Changing careers
6 min. read

Seven ways to risk-manage your next career move

You know you have that itching feeling that it’s time to make a move. But while your hunch tells you to make a leap, your head tells you otherwise.

Mixed feelings and indecision can be sources for career paralysis. Should I stay or should I go?

You wonder how all those people above you in the organisation got to where they are. Surely, they just weren’t all tapped on the shoulder, or so you wonder.

Taking a plunge without giving too much thought can work sometimes. But in most cases, it can lead to career derailment. Especially if you’re running away, rather than moving toward something you want.

Making a successful career move or pivot need not involve a great degree of stress or indecision, providing you take into account the following considerations.

These steps come from my book titled, Manage Your Own Career: Reinvent Your Job; Reinvent Yourself.

1. Appraise your situation

What is happening right now? What is going on in your wider life? What are the dominant feelings you are experiencing?

This step covers a critical examination of whether to stay or move on in your career, the risks of a knee-jerk reactive approach versus a proactive approach, an awareness of career change as a positive step to make in some instances, and the reasons people are often “stuck” in their career.

  • What do you want in your career and life?
  • Can you make it happen in your current job by re-negotiating your responsibilities?
  • What about examining your current mindset?

Examine your “limiting beliefs” – such as, “I am too old to make a change” or “I couldn’t possibly study another course.” Are these stopping you in your tracks without an adequate examination? Are you being too hard on yourself?

2. Discover your purpose

Take stock of where your life is. Put “career” into the context of the roles in your overall life, and examine possible sources of career unrest in the totality of life and the effects of dissatisfaction in other life areas spilling over and vice versa.

Discovering your purpose is essential to making effective choices. This will help you to start making some progress when you have no idea what you want.

Identifying satisfying life moments, and creating a personal long-term vision will help you discover things that can ignite your motivation to discovering the “why” deep within. You can then decide if the next move is in alignment with your overall purpose.

Best-selling author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action, Simon Sinek, says knowing your WHY gives you a filter to make choices, at work and at home, that will help you find greater fulfillment in all that you do.

3. Explore what makes you unique

This turns the focus onto your own particular assets (values, interests, personality, transferable skills (technical and people), experiences, and achievements).

What are your unique strengths? How do you use them? If you’re not using them, how can you propose to use them?

What do people say about your talents? Are you good at numbers? Do you like to listen to people? Do you solve problems quickly? Do you initiate new ideas?

Every individual is unique and has something vital to offer the world. Don’t bury these gifts. Make sure you shine. Show the world what you can do.

4. Design your future

Your passion doesn’t just suddenly show up. You need to experiment and try new things. Use design thinking techniques to apply to your career building.

Invent something that you can try on the side while you are working in your current job. Give it a go. If it doesn’t work, that’s fine. What did you learn from the experience? There is no failure, just learning experiences.

Author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, Jenny Blake, says that you need to learn how to redirect your energy, scan for opportunities, and not fall into “analysis paralysis” or to “compare and despair.”

Do a personal risk-analysis. What is the probability that people want what you propose? Try out a quick survey. Ask people would they buy what you propose. If not, why not? How much have you banked to live well enough during a trial period?

5. Build a strategy that works

Be strategic rather than aimless. This step covers the mechanics of career change to specific job search techniques, such as building a personal marketing plan that will guide specific ways to gain entry into the chosen field.

This goes beyond writing a generic resume to actually targeting the resume to the specific market. Seeks what employers are looking for, and learn how you manage first impressions, writing applications, and selling your skills.

Learn how to network and build ongoing relationships. Who do you know already? What can you expect in a job selection assessment, and understanding how to ace a psychometric test.

Know how to handle difficult questions, how to present well, use salary negotiation methods that work, and more importantly, build resilience and cope with set-backs that often plunge the job-seeker into a downward spiral of dejection after rejection.

6. Engage with your work

Landing a new job is just the beginning.

You will need to know what to do in the vital first few days, how to make first impressions count, and understanding the critical things that could make or break your new career.

Navigating the deadly sins of organisational politics, how to read the organisational culture and how it affects employee behaviour is crucial.

Do you know how to negotiate expectations with the boss, set agreed goals, choose appropriate interpersonal behaviour, be assertive, work in a team, deal effectively with different personalities, and understand and interpret the key signs of when it is time to re-evaluate or time to move on?

This is a time to build your career reputation and know how this will linger on well after your last job. Make the most of the first few months in a new role.

7. Consolidate your progress

This is a critical step for your career insurance and ongoing employability.

Knowing how to evaluate the growth and decline in one’s career needs to be examined in terms of understanding how change works.

Here, there is a focus on the change process, how to recognise the critical signs and the emotional side of change and transition.

You need to revitalise your career often and never let it stagnate. Your career can sometimes take on a new definition. It can move from simply climbing the ladder of ambition, to significance and giving back.

This involves actively seeking and gaining valuable information and feedback from your peers, your boss, and your family. Learn how to take strategic, proactive steps to get back on track, or take a new pathway.

This stage is about the critical middle to late career issues that arise in later life. Will you start a second or even third career life, or encore career? Will it be in a different field? How have your values changed?

After consolidation, you need to decide whether to go back and appraise your situation, and work through the key considerations again throughout your career. How have you changed? How will you give back your wisdom to a budding generation coming after you? When is it time to play a new role, reinvent your job, or reinvent yourself?

This is a guest post by Warren Frehse, registered career development practitioner, transition coach, leadership specialist and author. You can follow Warren here.