It doesn’t matter whether you’ve started work only a couple of months ago, or you’re already two years into your first role – at some point, you’ll come to a crossroads in your career journey. There, you’ll have to make a choice: stay in your present role, make a job switch, or see through a complete career change.
There are also a number of factors that can drive you to said crossroads. You might have graduated with no idea of what you wanted in your career, and you still don’t know what you want. Perhaps being in a new role or industry can give you some answers. Or perhaps your present industry fell upon hard times when the global pandemic hit, and it still hasn’t recovered yet.
Whatever it is, it’s very tempting to make career moves when the going gets tough, especially when the situation also involves overwhelming work assignments, toxic colleagues and low pay. But even if your gut or intuition tells you it’s a good idea, how do you know it’s the right shift?
While we can’t give you answers, what we can do is try to nudge you in the right direction, by giving you some questions to ask yourself.
Question #1: Am I fulfilled by what I’m doing now?
The job you’re in now might’ve been your dream job as a fresh graduate, or the result of trying to figure out what you want. But no matter the reason why you stepped into the role, you have to consider that the you who first accepted the job is different from the you in the present time.
There’s nothing wrong in admitting that you’re no longer fulfilled by what you’re doing everyday – whether it’s coming up with new internal company policies for the benefit of co-workers or creating a positive impact among consumers. In fact, it’ll be good for your mental health and career journey to admit that it might be time to make a change.
Tip: Ask yourself what makes you happy, not what makes the others around you happy. After all, you’re the one spending all that time at work!
Question #2: What about my work brings me the most joy and satisfaction?
Feelings of satisfaction can come from a number of places, from a job well done, to knowing that your work can leave a positive impact. More in-depth reasons may even include enjoying the adrenaline rush you get when you meet tight deadlines, or the intense motivation needed to reach a single goal.
On the other hand, if the feeling you get reminds you of hollow victories, something’s wrong. If you can no longer derive joy and satisfaction from your work, it may be the sign you need to acknowledge that work has become something mundane to pay the bills.
Tip: You can think past professional boundaries and consider personal satisfaction, from good benefits (e.g. remote and flexible working options) that support your present lifestyle, to the opportunity to indulge in travel on your company’s dime for work purposes.
Question #3: What's my present job outlook?
When the global pandemic and ensuing recession hit Singapore, some industries were quickly gutted. But while some are either on the road to recovery (the tourism and hospitality industries), or have mostly recovered (the food and beverage sector) others, like aviation, are taking longer than expected, despite recovering somewhat.
The state of the industry you’re in has an overall effect on your job outlook, so if the forecast isn’t good, you can think about moving into another company that may be able to continue weathering the tough times well. On the more extreme end, you may even want to consider either a complete career or industry switch.
Tip: If the present industry you’re in is still middling, you may have to keep in mind that your company might have to change business models or strategies in order to remain relevant and solvent. For example, companies involved in aircraft maintenance may branch out into plane modification, or begin dealing with the buying and selling of additional parts. These shifts will affect your job outlook for the next few years.
Question #4: Why do I want change?
There’s no right answer when you ask yourself why you want change. Some want change because they’ve mastered what they wanted to do, and are either bored or in a rut. Others need the change in order to keep up with their career aspirations and plan. On the other hand, if you simply can’t see a future for yourself in the industry, whether in terms of impact or benefits, like pay, you may need to change, too.
Whatever your reason for wanting (or not wanting) change is, the general consensus is that it’s good, even if it feels a little scary – after all, you’ll have the opportunity to learn something new in a new environment.
Tip: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking for a new challenge – in fact, some encourage it!
Question #5: What do I want to learn?
Now that you’re in the early stages of your career, you likely understand that life is a learning journey that never stops. In fact, it’s the learning that makes life fun for you! But here’s the thing: there will come a time when you feel like you’ve learnt all you want to learn at your present company and role.
As you figure out what new things you want to learn, don’t forget to ask yourself how far you’re willing to go to learn something new. For example, if you feel like you’ve learnt all you can from your present role, but not the company, don’t be afraid to bring up an internal job switch to your supervisor. But take note that some positions, such as programming, may require additional certifications.
On the other hand, if you want to learn something completely unrelated to what you’re doing now, you may have to consider switching industries and roles.
Tip: The drive to keep learning is what makes you improve both professionally and personally, so never stop learning!
Question #6: What is my "career walk away" point?
As Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.”
Similarly, if you’ve decided that moving companies is the most suitable solution for you, be sure to create (and stick to) a “career walk away” point before you start sending out resumes. Walk away points can cover a myriad of topics, ranging from salary and benefits, to even job scope and days of leave afforded.
Tip: A simple way to start will be to first set boundaries for yourself, both personal and professional. From there, you can create a list and add factors important to you.
Question #7: Is this move in line with my career plan and goals?
This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself, as you definitely don’t want to invest the time and resources needed to make a shift only to discover that your new role isn’t aligned to your career plan and long-term goals! So, to be sure, pull out the career plan you created earlier before your graduation, and use it as a guide.
Tip: When you pull out your plan, you’ll likely notice that, having worked for some time, you’re closer to some career milestones and goals. Those aren’t the be all and end all, though! Check in with yourself and include new milestones and goals that you may have discovered as you matured.
All these questions don’t even cover the most important one of all – whether you’ll be happy with your career move. Because even if all your answers point to you moving on from your present company, you don’t have to if you’re not ready. All this shows is that figuring out your next career move isn’t easy, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to any of the questions asked above. But what we can tell you is that it’s definitely worth the trouble, as you continue to realise your goals and accomplish targets set out for yourself!