Before you really commit to a job search, let’s make sure you’re really ready to embrace a new job. Once you’re on the hunt, the same-old, same-old of your current job will begin to wear thin and you’ll want out quickly. But you need to make sure you’re leaving your old position for the right reasons.
Don’t turn in your walking papers until you’ve asked yourself these three questions:
- “Why am I leaving?”
- “Is my skill set expanding or getting flabby?”
- “What do I need to finish before I leave my current job?”
1. “Why am I leaving?”
This is a question you’ll be asked by every prospective employer. So before you go out and interview, know your answer. Maybe you have a new boss and you don’t see eye-to-eye. Maybe you’ve stopped learning and are actually doing all the teaching (in this case it might actually be time to ask for a raise or promotion). Maybe the company is tanking and you need to get out. Or maybe your skills are in hot demand and you want to jump on the opportunity to super-size your paycheck. Whatever the reason, if you know why you’re leaving, you’ll be able to look at the new opportunities in front of you through the right lens, and you’ll have a compelling story to tell an interviewer.
2. “Is my skill set expanding or getting flabby?”
Skills development is — without a doubt — a form of currency. And you need to evaluate it not as a perk, but as a part of your paycheck. It’s always unfortunate when a candidate leaves a job where they’re growing as a professional for a job that pays a lot more but where their skills (and even network) will certainly atrophy. That’s a fast track to irrelevancy.
We’re always amazed at how many candidates are willing to quit a good job rather than having a straightforward conversation with their boss about what they want and need. Don’t let that be you. Before you commit to quitting, see if you can’t solve things via smart negotiation. Ask for a promotion (even if it’s not year-end) or even an internal transfer to a new department if your company is big enough. Not every boss will address your concerns, but if you like and respect the person you report to, give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
3. “What do I need to finish before I leave my current job?”
This is definitely the most important question for your overall career longevity. It forces you to think strategically rather than emotionally about what you need to accomplish at your current company before you make your exit. You might want to leave because something isn’t going perfectly, but before you act, get your house in order. Finish that big project or land that massive client. It’ll help in the long run, and it makes a great story to tell during an interview.
Why are these questions so essential?
Because your accomplishments are your calling card.When you interview, hiring managers are going to press hard to hear about important initiatives that you’ve driven to a successful end and their impact on the company. If all you can do is talk about efforts that you kicked off but never iterated or finished, you’ll lose out when you’re up against tough competitors who’ve seen their work through to fruition. Nothing is worse in an interview than when a top candidate talks about a project that they marshaled but didn’t stick around to complete. Also, remember that someday you’ll want to use your current boss (or boss’s boss) as a reference. If you leave them during a mission-critical moment, it could hurt you down the line, even if you’ve been a hard worker the whole time.
So before you leave, be sure to evaluate the initiatives that you’ll most want to talk about on your future job interviews. If one of your projects still needs to be completed, be patient. This might stall your target start date at the new gig by a bit (usually an arbitrary date, anyway), but you’re ultimately gaining powerful accomplishments to share in your job interviews. This will boost your confidence and possibly your compensation, so remind yourself that it’s well worth the wait.
There’s a chance that your best new job is actually at your current company, so don’t be afraid to negotiate. Regardless, be sure to aggressively manage your skills bank, and look for jobs that will keep you learning and growing.
As an individual talent, you must market your contribution and impact to an organization. This alone will make you an outstanding candidate. If you’re just starting a project that will be good for your visibility or will add massive skills to your skills bank, see it through before you leave. While you may not be accountable for running an entire company, you are accountable for owning your deliverables. If you gain a reputation for that, it will pay off in spades.
We’ll tell you how to prepare your job search toolkit — the essential things you’ll need to create and do in order to land your new job.
28 Days to a New Job is a month-long Hired Guns course designed to help you maximize your competitiveness in the current job market. Learn the secrets to getting a job from hiring managers, recruiters, negotiation experts and more. Read our our introductory post here. Or Subscribe Now to receive 28 Days to a New Job as a daily email.