As the end of 2016 creeps closer, the idea of a fresh career start in 2017 is appealing to many. But visions of firing off that resignation letter, closing the door of your old office behind you one last time, and stepping into a brilliant new career filled with excitement and opportunity should be tempered by the real work and strategy that must go into successfully moving from one job or career to another, an expert says.
Peter Kriel, General Manager of The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s leading private higher education provider, says every year thousands of working people enrol in part-time or distance courses, or for a higher degree, seeking to either enter a new field or improve their qualifications with the aim of furthering their careers.
“Boosting your academic qualifications is a great way to ensure your career keeps moving in the right direction,” he says, but adds that this step should be one part of a broader strategy.
“Before you hire a choir to announce your joyous resignation, make sure you have ticked the boxes on the following steps. Failure to do so, could mean that you find yourself out of a job and without solid prospects in an economic environment which is extremely tough,” he says.
DETERMINE IF INDEED YOU SHOULD LEAVE
After a few months of unrelenting stress and pressure, it can be tempting to throw caution to the wind, says Kriel.
However sit down and take a long, hard look at your reasons for wanting to move. A job in hand is always better than three in the bush, and it could be that there are opportunities where you are right now. Write down the reasons for your desire to move: are they mostly push factors (terrible boss, terrible pay, company culture), or are there many pull factors (enticing new career, great company you have been eyeing, new field with new opportunities) as well?
Author and career strategist, Jenny Blake, gives great advice when she says that one should remember to keep focus on what IS working, and not just focus on what IS NOT working, in order to make an informed decision when considering a career change.
DO YOUR RESEARCH AND TEST THE WATERS
If you do decide to move on, don’t give up while you are trying to move up, Kriel advises.
This means that you continue to give your best at work and grow every day, but at the same time you investigate careers and positions that interest you, attend industry networking events, speak to people who are already doing what you would like to do, look at vacancies in the field, find niche growth areas and determine what a move would entail.
CHART THE WATERS
Once you have determined that you want to move on and what you would like to do, plot a strategy for the most efficient and effective way to get there.
Take everything into account: potential loss of income, reduced income when starting out, time required to execute your plan, resources required.
Make sure that you take all information into account, and develop a plan that works for you. For instance, it might not be necessary to give up your day job if you are able to do an online short course which can get you a foot in the door in a new industry, Kriel notes.
Once you have mapped out your plan, start taking action immediately.
Make sure that you know when deadlines for registration are, that you have the required documentation, that your CV is in order and constantly being updated, and that you keep your ear to the ground for opportunities in your new field.
It is also very important that when the time comes, you leave your current position with grace and bridges intact, Kriel says.
Lillian Bususu, Graduate Development Manager at The IIE’s Rosebank College, which every year places thousands of students in new positions, says it is crucial to leave on as positive a note as possible, not least because it increases one’s chances of getting a better reference which will help with future job hunts.
“While investigating your brilliant new career and setting plans in motion, it is imperative to keep things confidential and under wraps for as long as possible. But when the time comes, play open cards. The last thing you want is for your boss to hear the news through the grapevine. That is embarrassing for all parties, and might ruin the good relationship you enjoyed in the past.”
Bususu adds that when leaving a position, one should make an appointment with your manager to notify them of your intentions, which should be followed up with a formal, polite written resignation letter.
“Some bosses will try and counter offer with a better package, but as good as it may sound, you must refuse. Resist counter offers and stick to your initial decision. If you accept a counter offer, you are essentially saying that you can be bought and by doing so, you lose credibility. You have made up your mind to move on, so believe in yourself and your new path.”