STEP #1 — WHAT’S YOUR ‘WHY’?
If you’re dreading going into work on Monday, ask yourself – why? Reflect on your current role and why you are unhappy. Be as specific as possible.
Are you no longer finding the work challenging or satisfying? Or, is it the people, your boss or their management style, or the workplace culture that you’re not enjoying? Do you feel progression opportunities are limited, you’re not being paid enough — or you’ve achieved all you can in this role?
Whatever the reasons, note them down. This will help you identify what’s important to your career and crucial in your next role. And if you decide to move on, it will assist you to clearly explain to prospective employers why you’re in the market.
STEP #2 — WHAT WILL YOU DO ABOUT IT?
If you’re unhappy with aspects of your current role, it’s always advisable to take steps to improve the situation first. Then if you do move on, you’ll know you did everything in your power to work it out with your employer. You can also explain to prospective employers how you addressed any issues in your role, giving them greater assurance about your commitment and motivations for moving.
Consider – is there anything that I can do to improve the aspects of my current role that I’m not happy with?
Start by looking at what is within your own personal control to change. Be proactive and make a point in asking your supervisor for more complex work. Or, approach your employer about a pay rise, being sure to do your research on market rates and to explain the reasons why (based on performance) you deserve an increase.
If you want progression, apply for a promotion or start taking on additional responsibilities, such as business development or supervising junior staff, so you’re more likely to be considered for one.
For anything you wish to change that is outside of your control, give your current employer the opportunity to improve the situation first. This may mean initiating a career discussion to talk about what progression opportunities are available to you or a frank conversation about any aspects of the workplace you’re not enjoying. If you’re uncomfortable having this discussion with your direct supervisor, consider approaching a senior mentor you trust within the organisation, or HR.
STEP #3 — WHAT MAKES MY ROLE ENJOYABLE?
Assessing the positive aspects of your current position will allow you to get a firm view on what is important to you. It will also reveal the key criteria you should look for in any role you consider moving forward.
Do you love the challenging work you are doing and the level of client interaction, but feel you are not getting the level of training or mentoring you need to develop your skills? Perhaps you need to consider a role with a more structured training or mentoring program in place, which still gives you some exposure to clients and stimulating work.
Or, do you enjoy your working environment and the people you work with, but are no longer feeling stimulated with your work? Perhaps it’s time to specialise or seek out a team doing complex work in your area, whilst finding an employer with a similar working culture.
STEP #4 — KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS
Identify your strengths and what sets you apart in the market. Consider your areas of technical expertise, whether in a certain specialist area, or specific industry knowledge. Personal skills are also vitally important. Employers increasingly place importance on soft skills, such as communication and ability to work as part of a team. Think about what personal skills you have that set you apart.
Your best chances of securing a new role are to play to your strengths. You’ll also be more marketable to non-advertised positions with specialist teams or employers who can immediately benefit from your skills. This cuts out the competition that you’d otherwise encounter applying to an advertised role.
STEP #5 — GET REAL
Be realistic. Consider the types of employers or practice areas that are recruiting and whether your skills will be competitive.
For example, private practice lawyers with no corporate experience may struggle to secure an in-house role against more suitably qualified candidates. However, an experienced oil & gas lawyer from a leading first-tier team is going to have a good chance of success at securing a specialist position with an oil & gas company.
In this instance, it’s worth considering alternative opportunities that also meet the criteria of the role you’re looking for. You may consider a boutique organisation if your motivations are better work/life balance or more client exposure.
Do be realistic about your salary expectations and realise you’re not always going to get a significant uplift in salary by moving roles. Salary should never be a key motivator to move jobs anyway – only a consideration. And if you do decide to make a major change, such as moving into a new practice area, set yourself a realistic time frame to do so.
STEP #6 — BE STRATEGIC
You’ve identified the ideal criteria for your next role, what you are willing to negotiate on and where you will be most competitive. The final step is to put a final action plan in place and go out and find your next role.
Make sure your resume is up to date. Identify a list of target companies that you’d like to work for and utilise your networks. Be strategic about any advertised positions you apply to.
I hope these 6 steps assist you with clarifying and pursuing your career goals.