision yourself working in a different industry than you are now, landing a managerial role, or doing more work that you consider meaningful and rewarding? Let that be your compass.
So, money isn’t everything. In an article for Forbes, career expert and bestselling author Ashley Stahl lists three career paths that are notorious for their burnout rates: law, STEM and medicine. And those sure are some high-paying professions!
At the same time, while money can’t perfectly safeguard your wellbeing, being fairly rewarded at your job is essential in thriving in the workplace. A 2022 report by the Pew Research Center indicated that the top reason for voluntary resignation in the US that year was low pay.
So, carefully consider your needs before deciding upon your next move.
Ah, work–life balance: that beautiful thing that allows you to actually enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Research by Aviva, a leading UK pension provider, showed that more people chose their next role based on the work–life balance it offered, and not the salary, in 2022. That comes as no surprise given that work–life balance is essential in maintaining good mental and physical health, as well as fulfilling hobbies and relationships outside of work.
Even if you’re offered a heftier paycheck, consider at what cost it’s going to come!
Let’s consider the following example: you want more autonomy, higher amounts of decision making, room for growth, and to work on an exciting, new project. All these things could be offered to you if you left your job to work for a startup.
At the same time, working at said startup would come with its cons, too (like just about any other job). The most important catch being the company’s very vitality.
If you’re looking for a job that will provide you some ease of mind and stability over excitement, then consider how well-established your prospective employer is.
International HR consulting firm Robert Half conducted a survey that showed that, roughly, one in four employees have previously left a job due to a bad commute. If your new job offers you a higher salary, consider how much of that excess is going to get eaten up by traveling the extra distance.
A longer commute will also mean less time for other things you enjoy, including spending time with friends and family.
So, you’ve made up your mind: you want to be out of the office and in a new position somewhere far, far away at the drop of a hat. Not so fast, however: take the following steps to ensure your transition is smooth.
1. Create a career journal
When you’re faced with a major life event or a big decision, such as changing jobs, it’s often difficult to think clearly. For this reason alone, creating a career journal could really aid in gathering your feelings and selecting the right path for you.
Use the diary to help you identify what route you want to take and perhaps how you actually feel about your current role and why you want to leave.
2. Make a list
Some people blindly look for a job by sending out a standard, one-size-fits-all application to the positions that sound interesting to them, without even knowing what route they want to take. Instead of changing jobs in such a scattered way, compile a list of jobs or companies that you want to target, and focus on applying to a handful first.
3. Make sure the grass is greener
You’ve probably heard the saying that “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and while you might be better off elsewhere, that’s not always the case. In fact, many people before you felt the same way and jumped into a new position at the earliest opportunity for a higher salary and a change of scenery — only to end up unhappier than before.
As such, and although it’s difficult to gauge what another working environment will be like, it’s vital to identify if you’re better off staying put for now. Do this by listing the pros and cons of staying and going, and then weigh the advantages up against the disadvantages to see whether you’d be doing yourself a favor or a hindrance.
4. Update your résumé
If your résumé isn’t already up to date, now is the time to get the ball rolling. The first step to updating your résumé is to showcase the skills that you’ve obtained in your current position. Secondly, you’ll need to ensure that you’re using the correct keywords throughout your résumé and that you’re tailoring it to the job you’re applying for. The same goes for your cover letter!
5. Update your LinkedIn profile
Once your résumé is updated, it’s time to focus on your online presence. And with most recruiters headhunting talent and advertising jobs on LinkedIn these days, a killer profile should be your top priority.
That said, be careful you don’t accidentally tip off your boss you’re looking for a new job. Hiding your profile updates and refraining from explicitly sharing that you’re seeking new positions with your professional network is imperative.
6. Start networking
Follow your target companies and leave a comment on their posts (without overdoing it, of course), and connect with the company’s employees and ask for their help (but make sure you can offer something in return first!).
7. Think of people, not applications
When you think of your job search, you probably think about sending out application after application in the hopes of securing one or two job interviews. But you need to switch your strategy; instead of focusing on applications, you should concentrate on making vital connections within those companies.
A referral is always more likely to convince a potential employer to hire you, as there’s already that element of trust there.
If you’re not getting anywhere through networking, why not do some volunteer work to gain some leads? You’ll not only test the waters in a similar role, but you’ll also acquire valuable skills that will make your résumé stand out more.
So, if you have some time to spare, consider volunteering a few evenings a week after work or on the weekend.
9. Arrange interviews outside office hours
Arranging interviews while you have a full-time job can be tricky. You feel like you’re sneaking around and doing something that you shouldn’t!
So, to help you feel a little less guilty, try to schedule interviews first thing in the morning before work, during your lunch break or after work. That way, you won’t be worried about misusing company time. Plus, if you have four “doctor’s appointments” within a few weeks, your boss will probably start to get suspicious.
10. Don’t start dressing differently
If you usually wear a T-shirt and a pair of jeans to work, and you suddenly start turning up in a three-piece suit, rumors will inevitably start circulating — it’s painfully obvious you’ve either come from an interview or you have one after work.
In other words, keep a change of clothes with you and find somewhere discreet to change out of your outfit before you head back to work or leave the office.
11. Don’t act suspiciously
Don’t change your attitude towards others, spend hours on end on your phone or keep popping out for secret phone conversations.
This all gives the impression that something is either wrong or that you’re looking for a new job. So, try not to betray yourself, and avoid misusing company time as much as you can!
12. Don’t burn any bridges
Even if you have the worst boss in the world, you should refrain from telling them what you really think of them as you prepare to walk out the office door for the last time.
You never know when your name will be brought up in a conversation (or by whom) — and when it is, it’s best that you’re remembered as a capable and hardworking employee, not the employee who went on a rampage on their last day on the job.
13. Market yourself properly
When switching jobs in today’s digital age, it’s essential to market yourself correctly.
Depending on your industry, you might need to develop a brand for yourself that effectively showcases who you are and what makes you stand out. Or you might want to work on an impressive portfolio or put together a list of great referrals. Knowing what works in your industry is imperative.
14. Know your worth
In an interview with Glassdoor, Omer Molad, founder and CEO of AI hiring platform Vervoe, made the following remark about salary negotiations: “There is often a salary band or range that recruiters have for each role. Their initial salary offer is very rarely at the top of their salary band, so base pay — as well as benefits like vacation days, work hours, etc — can usually be negotiated.”
With this in mind, know that the hiring managers you interact with will almost always be expecting you to negotiate your starting salary and terms of employment. Researching what someone in your area with your qualifications and experience can earn, therefore, is vital in ensuring you don’t get the short end of the stick.
15. Check out employer review sites
If you don’t know anyone who works at the company you’ve got your eye on, the next best thing you can do to learn inside information is to check out an employer review site. If you’re not familiar with them, popular ones include Comparably, CareerBliss, Fairygodboss and Glassdoor.
Although to an extent individual experiences are subjective, if you see multiple reviews complaining about a toxic blame culture, poor benefits or no real DEI efforts, then you can generally assume that that, indeed, applies.
16. Don’t look for jobs on company time
If you’ve had enough of your job, your colleagues or your boss, you might be tempted to start job searching on company time, but we can’t stress enough why this is a horrible idea.
For one, your internet, computer and telephone use is likely monitored, and as a result, you might end up getting fired before you can even say “I quit”. And two, your nervousness of being caught will only work against you as passers-by start questioning why you keep minimizing your windows on your computer whenever they walk past.
So, to save yourself the panic, leave your job search for outside of working hours.
17. Don’t list your current employer as a reference
This may seem like a really obvious point to make, but no matter how close you are with your current boss, it’s probably best not to list them as a reference — especially if you haven’t warned them about your quest to move on to another company. Instead, list a previous employer or industry professional that can vouch for your knowledge and skills.
18. Ask for confidentiality
On a similar note, be sure to ask for confidentiality from hiring managers and recruiters when looking for other opportunities. Although recruiters do generally guarantee confidentiality, it’s best to double-check with them that your details won’t be shared with third parties. You just never know who your boss is connected to — it is a small world, after all!
19. Be careful who you confide in
In many cases, when a person is looking to change jobs, it’s because they’re utterly fed up with their current employer. Maybe your manager is extremely rude and condescending, or maybe your boss promotes “yes-men” only, regardless if they’re good at their job or not — thus making it everyone’s problem.
Despite having your reasons for leaving, be careful who you vent to. If for some reason your job search isn’t successful and you’re forced to stay longer, things can get a lot worse for you if news of your intentions and real feelings spread.
20. Confess if you’re caught
If your supervisor or manager suspects that you’re looking to change jobs, be honest with them! They might even be inclined to give you a better offer to convince you to stay. This will not only show that they value you as an employee, but it might also rid any doubt that sparked the desire to leave in the first place.
21. Don’t mentally check out
When you’re between jobs, it’s easy to mentally check out and give up on your workload, company goals and personal achievements.
And if you’re usually the person to pipe up in meetings, throw ideas around and get involved in the process, you’ll give your boss reason to suspect that something is wrong, which is why it’s so important to give your job 100% until the day you leave.
22. Let your boss know you’re leaving first
Once you’ve managed to secure a new position, it’s time to reveal your big secret. But no matter who your work best friend is, it’s good practice that your boss is the first person to know the news. Even if you tell one person you trust completely, someone might overhear you, and the news will spread like wildfire.
23. Carefully consider your company’s counteroffer
If your employer doesn’t actually want you gone (despite their behavior suggesting otherwise), they might try to win you over with a counteroffer. Plus, replacing employees is expensive, and they know this: according to Gallup, “the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary.”
Instead of instantly dismissing their offer, consider it. It’s your best opportunity to successfully negotiate the things you want, be that a significant pay raise or working under a different manager.
24. Write a resignation letter
After you’ve broken the news of your imminent departure, it’s time to put words to paper and prepare your official resignation letter. When doing so, you should always stick to your contractual rules and give the company the required notice as stipulated in your contract.
However, it’s important to only send this letter (and indeed to announce your resignation to your boss) once you have a job offer in writing from your new employer.
25. Wrap up before you leave
It might be tempting to kick your feet up and say “I’m done!” before you actually are. After all, no one can tell you off for not doing something after you’ve left.
However, it will only reflect badly on you if you promise to wrap up your projects and then fail to do so. As petty as your current employer may be in your eyes, and as tempting as “getting back at them” might feel, don’t sacrifice your professionalism. It might come back to bite you should you need something from the company in the future.
In a snapshot:
Changing jobs is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. It opens a world of opportunities but, sometimes, they just aren’t the ones that you expected. To shift gears in the most beneficial manner, stick to our 25 tips listed above.
- Always consider your needs, goals and priorities when sifting through the endless employment opportunities you see advertised online.
- As eager as you are to find a new job, the process can take time. Be careful who you share your plans with in the meantime.
- Ads on job boards are designed to make prospective employers look good. Always do your own research before applying.
Do you have any other great tips to add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.
Originally published on November 15, 2018. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.