career move

Career move: Are you ready?

You know you’re ready for a change – a new challenge, perhaps a move up the career ladder or maybe a new location or industry.

Before you start putting out feelers, stop. (Yes – stop!) A little bit of groundwork can make a career move much more successful.


Take some time to review: 

  • What things do you love?
  • What don’t you love?  
  • What excites you?
  • What wears you down?  

Be completely honest! You’re not going to show this to anyone else. You don’t have to be seen to be somebody you’re not, nor do you have to try to please anyone else. This is a time for transparency and brutal honesty with yourself.  

Next, divide a notebook page in two columns and title one, “Love It” and the other, “Leave It”. At the end of each day, for a couple of weeks, go through your day and jot down things you did and things you avoided under either the “Love It” or “Leave It” column. 

After a couple weeks, you’ll have a pretty good list of things that drive you and things that wear you down.  (You don’t have to put everything on the lists – but if it remotely charges you up, put it under “Love It” and if it remotely bothers you or wears you down, toss it under “Leave It.”) 

We’ve also created a downloadable worksheet

Depending on the rhythm of your annual work cycle, at the end of the couple of weeks you may need to look ahead and think about what’s coming up. Consider whether you:

  • Love the year-end financial stuff? Add that to the list.
  • Love that you get four weeks of vacation? Add that to the list. 
  • Dread having to write the annual staff performance reviews? Add it to the list.
  • Know that you need an annual salary of $X? Add what you need to the lists as well – bonus, overtime, company car, expense account – just remember to differentiate between a want (would be nice to have) and a need (must have).

Think about what else you love in life. Perhaps these other things don’t immediately or obviously translate to a career move but then think about WHY you love them. Does the why translate? 

For example: 

I love being on the board of XYZ Non-profit because my role lets me see the big picture.

I like volunteering at the food bank because I can see the effect we have on people 

I like coaching sports because I like seeing the outcome of things.

I like having dinner with my kids every night.

Give some thought to what your “ideal” career move looks like and write it down. Read it a day or two later and edit it based on your gut reaction. 

So, a draft might read something like:

I want a role that lets me see a big picture – so something more tactical or strategic, where I can see an outcome for people directly. I enjoy sales but not the daily financial pressure to deliver, deliver, deliver.

When you’re thinking about your ideal, forget about “forever” and focus on the next few years. What would be ideal for now? Some of us of a certain age tend to look at career moves as rare and all-defining when, in fact, it could be an interesting step to a future opportunity.

I know that many of us think only of moving UP the corporate ladder, but there are times when a lateral career move makes sense. While you’re looking for opportunities, weigh all your available options. 

Go through your address book, and list 20-30 people you would feel comfortable talking to about your desire for a career change. They do NOT have to be people in your preferred industry or people who hire others. Schedule a coffee talk or phone chat with at least 15 of those folks.  

The goal is going to be to share with them what you’re looking for and why. You want this conversation to spark them thinking about who they know who might know someone who could help you find a new career opportunity. You see, you’re expanding your network by starting with people you know. 

There’s a really good chance the next person to hire you isn’t already in your address book, but there’s a good chance they’re in the address book of someone you know. 

When you meet your contacts for coffee, bring your goal statement and be able to speak in detail about it. We’ve included room on the downloadable worksheet for this information too. 

Telling someone over coffee that you’re looking for a job doesn’t accomplish much. They hear you but don’t see a role for themselves.  

Be Clear

You’ll want to be clear on a couple of things:  

  • Tell them what are you looking for in a career move
  • Share with them what are you good at (see the lists you created) 
  • Ask them if they can help you find something – or if they could refer you to others who might have a connection to something interesting

What about your current employer? If you really love your current employer, but you’re just not loving your current role, putting the same strategy to work within your current organization can work well, too. 

Build a network internally and use the same techniques of figuring out what you like, what you’re good at and seeking out a new opportunity. 

If you’re looking outside your organization for a new career opportunity, give some thought to when you want to share this with your employer:

  • On the one hand, you may work in an organization that won’t take it well when you tell them, so you may need to delay until you have a solid offer. 
  • If you have a good employer, they may want you to stay and offer to work with you to figure out how to bring out your real strengths with new responsibilities.

If you don’t share the information right away, prepare a response in case word gets back to your boss or employer that you’re looking for work elsewhere. Outline why you’re looking and how you would like to contribute more. 

As you explore the possibilities for a career move, remember this is about finding a good fit  – the best fit. You’re courting and being courted to see what opportunities are out there and you might land something really exciting. It’s good practice to consider your next career move at least once a year. 

Keep your eyes wide open to the fact that maybe your current role or company might turn out to be your best option right now. If there is some part of your job that made you think you needed to move, then you can try to do something to improve that part (rather than throw the baby out with the bathwater as they say!). Often a damaged interpersonal relationship is the motivation to move to a new workplace, but changing your perspective could change your career.

Coach’s Questions

What are your feelings about a career move? What can you do this week to figure out your ideal career move? Are there opportunities that you know that others in your network might be interested in?