Planning a job move? Here are the 3 questions to ask yourself

October 2, 2016, 9:02 am

Job changes and career transitions can be stressful times especially if they are not instigated by you. In this short article, Career Coach Sam Waterfall reveals 3 of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself and 2 additional tips to ensure your job move results in a progressive and successful transition.

  1. What do you want to do more of in your new role?

Here you should list all those activities you enjoy in your current role. Add in any activities you’ve been told you’re skilled at or have been recognised for in reviews or by colleagues. Go deep. Aim for at least 10-15 items in your list. Then it’s important to prioritise the list into two parts: “Must Have” and “Desired” – so you know how potential new roles stack up vs your ideal job.

  1. What do you want to do less of in your new role?

Job moves are a huge opportunity to ditch the things you don’t like. Too many candidates believe that they must continue doing what they’ve always done. Don’t be afraid to move on and leave elements of your job behind you. Again, go deep. Make sure you list at least 5-10 elements you want to remove or cut back on in your next job. The two lists here are “Must Not Have” and “Prefer to Avoid”. Again, prioritise these lists so you know what you don’t want and you can inform head hunters, recruiters and anyone else assisting with your career transition.

  1. Why are you making this job move?

Why questions can be particularly revealing as you coach yourself to the right next role. But they can feel a little too judgmental. If this question isn’t revealing the answers you need, try asking “What do I want to gain from changing jobs now?” It’s likely you’ll come up with answers like, better pay, a reduced commute, more flexible hours, greater responsibility, promotion, career progression, work with global brands, etc. These “WHY” answers should be your motivations for the new role and getting the move right. Make sure to take time with this question, you may find there many more elements you’d like to gain.

Create a list of up to 12 selection criteria

Use your output from the lists you’ve created in the 3 exercises above to help you refine a list of up to 12 selection criteria for your next role.

This list should summarise all the key elements of your new company and role. You’ll find it becomes the perfect accompaniment to an initial conversation with a recruiter. When they ask what you’re looking for, instead of replying in vague general terms, you’ll stand out as a sharp, organised candidate who has a list of defined criteria to direct their job search. This will be a huge help to those working with you at recruitment agencies or head hunters as they will be able to bring you a far better filtered set of possible options. This will save you – and them – time and likely help your relationship with them significantly.

It’s likely you’ll end up with a criteria list that includes many of the following points. But don’t be limited by this list – the rules are yours to define…

Industry: Food & Beverage Manufacture

Department: Marketing / Innovation / NPD

Brand: Established Lifestyle Brand / On Trend / Healthy

Role: Head of Marketing / Head of Innovation

Reporting To: CEO / Owner / Board

Salary Range: GBP £65k – £85k

Management: Leading a team of 3-6

Location: London / South East

Commute: Within 90 mins from home in Wimbledon

Flexible working / Time constraints: Do you have children to collect / studies to attend? etc.

Travel: Ideally travel within Europe

Key Focus: NPD / Brand development / Marketing / Creating New Ideas / Leading Results

Career Vision Board

One final tip is to create a Career Vision Board. This is a simple, yet surprisingly powerful little exercise that can give you helpful direction as you consider potential new companies and new roles.

And it need not be limited to one board.

Here’s how it works. Simply open up a PowerPoint or Keynote slide and grab images that best capture how you see your new world of work. It works well if you create a collage of images on specific elements of your new job. Consider a collage on each of the following…

  • Your work space – could be an office / a studio / open plan / communal space / airport lounge / etc.
  • Your ideal day – what would you be doing? Leading large meetings? Addressing the Board? Creative workshops? etc.
  • Your colleagues or team – what are they like? Where do you meet? How do the team interactions look and feel?
  • Your relationship with your Boss – how will this ideally operate? Close management? Monthly updates?
  • Your journey to work – it’s an important part of most days and you don’t want it to be a problem
  • What don’t you want – It can also be helpful to create the ‘Hell at work’ board to make sure you know what to avoid as you evaluate possible future roles.

It’s worth taking time to really commit to these exercises. So whether you’re a strong coffee early in the morning type person or whether you’d rather tackle these questions with a glass or your favourite tipple in the evening, do indulge yourself in the luxury of uninterrupted personal time these exercises. You’ll probably find them more fun and more engaging than you first imagined. The output will be worth it. And it will give you clarity and direction on the kinds of role you want to do, what that will most likely involve and what it will actually look like.


How should you use the output?

Here’s two ideas…

  • Use it to evaluate potential roles and job descriptions – Now you have your selection criteria, use them! They will help you quickly assess if roles are right for you or if you can quickly screen them out. This can really help you focus and commit more time the highest priority applications and save you wasted hours by simply rejecting other opportunities and not applying to them at all.
  • Use it to brief head hunters or recruiters – You probably won’t want to share your vision boards. They are personal to you. But you can create an email friendly version of your 6 – 12 job selection criteria and use these to guide anyone helping with your search. NB. This need not be limited to head hunters and professionals but could help you brief your personal network as well (see our article on the Strength of Weak Ties and networking for job search acceleration).

Of course there’s a lot more to successful career transition than these simple questions, but they are a powerful start. If you’re still not sure precisely what will be the next move for you, Sam Waterfall, lead career coach at Obvious Candidate offers a personally customised coaching programme for “Career Direction Exploration” which has helped hundreds of professionals to identify and evaluate their best next move as well as boosting their salaries. It works for those interested in changing direction and for those seeking new options following redundancy. To find out more email Sam directly


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