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Career Decisions

The decision to change roles is one of the hardest you'll make, and if you're reading this, you're probably considering, if not fully committed to, making a move. However, successful careers always come down to sensible decisions and good planning. To help you decide if it's the right time to move on, Karalyn Brown of job search consultancy Interview IQ, gives you an insider's advice on the questions you should ask of both yourself and your company - before you start sending out your resume.

Making the Decision to Move - Seven Questions to Ask Before You change Roles

If you care about your career, making the decision to change roles is always difficult. And so it should be. Career Counsellors will tell you to carefully plan your moves with your ultimate career goal in mind - adding to your skill set, increasing your experience and expanding your industry exposure each time you move.

That's the ideal. But it's not always possible to be so strategic. Any number of circumstances can prompt you to consider leaving a company. You may have restructured with a new management team. Your position description may have changed. Perhaps you have a tenuous relationship with your manager or a challenging colleague. You may have been overlooked for a promotion. Or it may simply just be, that you are looking for more of a challenge than your current position offers.

However, job hunting is always time consuming and can be very disruptive. The search for a new role takes emotional energy and it's easy to become distracted by the tantalising prospect of the new when you go out for interviews and weigh up the offers. An unintended consequence may be, that your focus and output in your current role suffers and you actually contribute to the things that have caused your discontent.

Whatever your circumstances, you should always aim to have your next role a considered career move rather than a reaction to a negative situation. The ideal, although not always possible, is to have your employer's blessing when you move (for the right reasons of course!).

Before you start applying for positions, consider the questions below and answer them honestly. When your interviewer assesses your calibre as a candidate, they will be thinking of these questions, if not asking you directly.

Question 1.

Have I been in this role and company long enough?

In your present situation you may say that's a given. However put yourself in the mindset of the company who may hire you. An attractive employee has the right balance of ambition, a desire to improve, and stability.

Consider what is appropriate and the average tenure for your position and industry – and work towards staying longer. It's a basic fact, but worth repeating, that no matter what your career level, an employer wants to invest training and resources into someone who will stay for the long term. Too many consecutive short term stints in different companies can reveal anything from serial unresolved issues, to someone who consistently puts their interests ahead of their company. If you move jobs frequently, you can expect a recruiter to ask detailed questions about your reasons for leaving each role.

Having said that, you can definitely stay too long in a job. Long stints in the same company in the same position, may be read as complacency and you run the risk of being seen as someone with low motivation or who avoids all risk.

Question 2

Are the issues I have resolvable?

Think about what's wrong. Then ask, is the issue resolvable? Not an easy question to answer if you're in the middle of an unpleasant situation. However before making a move, consider what you could do, and if you actually can, resolve your concerns.

Issues, particularly those based on communication, can seem insurmountable. But it's definitely worthwhile raising them in a constructive way before embarking on your job search. Like personal relationships, no working relationship is perfect. An ability to raise and resolve concerns is a very useful skill to have.

Internal structural issues within a company are another matter. It can be frustrating if you're ambitious and you work in an environment where promotion is based only on tenure or your next move upwards would require a major relocation. These are examples of legitimate reasons to want to move on.

Question 3

Have I contributed to the problem?

Take your dissatisfaction as an opportunity for some honest self reflection. Are you consistently having the same issues job to job, company to company? Still unsure? Ask your partner or trusted friend and be prepared for the answer. If the answer is yes, same issues, despite the company, the role, or the management, then moving on may not be the solution. Working on whatever is identified, is confronting but definitely worthwhile.

Question 4

Is there a career path in this company for me?

It may be that your next big career move exists in your present company. Revisit the bigger picture before deciding whether to leave. If the company is dynamic, and if there are other roles worth pursuing, it maybe worthwhile staying and finding out what you need to do to take the next step.

Question 5

Am I in the right career?

Is your dissatisfaction related to what you do each day?

Many people choose careers for reasons other than having a natural aptitude or interest in the field. You can see this reflected in the high numbers of graduates switching careers mid stream. Just because you have been in a role for many years, doesn't mean that the role is the best one for you.

Many applicants who apply for the same role in a different company are surprised when they are rejected. They shouldn't be. It happens a lot. The interview is an evaluation point. The recruiter has identified not only the skills, but the attitude and interests that are needed for the position. And they may be giving the attitude component a higher weighting than the skills.

It may be, that although you have all the skills, you also need to ask, "do I really enjoy what I'm doing"? If your answer is "no" at this point, and if it's appropriate, it may be worthwhile seeking out a professional career counsellor who can help you identify your talents and interests.

Question 6

Is this company in sync with my values and principles?

An important question to ask, particularly if you are to stay long term in a company.

Every organisation has a different culture and working values. Think about what is fundamentally important to you and, as no organization is perfect, what you are prepared to compromise. For your long term self esteem, an exciting role and salary may be little compensation if you do not respect who you work for and what you are doing.

Clarifying what's important to you can help you decide which companies you would really like to work for.

Question 7

How employable am I?

Have you learnt as much as you can from your present role, or are there still skills you could acquire by staying where you are? Roles with the same title are not exactly the same. To compare where your position sits and how you would fare in a competitive job search market, check out advertisements and roles similar to yours before making a move.

Similarly, if you want to move upwards look at what's required for the next step and think about how you can gather those skills.

Useful resources

Career Change

The classic career change bible, "What Colour is Your Parachute" takes you through the steps to changing your career. Information about this book can be found on the author's website, the Job Hunter's Bible.

Recruitment Agencies

While most recruitment consultants are not career counsellors, they do screen candidates based on employers' requirements and know which skills are in demand. Consider contacting a recruitment agency for advice on your employability in your field - the Byron Employment Recruiter Database is the most comprehensive in Australia and is a good place to start.


About Karalyn Brown


Karalyn has over 10 years experience as a decision maker in recruitment, in a consultancy and in corporate HR. Karalyn owns and runs Interview IQ who provide personalised interview coaching and job search advice. For more information visit www.interviewiq.com.au.

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