5 questions to ask before you change jobs

Sometimes moving jobs is a risk, and sometimes staying is a risk. And you've got to be able to live with that uncertainty.

A change of job can often feel like a momentous decision, and having a sense of doubt is natural. Ask yourself these five questions when mulling over a job change, and make sure you are making the change for the right reasons.

By Johanna Leggatt

After a challenging two years, many people are considering changing jobs. Should you? 

Dr Amy Silver, psychologist, author and team leadership facilitator, says it is common to begin the year itching to change jobs, and the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this trend.

“We have been given that opportunity to adjust our life in quite big ways and, whereas it was once impossible to, for example, work from interstate, now those kind of flexible work options are possible,” she says. 

“Everything is up for grabs.”

How do you know whether it is the right decision to leave? Ask yourself these questions before you take the plunge.

1. What positives am I forgetting about my current role? 

The past 18 months have been very task-oriented for many workers and it is easy to forget those intangible, but meaningful, aspects of our work lives. 

Accountants and finance professionals have dealt with a lot of change, sometimes leading them to ignore the better aspects of their jobs. 

While some of us dismiss returning to the office as an inefficient use of our time, ease and efficiency are not the only barometers to guide our experience of work.

“We have forgotten about the camaraderie or the connection or the joy that we get from being with other people,” Silver says. 

“We are social creatures, after all.”

2. Can I change aspects of my current role?

There is a high degree of demand for qualified candidates in professional services roles, giving accountants and finance professionals a unique opportunity to shape their roles.

“Workers now have more power to ask how to make their current role closer to what they want it to be,” Silver says.

If you want to move interstate, for example, rather than looking for a new job at your destination, you could ask your employer to make you a remote employee.

“You can get what you want or need without having to leave the job,” Silver says.

3. Is this the right time to decide?

After a gruelling two years, and with pandemic-related disruptions far from over, Silver argues you should tread carefully to make sure the desire to change jobs is not solely fuelled by residual stress.

“People have experienced a lot of grief over the last couple of years, and there is a lot of processing people need to do before they can make these kinds of decisions,” she says.

Organisational psychologist and professor of career development at Australian Catholic University, Jim Bright, adds that people may think they need to make a momentous decision to feel better about work, but this is often not the case.

“Some people have a tendency to think everything has to change for anything to change,” he says. 

“I always think you should think carefully before moving jobs and never leave in the heat of the moment.”

4. Am I merely tempted by another job offer?

Doubtless, many qualified finance and accounting leaders will be head-hunted over the coming months and Bright says it is important to check whether you are accepting a role because you are merely flattered.

“Many people are seduced into new jobs,” Bright says. “They see the shiny coffee machine in the lunchroom, the ping pong table or the prestigious building – but there is only so many times you can play ping pong.”

Instead, it is important to reflect on what you are truly looking for in the job. Is it a high salary for a few years because you need to pay off debts? Or is it a psychologically safe environment after an especially bruising experience with a boss with whom you didn’t get on?

Both are perfectly sound reasons to move. However, “the most important part is that reflection piece, so you can be sure of what it is that you really want and need,” Bright says.

5. Are my expectations of work too high?

Bright believes we often expect work to be a kind of professional nirvana.

“There is still this notion that your career has got to be the most fundamentally satisfying thing in your life and the total expression of who you are,” he says.

This attitude may result in a perfectionist and highly transactional approach to work – refusing to settle for a job that isn’t ideal, becoming convinced all problems stem from colleagues and not themselves, and clinging to the belief that a friction-free office experience is just around the corner.

“The rhetoric around work is that it is increasingly about satisfying our needs, about what we deserve,” Bright says.

“I’m not saying our needs aren’t important, but what if we looked at it from the position of how our talents can be useful and how we can make a contribution because, for me, work becomes meaningful when you feel you've made a contribution, however small.”

At the end of the day, sometimes it comes down to accepting that there is no right or wrong move, he adds.

“Sometimes moving jobs is a risk, and sometimes staying is a risk,” Bright says. “And you've got to be able to live with that uncertainty.”

December/January 2022
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