Switching Jobs in Bad Times: Should You Make the Leap?
Have you lost that lovin’ feeling when it comes to your job? Do you daydream about your boss’s stunned expression as you triumphantly tender your letter of resignation? We’ve all been there. Just like staying in a long-term relationship that has run its course, showing up every day to an office when your heart is not in it can be a recipe for resentment. Yet with the Federal Reserve predicting that the unemployment rate will remain around 9 percent throughout 2011, upping and quitting seems like a dicey proposition. So what’s a guy to do?
Stay Close to Home
“I always counsel people to look within before looking outside,” says Stella Angelakos, a New York City-based career adviser. “Before you leave, explore opportunities within your existing company.” To do so, she says, become friendly with people in the departments that are of most interest to you. Let co-workers whom you trust know you’re seeking a new position. If you have a good relationship with your boss, he can be your ally too. On the other hand, if you fear retribution once you admit you’re itching for a change, talk with a member of your company’s human resources department instead. If you’re a good worker, it’s in their best interest to try to retain you.
Look Before You Leap
But what if you’re at a small firm with little room for movement? Or perhaps you want to change industries entirely? Don’t be afraid to take those steps, but take them wisely. Do your research, says Angelakos. Plan to make your move at a time of year when your industry does most of its hiring. Talk to recruiters. And make sure you know where you’re headed: “You don’t want to take a job that’s worse than the one you left,” warns Angelakos.
To prepare for your jump, get your references in order and make sure your resume is ready to rock and roll. Put out feelers with your network of friends, family members and former colleagues, letting them know you’re exploring new options. Finally, says California-based recruiter Margo Morgenlader of Professional Recruitment Solutions, “Clean up your online brand.” This starts first and foremost with Facebook, which most employers will look at when researching your background. “You should have a spotless online presence -- even if your presence in life is not so spotless,” advises Morgenlander. Unlike Facebook, a website that can really shore up -- rather than sink -- your job prospects is LinkedIn. “It’s a great way to deepen your connections,” she says, pointing out that it can take a lot of the heavy lifting out of networking.
If You Have to, Leap Before You Look
What if you’re so overworked or in despair that you can’t get in the right head space for a job search? If you can afford the loss of paycheck -- potentially for six months or more -- then go for it. “I would never advocate people being so miserable in a job that they can’t go another day,” says Morgenlander. But when you start going on job interviews, she warns, “Don’t air dirty laundry about your old place of work.” Keep the tone positive. You don’t want to give prospective employers any reason to doubt your integrity or commitment.
The fact is you may actually find it a whole lot easier to remain positive if you cut your ties to your old job before looking anew. Many individuals, freed from the fear of losing the paycheck that kept them at a job well past its “sell-by” date, are surprised to discover they can get actually get by on less. “Once people get over the shock of not having money, as long as they’re doing something they really like, they tend to be happier,” says Angelakos.
In retrospect, whenever you determine the time has come to tender a resignation, the act should be a true declaration of independence -- a chance to reclaim your life, liberty and yes, your pursuit of happiness.