January is the most popular time for job changes, and it is not hard to see why. As the New Year begins, people reflect on where they are and where they want to be. Free from the holiday bustle, they return to the workplace to find all the problems they left behind: a bad boss, long commute, low salary, boredom, stress or just plain unhappiness.
While these are all very reasonable motivations to switch jobs, they are also immediate problems. The choice of your next job, on the other hand, will affect the rest of your career. Instead of looking for a short-term solutions to today’s problems, you should focus on finding a job that will satisfy your evolving needs for several years to come.
With that in mind, here are four long-term problems your next job change should solve.
1. You’re not growing.
Every job has an initial learning curve, which is usually anywhere from a few months to a year. By the end of the first two years, you should have a solid handle on your responsibilities, and have mastered the necessary skills to succeed. The question, is what happens after those two years?
If your job doesn’t allow further advancement, and if you are performing the same tasks, at the same level, using the same set of skills, then you won’t be growing. If you aren’t growing, then the only way to advance your career is to change jobs.
That’s why, when you look for a new job, you should search for organizations that provide clear paths for advancement and professional development. You may even choose to accept a job that is not ideal to begin with, but will pay off in a few years’ time.
This is the best way to head off some of the short-term reasons that make people leave their jobs – low salary and boredom. By aiming for a position that is future-proof, you can avoid relying on job hopping to advance your career.
2. You’re not accomplishing or contributing.
When writing a resume or interviewing for a job, you’ll want to share accomplishments from your career that relate to the role you are applying for. This could be an event you organized, a team you led, or an award received. But your current job may not give you the opportunities you need to achieve these successes – at least not on the scale or in the manner you would like. The effect is that when you do look for your next job, you may find yourself with little to show for the last few years.
Of course, accomplishments are not only useful as job search tools. Most of us want a career that feels meaningful. The education sector in particular, is full of incredible people who are motivated to make a difference in the lives of students, or advance their field of knowledge. You may choose a job for practical reasons, but if the work you do lacks impact, you’ll likely find yourself unmotivated and uninspired once the novelty of the position wears off.
3. Your job is not on the path to your end goal.
We have all had to take jobs out of simple necessity. Savings are running out, bills have to be paid, people are relying on us, and our unemployed gap is widening. So we accept a job that fills our short term needs – usually a good salary or a convenient location/schedule.
While this is sometimes necessary, the time spent in this kind of job is time that is not advancing you towards your career goal. Now, while you have a stable job, is the best time to build the skills you need, and begin looking for a better position. It can be hard to stay motivated in your job search when you are already employed, but the longer you spin your wheels in a role that doesn’t align with your objectives, the longer it will take you to get where you want to be.
4. You’re going to burn out.
It’s important to have a job that pushes you to grow, but there is a fine line between being challenged and overwhelmed. Burnout is a serious problem for many people, particularly teachers. According to one report, 30% of new teachers in Canada quit the profession within the first 5 years. There’s nothing wrong with working hard, but if your work/life balance is unsustainable, then you will pay for it in the long run.
When you look for a new job, investigate the employer’s work culture, and ask how they handle factors like overtime, flexible scheduling, and communication outside of work hours. Aim for a level of challenge that you will be able to sustain for years, in an environment that will support your desire for growth and your need for balance. In the ideal job, you should have a measure of both challenge and of control.