Job Hunting? First know 'why'

Fed up with work? Think it’s time for something new? Get ready to start looking, but not before you’ve worked out why you want to leave.

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There are two major causes of itchy feet – moving away from something unsatisfactory or moving towards something better. Be sure you know which you’re doing, because  you have to be sure it's a move for the better.

Moving towards:

 This is the ideal reason to shift jobs. There is something better you want to do – a different role, a different career, more money, a new location – maybe with a loved one. You want to move your life forward and it’s very exciting.

You’ll be searching for the right opportunity and that has to be the main driver. But it is also worth knowing the working conditions that suit you best. Even the brightest opportunity will dim in the face of an unsuitable environment, values that don’t fit yours or a boss you don’t like. So make a list of what you’re looking for over and above the development opportunity you want and explore them fully before you say yes.

Moving away from:

A move becomes much more risky when you want to get away. We all make mistakes when under pressure and the desire to ‘just get out’ is high, so it’s worth clarifying what you want and don’t want, in order to avoid jumping from frying pan to fire.

Leaving your manager – this is one of the most frequent reasons for moving on. 70% of people will leave their manager rather than the job so if this is you, you are certainly not alone. A manager has day to day control over what you do, so a good relationship is vital to your job satisfaction. Being able to talk honestly, ask advice, share ideas – these are all factors that will make your work easier and increase your chances of success.

If this is why you’re on the hunt right now, then work out exactly what happened to create your dissatisfaction. I’m sure you can reel off numerous reasons why your manager is wrong, but now think more deeply and explore why s/he is like that. This helps you define what you are looking for in a new manager. Then consider how you contributed to the problem. You need to know this so you don’t just walk straight into a new situation and help turn it sour. And yes, you will have made a contribution – no one creates a problem on their own. It really does take two to tango. Even if all you did was stay quiet and ‘bear with’, then that’s a contribution. This isn’t about blame, it’s about doing it differently next time.

Leaving the culture – if the environment doesn’t suit, you just won’t be happy or able to do your best work. What fits you best is driven by what you want from work. If you want to do your job and go home on time, then a highly involved community life may become something of a burden. However if you want work to provide a social life, friends and fun, it will be ideal.

If you’re leaving a culture, make sure you’re clear what’s wrong so you can make the right choice next time. An interview will always show the best face, so try and talk with employees or find someone who works there. Ideally talk with someone who loves it and someone a bit more sceptical – that way you get the good and the bad. Bad doesn’t need to put you off, it just lets you know what you’re in for. It’s a balance always – nothing is perfect, so do your homework and be clear where your own boundary is.

Leaving boredom – one person’s boredom is another person’s stability, but if you’re ambitious, you don’t have time for stability. You’re looking for opportunity, stretch and excitement and the company that offers you that will earn your loyalty. Get clear what you’re looking for and why this present job isn’t doing it for you. It may even be worth a final chat with your manager before you start looking to be sure they understand your ambition. You never know, you may have been so subtle they didn’t realise what you needed.

The best companies will interview for two jobs down the line. They prefer to develop their own, so are looking for potential and drive. Be ready to strut your stuff and show what you can do. Also ask directly about the opportunities they could offer in the future. Ambition never thrives on modesty, so be honest about what you want and what you can do.  

Do your final check

As a rule, it’s good to have a final check in your existing workplace – changing is always a risk and just maybe there is the option to turn it around:

  • If your manager is the problem, talk with HR to see if they can help. If you struggle then others might to and you could be a catalyst for change. Sometimes problems only take a minor tweak in the right direction to improve. So it’s worth a go before you walk away.
  • If you’re leaving a culture, talk with others at work to find out how they see it. If others are as unhappy, there may be an opportunity for change and that can be really exciting.
  • Talk with your manager about your desire for something new and different. Make sure s/he knows exactly what you’re looking for so they have a chance to find something new and so hold onto you.

If none of this makes any difference, then brush up your CV and get out there. All your careful thought will mean you’re well prepared to get just what you want next time. 

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Judith Leary Joyce

Great Companies Consulting

In 1996 I made the shift into business, taking my knowledge of Gestalt Psychology into the realm of Executive Coaching, Facilitation and Leadership/ Management Development. In 2001 I worked on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, then went on to write my first book Becoming an Employer of Choice which was followed by Inspirational Manager and The Psychology of Success. Since then I have worked with organisations across the sectors from large corporates through to young start ups, public sector and charities. Now it’s time to help you have a love affair with your work and get exactly what you want from your career. To find out more about my work and coaching go to