November 23, 2020

Is it time for something new? A checklist for any career move

Professional Careers By Design

There are lots of reasons people start to think about changing their professional circumstances, but how do you really know when it’s time for something new?

This is a question I frequently hear from clients, especially now, when the pandemic has thrown so many into what feels like a state of personal and professional crisis. If you’re on the front lines – especially in my field of health care – there may be no path that seems more appealing than one that leads far away from where you are now. But before you leap, you want to ensure you’re doing so for the right reasons — reasons that will take you to a better place.

I have developed a tool I call The Four E’s of Your Career Evolution, and it’s really a lens for exploring and answering this question. Do you still have more to learn, do or experience where you are? Or have you done all you can do? If the latter is the case, it might be time for some kind of change.

The Four E’s

It’s probably clear why you would leave a bad job. If you are unfairly compensated, experiencing a toxic workplace relationship, or otherwise mistreated, the decision can be extremely clear-cut. But what about a reasonably good job? Why would you leave, and what would you want next? And if you were to decide to stay, what would make you do that? I boil it down to this:

  • Education – you are learning a new skill, concept, culture or other valuable material.
  • Experience – you are gaining experience in a company, in a certain job or role, or at a particular level of leadership.
  • Exposure – you are being seen in a new way by key stakeholders in your career, particularly those who can help you advance.
  • Enthusiasm – you have a deep passion for your work, and it has meaning for you.

These are four key ways your current job might be enhancing your career, and they are also four key ways a new role might be worthy of consideration. They don’t all need to happen at once, although that would certainly be nice. But what this will tell you is whether you are still getting something out of your current circumstances.

Looking at this list, some of these considerations may resonate for you more than others. Perhaps enthusiasm for your work is the only thing that gets you out of bed on Monday morning, while you couldn’t care less about exposure. Or maybe exposure is everything right now because it will facilitate your long-term goals. The calculation you make will be based on your answer to my signature question, “what matters most to you?” Your answers to this question serve as a touchstone for your career decisions and enable you to map a career that meets your personal and professional needs.

Putting the Four E’s into practice

I urge clients to look at their current circumstances through the lens of each of the Four E’s, and then to determine what they are and are not getting out of their job.

If you’ve lost your enthusiasm but are still gaining exposure or learning skills you will need in the future? That has value and may be reason enough to stay.

If you’ve not gotten a lot of exposure but still feel deep passion for what you do? That also has value and may be reason enough to stay.

If none of the Four E’s is happening for you? Perhaps it’s time for a change.

The change you make could be a new job, but it could also be some sort of change in your existing job. If you feel you’ve done all the learning you can do but it’s not a great time to make a big move, consider asking for new assignments or learning opportunities. These can be framed around your long-term goals. For example, if you know your eventual goal is to be a department chair but you have no budgeting experience, ask about how you can get this kind of experience with a new project or assignment. It’s all about making a strategic decision that works for you now – and in the future.

And if you ultimately decide it is time to move on? The Four E’s can also guide your next step. Which is most important to you in a new job? This can guide your search, the questions you ask during the vetting process and the decision you make after an offer is extended.

Your next move

Examining the Four E’s is part of a larger process of intentional career design. These are important decisions with lasting implications. Although there are always unknowns, walking through steps like exploring the Four E’s can clarify your circumstances and help you identify your VNA (very next action). Mapping VNAs breaks your goals into manageable steps that will provide you a clear path in the right direction. Look for more on intentional career design in this space in the weeks and months to come. And as always, I’d love to hear from you. Which of the Four E’s resonates most in your life?

Last updated November 24, 2020

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