5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Job Change

(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Samantha White)

Maybe you're burned out, feeling stuck or are just plain unhappy at work. Perhaps you wonder if your skills would be better utilized in a different job. Or maybe you're just curious whether there's a different job out there that would give you more happiness, money, flexibility or fulfillment.

Making a job change, even to a "better" situation, comes with stress and risk. Before making the leap and changing jobs, ask yourself these five questions.

1. What's Truly Driving Me to Change Jobs?

Being clear about your motivation to make the job change will help you stay focused during the process. If you're looking to make a change because you were hired into a role that you're not qualified for or thriving in, consider whether another job in the same company is an option. Then you'd be making a job change but not an employer change.

Understanding your intentions can also reveal whether there's still value in staying put. For example, If you're feeling bored in your current job, explore ways to add more creativity or more challenges to your work. If you lack responsibility and visibility in your current role and want to be on a leadership track, ask yourself if you've made those goals known to your manager who might be able to promote you.

2. What Do I Like/Not Like About My Current Job?

I'm a fan of making lists, and these are two great ones to start with: Write out all the features, facets and parts of your current job that you like (i.e., I can work from home, my current team reminds me of my squadron in the military or the company invests in my education) and then list out what you don't like.

Be as specific as you can get. This will help when you start to look for the next job, as you'll want to pursue something that keeps the things you like but limits what you don't want.

3. Do I Have the Resources to Support Myself and My Family if the Change Isn't Ideal?

Make a list of all your fixed expenses as a family. From rent or mortgage to car payments, credit-card and utility bills. These are fixed expenses, meaning they don't vary from month to month. Then make a list of what you spend on non-fixed and discretionary items. Even groceries can be flexible because you could opt to buy less expensive foods, if needed. Write out what you average on entertainment (movie tickets, streaming services, vacations), clothes and other personal and household expenses.

Next, look at your savings account. If you took a job that earned a bit less, but gave you all the other things you wanted, could you live on less income? Or if the new job didn't work out, do you have a few months of savings in the bank to cover expenses?

4. What's the Market Like for the Work I Want to Do?

Look at the industries and jobs that align with your interests. Which companies are hiring? What salaries and perks come with those jobs? Is the path you're considering in decline?

Consider, too, your geographic market. If you can't work remotely for this new job and will need to physically be in the office, are companies hiring for those jobs in your area? If not, are you willing to relocate?

Do as much research into the market, trends, geography and companies in your target area.

5. How Can My Network Support Me in Making This Change?

Your network of contacts (online and in person) is your sales force for that next job. Organize your lists of contacts by their ability to refer you to ideal opportunities, provide you with insight, guidance and information and for their role as a mentor to you. Each of these areas has tremendous value in a job change.

Your network needs to know who you are, what you can offer and what you're looking for to best support your goals. If you feel your network isn't strong enough to support your change, consider investing time to curate more robust and rewarding professional relationships before embarking on a change.

A job change can be a great opportunity to advance your career, learn new systems and work in a more closely aligned culture. Making this change with clarity is vital to your success.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty" (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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