You know you’re lucky that you have a great job already, but you still can’t resist looking elsewhere. Maybe you’d like a better paycheck, perhaps your current role isn’t enough of a challenge for you or possibly you’re just interested in doing something new.
No matter your reason, it’s essential that you plan carefully if you are interested in leaving a secure job. By exploring your reasons for making a switch, making informed decisions and organizing a confidential job search, you can make the transition from one great job to another.
Explore why you may want to switch
People consider leaving their jobs all the time, but it’s different to actively start the process. First things first: Explore why you want to switch jobs. “Plan,” says Mary Elizabeth Bradford, résumé writer and career director. “Do your soul searching, write down your driving motivators — the things you must have … to feel the move was justified, such as a minimum salary figure, staying in a geographical area or getting out of an industry. Create a clear target and a plan to get there. Match up your skills and strengths [that are] transferable into your job of choice.”
If this initial research period inspires you, take the next steps in transitioning your career. Quantify your career accomplishments and make a list of your business contacts and those who would vouch for you.
Take the job out for a test drive
If you’re looking for different responsibilities or are interested in changing industries, take a trial period before committing.
“Instead of giving your two-week notice and hoping it pans out, focus on trying out the new career,” says Ramon Santillan, chief interview consultant and founder of Persuasive Interview in Houston. “You can do this by volunteering, talking to people who have been in the field you want to be a part of or joining professional organizations. Aside from helping you decide if this is the path you want to take, meeting these people will help you get your foot in the door, since they will probably know about any openings at their current companies.
“Volunteering or doing small projects in the new field will also build your case with potential employers that you are serious about this career move and can be used as experience when trying to get a job. Someone who is willing to take the time to learn a new field will be seen as being serious enough about a career move. This can be particularly useful when explaining to the hiring manager why you want to change careers.”
Once you’ve decided to move forward with looking for a new job, be sure that you’re still protecting your old one. “Any time you are in a job search, there is some level of risk that you must incur,” Bradford says. “You can minimize the risk by sharing [that] your search is confidential with key decision makers, not listing [that] you are looking for a position on your LinkedIn profile or posting your résumé to job boards. Also, if you speak with recruiters, don’t just send your résumé to a recruiting firm but call them first and ask to speak with the person in charge of your industry [or] discipline. Share that your search is confidential before you send them your résumé. They should agree that they will not forward your information without first telling you.”
Treat past and future employers with consideration
If you’ve found a career you’re interested in pursuing and score an interview, remember to be diplomatic. “The interview portion should focus on why you got interested in the field, the steps you took to learn about the field, the people you met and the types of questions you asked them, the volunteer or work on the side you have done, and how your previous experience at your last job will make you successful at this new one,” Santillan says. “Also make sure to ask questions during the interview about how the hiring manager got into the field and what the biggest challenges they face are. By this step, you should have already made up your mind if you want to pursue that new career or job, but it never hurts to confirm.”
When meeting with both your past employer and your potential future employer, be respectful of both times in your career. When explaining why you want to make this switch, Bradford offers this answer: “Although I have enjoyed much challenge and success in my current role, my passion lies in [blank] and I decided that I would focus my sights on transitioning.”
As the economy continues to improve and more jobs become available, switching careers will become more common. However, it’s essential to think through your steps and remain respectful of employers in order to ensure a successful next step in your career.