“New year, new job” your current motto? Many see the annual re-start as a great time to switch jobs. Some do it rashly, and others take a more long-term approach.
Let’s say you plan to wait it out a bit, but hope to be in a new role in the next six months. This is a great time to prepare and work through the 10 activities mapped out below.
First, even if you’re taking the slow and steady approach, think about your motives for leaving and whether you’re looking for a new job or plan to transition to an entirely different career.
Figure out what’s driving you towards this change. Know that these choices can be motivated by internal or external factors, so be sure to examine those, too.
For example, you may want to find a new job because:
You want to be challenged more or use another part of your skillset (internal motivator)
You’re trying to get away from a “bad boss” (external motivator)
If it’s a new career you’re after, it may be because:
You see your current career has a “shelf life” and you anticipate your job becoming obsolete (external motivator)
You discovered a new passion or want to work in an area more aligned with your values (internal motivator)
It’s likely if you landed on “escaping a bad boss” as your motivation, you’re probably not taking the “6 Months to a New Job” approach. But know that following these steps will help ensure you make an informed and strategic decision about where you work next. Reflecting on your wants and needs will help safeguard against finding yourself in a job that’s more of the same, simply because you didn’t do the extra homework beforehand.
Now that you’ve explored your motivations a bit, you’re ready to move on:
1. Scan Job Listings, But Don’t Apply Yet
After deciding “I’ll take anything” is not the right answer when it comes to switching jobs, get clear on what you want to do professionally. Your search will only be as successful as you are at honing in on both your interests and abilities. This is especially important if you’re not looking for something other than a lateral move.
One way to get clarity around what you want to do next is to review job listings (even if you’re not ready to apply yet). Ask yourself, “do I want to do this work?” Find the common themes for the listings you say “yes” to. This will help you once you’re ready to get into the search process full force.
2. Know if You Can Do The Job
You’ve collected job listings that you’re interested in- great! Next ask yourself, “can I do this job?” Find a match between your strongest skills and the ones the company is seeking. Start jotting down notes that support your answer to the employer’s question, “why should I hire you?” If you have the skillset, move on to step three.
If your skills need brushing up or you lack an education credential, find out what it would take to get on track. Will you need to go back to school for an advanced degree, or would a training course suffice? Are there ways you can build these skills in your current job?
Let’s say you want to get into event planning. Can you offer to plan your company’s next retreat or volunteer for the entertainment committee for your professional association’s annual conference? This would be a great way to test out whether event planning is something you’re truly interested in and find out more about what it’s like to do it.
Also ask yourself if you’re willing to take the time (and money) to gain these new skills or advanced degree. If not, move on to jobs that will be more attainable for you.
3. Research Organizations
You know what they are offering, now delve deep. Learn what you can, beyond the organization’s “About Us” page. What do their customers say on Reddit? What do its employees say on Glassdoor? Check out pictures- do employees look happy? You don’t want to be at an organization where the stress lines are visible on people’s faces even at the company picnic, right?
You might even do a Google search for companies like the one you’re looking at. Let’s say you’re looking at a position at Boston Consulting Group, you might Google “boutique financial consulting firm” and you’ll get a whole list of other firms that are like it that you might not be aware of!
4. Schedule Life Design Conversations
Now that your search hasn’t scared you away from these organizations, why not try to get in? Nope, we’re still not talking about just submitting your application. What if you were to connect with some employees? Schedule chats with them, asking how they got into this type of work and what they like most about doing it.
If you can find someone who makes hiring decisions, even better, but at this stage you’re really just trying to gather information. According to Bill Burnett & Dave Evans, authors of Designing Your Life, these types of interviews (similar to informational interviews) are about the story more than they are about the job. You want to discover what you might love or hate about this type of work based on what you learn in these interviews.
5. Get Really Good at Your Current Job
Why should you care about your current job when you feel like you’ve got one foot out the door?
Maintain good relationships with your managers and coworkers
Gain glowing references
Keep your skills fresh
Hone in on your likes and dislikes
Have great stories to share while you’re engaging in step 4 (and maybe get a job offer or a role created for you!)
Identifying the two or three specific things you want to get out of your current job while you’re still there, can give more purpose on a daily basis and clear goals for the remainder of the time you’re there.
6. Maintain Your Circle
Don’t neglect your relationships with coworkers just because you hope to leave before the year is over. They know you, your work, and your work ethic. As you’re going about your transition, ask them to write recommendations for you on LinkedIn, but be sure to make the conversation more personal. Tell them which projects you enjoyed working on with them. Ask what they think your best contributions to the company are. Decide if you want to still be a part of Taco Tuesday or Bowling Night, and when the time comes, make it easy for them to include you after you’ve left the company.
7. Walk Down Memory Lane
Do you have a list of all your accomplishments? The projects you’ve worked on? The thank you notes and performance reviews you’ve received? Collect these items. They will be useful throughout your transition in these next six months.
These highlights will help you get clear on your strengths (if you had trouble with step 2, this should help). On your interviews, this exercise will allow you to have concrete evidence of your competencies, bright spots, and accomplishments readily available and top of mind.
8. Outline a How-To Manual for your Job
Start jotting down notes to create a how-to manual for your successor. Even if you hate your job-boss-company, this is the responsible, kind, and adult thing to do. Plus, it’s likely your team could ask you to do this before you depart anyway.
You know what you’ve been saddled with in this role, so give some words of wisdom to make the next person’s job a little easier and the transition smoother. It’s a last-ditch opportunity to come out smelling like roses.
9. Check in With Yourself
You’re probably near the end of those six months by now- how have things been going with your leads? At this point, you may be ready for salary negotiations or a stylish new interview suit. Maybe you are almost hired, or maybe you need to double your efforts. Recalibrate if necessary.
10. Craft Your Resignation Letter/Prepare for Your Exit Interview
You can start this even before you have your new offer in hand. Think about how you want to share the news with your manager. What will your farewell note to the team say? Thinking about this early on can keep your momentum for your job search up, knowing that there is an end in sight.
Your letter should be thoughtful and positive - share an anecdote about something you learned, a new skill you gained, or a favorite work project or milestone. Even if you want to sock it to ‘em, maintain your composure, exit with class, and leave a legacy.
About the Author: Victoria Crispo
Drawing from her years of experience in career development, Victoria Crispo propels job seekers and career changers towards taking control of their searches with confidence and removing fear, uncertainty, and other blocks to success. In both the corporate and non-profit sectors, she has led in-person workshops and seminars, webinars, and conference programming. She previously served as a writer and content manager for Idealist Careers. Victoria is currently working on a series of career and personal development workshops- connect with her on LinkedIn and stay tuned for details!