Be it new hiring budgets or new year’s resolutions, the number of executives changing roles in quarter one will be higher than at any other time of year. Changing jobs is exciting, with new challenges, new networks and different cultures. On average people switch their employers 7 times in their career. This may increase in the next decade.
Changing employer can also be stressful. Decisions made while anxious are not always good. While other people’s opinions can be plentiful, real support is rare, particularly if applying directly to a company or being introduced by a personal contact. Set out below is a guide to 10 essential steps to take ahead of any change decision, all of which, when combined, will ensure you make the right move for you.
1. Validate your need or desire to change roles
Career progression within your current employer is a less stressful path, you will already have a bank of cultural awareness to help navigate a move up. Talk with your line manager, HR or CEO about options open to you. Balance this with a list of the reasons you are considering an external move. If you decide to leave, be resolute. Taking counter offers is a short-term game with an unhappy ending.
2. Know your strengths and acknowledge your areas in need of improvement
Evaluate yourself objectively, prepare a list of the tasks and responsibilities you have had in the last three years. Consider formal and informal teamwork or projects undertaken. Draw on previous performance feedback about where you have excelled and where you need to focus for improvement. Future employers know you are not perfect, highlighting areas of developmental needs sends a mature and reflective message about your approach to personal learning.
3. Develop a personal hierarchy of needs
Don’t interview for jobs that if offered, you would not ultimately accept. It wastes your time and is discourteous to an organisation. Consider the fundamental elements that matter to you, be it location, compensation, commitment to learning, flexibility around time, industry type, structured career paths, technology or any other priority. Place these in a hierarchy with your top five and if a new role does not offer the top 3, do not apply.
4. Prepare your CV and review your online profiles
Develop a two-page CV in reverse chronological order and use bullet points to highlight your experience. Draw attention to results achieved. List your skill set under a separate heading so that automated search systems can read these. Don’t include areas in which you do not have real experience, it will get found out at interview. The ultimate test is whether you can give evidence of having personally been responsible for an outcome, not just observed it as part of a team. Undertake a review of your social media presence and ensure it aligns to your CV and needs. Tidy up any older network accounts, these are all accessible to a prospective employer.
5. Create a clear action plan
Write down what you wish to achieve and the steps you will undertake to do so. This means setting out why you are making the move and what the end goal looks like. It includes identifying potential employers, recruitment / search firms, referees and other steps that will enable your job change.
6. Leverage your networks and generate referrals
Who do you know that works in the type of organisation you seek and what can they tell you about the experience and hiring process? Who has moved roles recently and can recommend a recruitment or search firm? Connect with alma mater groups online and through your former college office. With focus on what you are seeking to achieve, ask your contacts who their connections are, that might be able to assist you.
7. Practice your major messages
What are the three most important messages that you need to communicate to achieve your desired outcome? Firstly, they should reflect the top three elements in your hierarchy. Secondly, how many different ways can these be crafted and inserted into varying stages of your application process? The rule of marketing is that an audience must hear a message seven times before it is truly heard. These should be through; 1. your CV, 2. a cover application, 3. a first-round interview, 4. a thank you follow up email, 5. a second-round interview, 6. a thank you follow up email or follow up questions and 7. at job offer stage.
8. Believe in change
Moving from one career type to another is more difficult than job change. The odds can be stacked against you given that most organisations and indeed assessment interviews, use evidence of what you have done in the past as best predictor of how you will behave in the future. Changing your career direction requires utmost conviction and realistic appraisal of the necessary steps. Take up relevant additional post-graduate studies and build a network in that new career area. Offer to lend a hand to that function in your own firm during peak times or talent gaps. Peg your current experience realistically to the tasks that the new changed role would require you to perform and explain the alignment briefly on your CV and at an interview. Be confident and be prepared to take a sideways or even downward step for a period in order to build capability in the target position type.
9. Know why the organisation wants to hire you
When interviewing, find out why the role is available. Ask the prospective employer why they do not have internal options and how they would cope if they could not fill the position. Enquire as to what is the biggest challenge they face by having this gap. The answers to these questions will tell you more about the organisation and its need than most others. From their responses, do you feel the role fits with the top 3 elements of your hierarchy?
10. Be patient, have stamina
Finding the right role can take time, but always be prepared. Opportunity never knocks at the right time, sometimes it presents when you least need the disruption. However, if you have clarity around your own needs and plans you will be better able to react appropriately. Don’t move, or stay, for the sake of it. Work to a plan, be patient and know that if you stay committed the right role will arise.
Our careers are long and varied, yet every day presents an opportunity for executives and professionals to grow a little and create more personal value. Ongoing attention to these ten steps, combined with continuous scoping for additional responsibilities, can really help you drive your career, to make good job change decisions and align work most effectively to your personal needs in 2018.