New job? Things to consider if you are resolved to change employment
by George Hurley, PhD, a Member of the National Register Board of Directors
Each year many people think about changing jobs. After all, another year can signify fresh beginnings and what better time to think about a life change - especially if your old job or career direction seems less than satisfactory. Before you take the plunge, however, it is wise to give some serious thought to such a change by first considering the two general approaches to job shifts.
Interest driven approaches to career planning. Vocational research suggests that people tend to be most satisfied with occupations that engage their intrinsic interests – in other words – work that captures your imagination and natural interests. In these kinds of occupational paths you tend to be more satisfied with your work and tend to stay longer in the job area given the choice.
Market driven approaches. The other general approach to occupational change is the market driven approach. Following this path means that you try to guess where the “hot jobs” might be and conform yourself to the requirements of the emerging area. There is no shortage of books and articles that trumpet this approach as people by nature are attracted to occupations that may appear to offer more opportunity and potentially higher salaries. However, here is the rub…if you try to fit yourself into a square peg occupation when you are not that shape to begin with, it can be a real psychological squeeze. Even if you convince your potential employer that you are THE PERSON for the job, your interests and abilities may not match well with the occupational requirements and what looked like a dream opportunity may turn out to be a nightmare. So what to do?
Do your homework first regarding what interests you and sustains you at work. For example, is it working with a team or working alone, leading others or following along with the group, taking risks or being cautious and conservative, working with your hands or playing with ideas. Don’t forget that when you capitalize on your inherent strengths and seek to honestly match these with those new job requirements, you not only make a better candidate for the position but you are far more likely to be satisfied with your shift to new work. Interest driven books such as, What Color is your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles, can help you analyze your interests, values, preferred working environment, and thereby help you solidify and highlight what is important to you in your work and working environment.
Talk to others who are doing work that interests you. There is sometimes no better opportunity to find out about the good and not-so-good aspects of a particular occupation than by sitting down with someone who has been in the area for awhile. Of course, don’t just talk to one person but try to make contact with a number of people who work in the field. A collective view of the occupation often gives a better overall and more balanced assessment of the work area under consideration than any single opinion.
Making the Transition. Once you have decided that you have found the job that excites you, start making some additional preparations.
Plan for the interview. Do your homework (again) about the new position and the people you plan to work for. Demonstrate that you have much more than a passing knowledge about the new work environment you plan to enter. People who hire want someone who takes the initiative to learn about the job area and demonstrates a high potential for a good fit with both the job requirements and the job environment.
Committing to the new position. Your chance to negotiate the terms of your new employment are always best when people want to hire you, not after you have signed on. Having researched the occupational area and having talked to others that work in the field will give you a fairly good idea of what you might expect in the way of salary, benefits, etc. and should enhance the probability of a successful negotiation.
Exit gracefully from your old position. When you sign on to your new position, be fair with your previous employer. Give both adequate notice and keep your criticisms of your previous employment - if you have such - to yourself. People will take notice if you seem to abandon your previous employer and blame them for your current shift and will wonder if they are next.
Keep learning. A new job means new tasks and challenges. Commit to life long learning as a habit and you will enjoy your new challenges rather than be daunted by them. Remember, you chose to switch presumably to better both yourself and your circumstances. Enjoy your new job!