Whether you're thinking of moving jobs or starting a brand new venture - one thing is for sure. The uncertainty of a significant career change can keep you tossing and turning at night. Even if you consider yourself a risk taker in other life departments.
As a career coach, I get involved because my clients want to be sure they're making the right decision. The 3 questions below have proven helpful to frame their thinking, but the catch is to answer them honestly.
This may be harder than you think with question #2.
1. What is the cost of doing nothing?
This question is an important one for you if you are unhappy in your job but years are passing and you're too busy to do anything about it.
Or when you think it's too risky to make a change.
As humans we have an interesting way of looking at risk. Biologically wired to favour a bad status quo over an uncertain new future, we overanalyse and overestimate the risk of making a change and underestimate the risk of things staying as they are. Even though we keep hearing that technology will overhaul our workplace and the security that we're holding on to may be an illusion.
[Side note: with all this uncertainty coming our way, is there a case for embracing some of it earlier?]
So let's flip this around.
Think about yourself 10 years from now. What will your life look like if things stay as they are?
What is the price you're likely to pay? It could be your health, especially if you’re under a lot of stress and you let it build up over the years. It could be your relationships. Either because you're missing out on time with your loved ones, or because work is making you so frustrated that you're not the partner / parent / friend you want to be.
It pays off to create space to reflect on this question. We analyse the cost of inaction in our businesses, but it's as unaffordable in our lives.
Now, if at this point it feels like I'm trying to convince you to resign right away, let me bring this back to earth a bit.
2. What are you in control to improve in your work situation now?
If you're at your limit and thinking about resigning this may be the last thing you'd want to consider. But hear me out.
It's worth taking an honest look at any unresolved issues in how you show up at work now. If you don't, they are likely to follow you to your next career.
Take my client Laura (not her real name). Working long hours during the week and unable to switch off at the weekends, she was under a lot of pressure. As we do, she was blaming her lack of balance on the workplace and her boss who kept piling onto her plate. The situation was taking its toll on her marriage and she was thinking about leaving.
But... one curious detail of this situation is that Laura was the only one still in the office each night. Stuck in the squashed middle between doing endless report iterations for her boss, and correcting technical work by her team. Although it was hard to accept her part in this at first, it became clear with time that she needed to get better at upwards management and start delegating more effectively.
A job that you’re not planning to stay in anyway is a risk free testing ground for building new skills and habits.
Laura decided to create firmer boundaries. After all, it would be much harder to do in a new job where she would want to impress her new boss and colleagues.
Things improved, and she has found herself surprised to discover that changing her approach made enough of a difference she's no longer in a rush to leave. But if she still decides to move on, she will have a much better start now that her old ways are under control.
3. How can you get clear on what makes you engaged at work?
My clients often tell me they wish their career was more intentional. Instead, they kind of fell into jobs: gave into pressure to progress, wanted a way out from an environment they were fed up with, or craved a new challenge. But these reasons for change don't correlate with what makes us happy at work in the long term.
The issue is that we rarely take the time to figure out what we want. We may imagine what that would be (like that new job title) but the magic of the new doesn’t usually last long.
So how can you tune the social pressures out and get more clarity? Think of a time when you were very energised and satisfied at work. Look for patterns: what were you doing? What kind of people were around you?
This is the first step to developing awareness of your values and strengths. When you use them in your work, it feels more meaningful. And you're more likely to experience that holy grail of mental states which positive psychology calls flow.
I'd love to hear from you - which of the questions resonate with you?
If you'd like help in reflecting on this, there is a guided exercise pack in the resources section.