8 Questions To Ask Before You Change Jobs In The New Year

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Table Of Contents

Written By: Michael Gardon

The end of a year is a natural time to reflect on your career path. We’ve all experienced a lot of uncertainty in the last few years. If a career change is on your mind, you’re not alone.

Making a career pivot to a new job can open the doors to new opportunities, and can unleash your creativity and potential. However, it’s important to properly reflect on why you want a change and figure out what you really want.

I’ve changed my career several times, and have coached others through their own pivots. Here are the best questions I’ve found to crystalize your path so you can execute your change in the upcoming year.

If you’re thinking about a career change and want to see what’s out there, I suggest using our analysts rated #1 best job site, ZipRecruiter. What is ZipRecruiter? Check out our full review to find out more.

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8 Questions To Ask Before Changing Jobs This Year

1. Why am I thinking about a job change?

In my experience, people rarely truly know what they want. It takes some work to understand for yourself. You need to get very clear about why you want a change, or you’re liable to make another mistake.

Sometimes your why is not obvious. It’s easy to blame external circumstances like a toxic boss or meeting frustration, but most often there is a hidden component. By taking a moment to reflect on your “why” you can gain clarity on what you need to avoid in the next job.

Take out a full sheet of paper, and write the question on the top. Then just journal. Long-form or bullets doesn’t really matter. Just keep asking “why?” and see what you come up with.

In my own experience, I have made job changes because of money, but what I was really after was a sense of freedom that I thought money would buy once I got to a certain level. Now I’m able to filter out “money jobs” from “freedom jobs.”

2. Is it a job change or a career change?

Based on your “why” from question 1, are you looking at a job change or a complete career change? In other words, can you get what you want by merely switching companies or roles? Or do you need a completely new path?

Both options are legitimate, but they take different plans and sets of skills to pull off. A job change may rely on your industry skills and knowledge and can be as simple as applying to like jobs at different companies.

A career change, on the other hand, can take longer, require more networking, and hinge on your ability to learn a new set of skills quickly.

This is why you need to understand what advantages you will use in your career change.

3. What advantages do I have in pursuing my new path?

Most people understand what knowledge and intellect they have but underestimate other factors that make them uniquely special and translate well into new career paths. I currently coach clients with a system I call Advantage Mapping.

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By digging into 8 sources of advantage, you get a better picture of what your strategy and tactics can be to execute a career change.

For example, if you’ve been in a very tactical job, but you find that you get energy from solving abstract and complex problems - well that hidden talent may be directly transferable to a faster paced start-up environment.

Now you can lead with that strength and create a LinkedIn profile and resume that really showcases these abilities.

Better yet, as you identify these strengths, you start to believe in them and believe in a new version of yourself.

Follow me on LinkedIn to find out more about Advantage Mapping.

4. What am I willing to give up?

Every decision involves tradeoffs. To change jobs you may give up good relationships with co-workers, time with family as you hustle to network and find a new opportunity, or even some pay if you need a bigger change.

Get another piece of paper and make a list of what you are likely to give up as you map out your change. Naming the tradeoffs is a powerful way to make a good decision.

In my own career changes, I defined the amount of time I was going to work on my change. It was scheduled - 1 hour at night, 3 days per week, and 2 hours on the weekend. That’s time I took away from my wife and 3 young children, but I thought it was worth the investment in designing my life so I could be around more in the future.

5. What am I not willing to give up?

On the same piece of paper, write down everything you’re not willing to give up to make a career change. Thinking about a problem backwards is called inversion and it’s a powerful problem-solving tool.

By identifying what you are unwilling to give up, you’ll gain more clarity about the type of job you do want and some insights into why you want to change. For example, if you are unwilling to give up time away from family, then your entire job search should focus on finding work cultures that value flexibility.

This way you can adjust your job search from “mass applying” based on job roles and titles, and focus on finding the right culture and tailoring your story to different titles and roles.

6. What are my options?

Now that you have clarity about what you want and why you can start looking at your options. Each option is a path toward pursuing a new job or career. Here again, I like to make a list. Generate a big list, circle your top three highest odds paths and ignore the rest.

Next to your top three, write the very next step you need to take in order to get more information that you need in order to make a decision.

  • Who do you need to talk to?
  • What companies/industries are in the space?
  • How can you shadow/apprentice someone in that role/career?

Keep taking the very next action toward each option and eventually, you’ll have high confidence on the right path for you.

7. What is my runway?

Runway is the amount of time you have to make a decision and execute your career change. Your runway can be self-imposed: “I’m giving myself 6 months to change jobs” or it can be externally imposed: “I can only go without income for 3 months.”

In either case, putting time and money values on your runway helps you understand what you are trading off to pursue your change.

This exercise helps you become realistic about the amount of time and risk a job change can take.

8. How do I explore a better fit?

Look back at question 6, and get creative about how you can be an explorer of careers. Over my coaching experience, I can guarantee what won’t work - randomly applying to jobs and playing the “volume” game.

You have to stick out. You have to get creative about how to learn what job and company is the right fit for you and take steps to make it a fun game of exploration.

What usually works, is for job seekers to use their career pivot as a huge networking opportunity, so I suggest starting there.

If you’re not to that point yet, that’s ok.  I suggest browsing jobs and companies on Ziprecruiter today to get a feel for what’s out there.