How to change your career when you realize it's time

Learn the best ways to leave a good or bad job behind and go after the position you deserve

Let's face it: not every first, or second, or fifth job is the perfect position that a person has dreamed about since they were eighteen. The truth is that part of what makes a career successful is one's ability to change. That might mean changing jobs a dozen times or even changing career fields. These choices to start over are not failures; they are steps in pursuit of success—they show intelligence, courage and drive.

You are a person containing dreams and fears, ambitions and anxieties. You might have answered every "when-you-grow-up" question since you were eight with "elementary school teacher" but, when you finally earned that position, the school's principal turned out to be unorganized and the other teachers were unfriendly. Even a seemingly perfect position might land you in a negative workplace. There are so many reasons you might want or need to change jobs. The first step is realizing that you do want to change and that this change will be a positive step in your successful career.

Recognizing that it's time

This first step is tricky because everybody moans, jokingly or not, about Mondays and working late and unreasonable bosses. It's when you realize that you dread Mondays—that you have trouble even enjoying Sundays because Mondays come next—that a change is necessary. Some signs that this is the case:

  • You're as stressed about going to the job as you are about doing the work it involves.
  • You feel stuck without hope of advancing.
  • You don't feel comfortable with coworkers and weekly meetings are demoralizing.
  • The quality or timeliness of your work suffers because of anxiety or disinterest.
  • You feel that you deserve a better salary for your level of experience.
  • Evaluation of your work is irregular or nonexistent, leading to constant fear that you aren't succeeding.

These signs indicate that the job is simply not right for you. It is not your fault. But it is your responsibility to admit this and take action to rectify the situation.

Leaving a job

Changing jobs might, at first, seem like adding work and stress to an already draining situation. It is undoubtedly work but it's work that will move you away from a negative position and closer to your perfect job. If you are leaving a good employer because you want to advance, it will be easy to remain polite and respectful during your exit. However, if you are leaving a particularly bad position, it is equally important to act professionally. You cannot throw away work relationships or a potential employer reference by ranting on social media or sprinkling your letter of resignation with shade.

To a boss you liked working for, consider offering help during the transition process. Give two weeks' notice and write a polite, gracious resignation letter. Make the best of a possible exit interview by focusing on what you learned and liked. If you've had a good relationship with your employer, you can even ask for a letter of recommendation.

Leaving a job you hated is trickier, emotionally. Start with yourself: remind yourself that leaving this job respectfully is part of the road to your dream position. Realize that you're intimidated by a job search and unhappy in general because of the job you are leaving and that things will become better when you've moved on. Do not surrender to anger or impatience: even the worst employer could be a reference in the future. Ignoring your pride and frustration is important in moving to your next position quickly.

If you have to, write out your rage on a loose-leaf paper and tear it up into the trash. Then, calmly, carefully write your respectful resignation letter. You can find the positives: was there one coworker with whom you connected? Did you learn anything from the job? (You did, like it or not.) Finally, do not post to social media unless you are prepared to praise the job you've despised and thank its employees and administration.

Post-job job searching

In most cases, it's a good idea to start your job search before you've fully resigned. While it should be kept private, searching before you've left allows you to talk to potential employers about your decision to look for advancement rather than explain why you suddenly left a position without preparing your next step.

If you're changing careers or fields, consider taking free or paid online courses to build skills and boost your resume. Some offer certificates and others will show up on your LinkedIn profile. All of them will make you more confident in your change and in the interviews that come with it.

The most important key to a strong job search is reminding yourself of the reasons that made you start it. You suffered long enough in a bad position or you've been ready for months for advancement after a stagnant job: either way, you're moving closer to your dream position. Aim carefully for it. Start your search with that dream burning brightly in your mind. You deserve that job and, now, you're closer to it than you've ever been. It took courage to admit that you weren't satisfied. With that same courage, push for the best for your life and career and find your perfect fit.

Tom Twardzik is a writer covering personal finance, productivity and investing for Paypath. He also contributes pop culture pieces to Popdust, travel writing to The Journiest and essays to The Liberty Project. Read more on his website and follow him on Twitter.

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