Thinking about leaving your job? You’re certainly not alone. Americans are leaving their workplaces in record numbers; more than 4.5 million individuals voluntarily resigned in November 2021 alone.
Calling it quits happens for many reasons: Your company restructures and changes your duties. Your well-loved boss resigns. Maybe it’s just been a bad week. Whatever the circumstances, it’s important to make sure your next move is thoughtful, rather than reactionary.
An annual career checkup puts you in control. Before you say "take this job and shove it," get prepared with these seven important steps.
1. Reflect on your reasons
Putting concrete reasons behind your departure will help you avoid similar situations in your next position. Start with uninterrupted time for reflection; self-discovery is key to finding a role that both meets your needs for income and provides fulfillment on a deeper level.
*What type of work really energizes you?
*What drains you?
*What is the most important change you’re seeking in a new position?
2. Identify your superpowers
Wonder Woman and Superman aren’t the only ones with special talents; we all have amazing capabilities. Knowing yours will help you unlock new opportunities and stand out with hiring managers.
Think about the unique value that you can bring to an organization. Where do you make the biggest impact? What do colleagues count on you for? When others describe you, what would they say you are "made to do"?
3. Document your accomplishments
As you think back over the previous year (or the arc of your career), consider your wins. What accomplishments are you most proud of? What are the peak experiences that you want to duplicate going forward? Write them down, paying particular attention to specific results and outcomes where you made a difference at your company. These milestones will form that heart of your job search story, resume and LinkedIn profile.
4. Find your purpose
Trying to find meaning and fulfillment in your professional life is nothing new. The pandemic, however, has magnified that desire.
The good news is that it is possible. It starts by figuring out where your personal passions intersect with the job market.
*What type of work do you find meaningful?
*When you are totally absorbed and lose track of time, what are you doing?
*What do you want to contribute to the world?
5. Create your professional narrative
Recruiters, hiring managers and networking contacts need a clear picture of your unique strengths and ideal role—and all in just a few short sentences. Before you exit your current job, get prepared for the next one with a concise elevator pitch. Focus on these three items: what you do best, where you add value at an organization and your ideal next step. Leave the details to your resume and practice this summary so you make a memorable impression.
6. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile
Once you’ve honed your pitch, make sure the same storyline flows through all your job search materials. Review and update your summary, career history, education, accomplishments and other sections on your resume and LinkedIn profile. (Make sure to adjust your online settings so proactive changes don’t trigger your company before you’re ready to depart.)
7. Visualize new experiences
Finally, look back across these activities for recurring themes and "a-ha" moments that help you see your future and define next steps. It’s also smart to assess your financial needs so whatever avenue you choose, you can evaluate potential compensation realistically.
If you have trusted advisers or mentors in your network, consider seeking their confidential input. Working with an experienced career consultants is another option, particularly for senior leaders who are unsure of your next move, looking to pivot your skills to a new industry or ready to step up to board of director roles.
Just like your yearly physical, an annual career checkup keeps your professional life in good health and ensures you’re ready for whatever comes next. The more considered and clear you are, the more your friends, colleagues, family and professional network can help you achieve your goals.
Anne Sample is CEO of Navigate Forward.