Looking back on my career I’ve been fortunate to work for four great companies and have gone through three “career transitions.” I went form WE Communications to Microsoft, then from Microsoft to startup Porch.com, and most recently I went back to my big company roots taking on a new role at SAP.
Every time I changed jobs, it felt like I had gone through a process that put me in the right role, at the right company, at the right time.
Thinking about what I’ve learned, here are 10 tips you might find useful when the time comes to make a career transition.
1. Know your requirements.
One of the most valuable exercises you can go through is to determine what really matters to you. What are your requirements? For example, do you want to be a manager or an individual contributor? Is money the most important thing? Do you want to travel? Do you want to work from home? How important is commute?
This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but what’s universal is that everyone has a list of requirements and understanding what matters most is key.
2. It’s all about the people.
When you think about how much time we spend with co-workers, it’s crucial to find great people to work with. Not just people you can laugh and have fun with, but people who will really challenge and inspire you to do your very best. Spend time getting to know the people you are going to work with. How will they make you better? How can you make them better? Who will inspire you?
3. Take your time.
When you’ve decided that it’s time to make a transition, be patient. Take lots of meetings and get to know people. Expand your network. Do your homework and find out what you want to do, then find the place that allows you to do that.
It’s not about finding a new job right now; it’s about finding the right role, at the right time, with the right people.
4. Run to a job (never run from a job).
You may be in a position where you feel like your career is stuck in a rut. I know that can be a tough position be in, but you never want to make a rash or drastic decision. Do your best to find a role that inspires and excites you. You never want to run away. You want to find something that motivates you for the right reasons, so you are running towards the perfect role.
5. Don’t be afraid to try something different.
I am a very curious person. I like to try new things, expand my network and learn from new people. It’s fun to try new things and learn new skills. Don’t talk yourself out of something great, because it might not be in your wheelhouse -- it could be the domino that leads to something that is a once-in-a-career opportunity.
6. Put inspiration before title.
I’ve seen a lot people make a career transition because of the allure of title. That’s a hollow approach to building a great career. Titles are not transferrable between companies and to be frank, WHAT you do and HOW you do it means a lot more than the title under your signature. If you find yourself working with and for people who really don’t care about titles – people that give everyone a seat at the table – that’s a good sign you are heading to the right place.
7. Create your personal board of directors.
Don’t feel like you are going at it alone. Build out your own personal board of directors -- people who can advise, challenge, support and help you make the right decision at the right time for the right reasons. These are the people who can be brutally honest with you because they care and know you in a way many others don’t.
8. Act 'as if.'
Once you’ve narrowed down the opportunities you might consider, pause for a moment. Before you make your decision, find some time to “act as if you had the job.” Spend a weekend doing some of the work you would be required to do. Work on projects you would expect to do in your new role. Do you enjoy what you are doing? If not, that could be a red flag.
9. Be active in your transition plan.
Once you’ve made your decision to move on, play an active role in making sure your transition plan sets your employer up for success. Don’t leave people high and dry. Take the time to make sure that the people picking up where you left off are ready to succeed. In many ways your transition represents an exciting new opportunity for someone else. Honor them and respect their process, so they’re set up to carry on what you leave behind. And remember: always leave things better than you found them.
10. It really is all about you.
Though you need to take a lot of people into consideration (family, teammates, management), it really is all about you. It can be hard to make the right decision when you are trying to consider the needs and wants of too many people. Put your oxygen mask on first and make sure you are comfortable and excited by what’s to come. If you do that, everyone benefits.