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Even with a recession on the horizon, workers looking to make a job change in the new year should feel optimistic about their options: 2022 is closing out with better-than-expected job growth, and wages are up, too.
So if you’re itching to try something new next year, your prospects are looking good. Still, workers would be wise to take their time mapping out a transition plan, according to Sophie Theen, a career coach and former HR consultant for IBM, Ford and General Motors.
“It’s important that job seekers understand the ‘what’ to fix before the ‘why,’” she says.
Here’s how to make your next job your best one yet.
Signs you’re due for a career change
There are a few common denominators among workers in desperate need of a job reset, according to Theen.
If you’re just collecting a check and aren’t getting any personal fulfillment out of your current role, it’s probably time to shake things up. You may also be feeling disconnected from a sense of passion, and realizing that you’re not chasing the aspirations that are important to you.
“My clients realize their dream isn't to do this job forever. The word ‘forever’ really causes them to rethink their career choices,” Theen says.
Your body may also be trying to tell you something, she adds. If you’re in a physically demanding role, or feeling mentally and emotionally worn down, prioritize your health and look for something that suits your needs. Your future self will thank you.
What to consider before making the jump
The last few years have put more power in the hands of working people as employers in many industries struggled to fill empty positions. The impending recession is unlikely to cause the same job losses we saw in 2008, but Theen says workers should still tread carefully.
To better gauge what you want out of your career and what challenges you’re prepared to face, ask yourself the following questions:
Am I looking for just a job, or a new career entirely? Theen says her clients frequently overestimate just how much of a change they comfortable navigating. If your employer isn’t helping you reach your goals, think about taking a new role at a different company before throwing in the towel.
Do I understand the risks in changing my career right now, and how will I cope with them? Major life transitions require energy, time and money, so be sure you’re up to tackling the challenges that accompany change.
Map out a plan
Weathering a career change is no small task. Theen equates it to restarting your life, and says having a healthy emergency fund to act as a cushion — especially if you anticipate having to take time off to shift gears — is an absolute must.
You also need a plan of attack for how, exactly, you’ll make the transition. Talk to people in your network who have made a career change themselves about the roadblocks they ran into (bonus points for connections who are in the industry you’re eyeing). Next, come up with a backup plan for what you’ll do if things don't go smoothly — whether it's taking a role that’s comparable to the one you’re in now or otherwise.
“Learn to pivot your narrative of selling yourself, which sometimes includes the skills you already have, especially soft skills,” she says. “From there, you should look to reposition yourself, including your resume, for the new path you want to go into.”
Make as many networking connections as you can
Sometimes it really is about who you know and not what you know.
Theen, who started out as a mechanical engineer before becoming an HR whiz, knows from experience.
“By far, networking has been the most important factor … [in helping] me either expand my knowledge or get a new job,” she says.
Take that as your sign to join a professional organization on social media, invite potential mentors out for coffee and ask pointed questions that will help you better understand the market you want to break into. Then start applying for jobs.
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