As the end of 2016 creeps closer, many people find the idea of a fresh career start in 2017 to be appealing.
But visions of firing off that resignation letter, closing the door of your old office behind you for the last time, and stepping into a brilliant new career filled with excitement and opportunity should be tempered by the real work and strategy that must go into successfully moving from one job or career to another.
Every year, thousands of employees enrol in part-time or distance courses, or for a higher degree, in a bid to either enter a new field of work or improve their qualifications and, in so doing, further their careers.
Boosting your academic qualifications is a great way to ensure that your career keeps moving in the right direction. But this step should be one part of a broader strategy.
Before you cheerfully announce your resignation, make sure you have gone through the actions outlined below.
Failure to do so could result in your finding yourself out of a job, and without solid prospects, in an extremely tough economic environment.
Decide whether you should leave
After a few months of relentless stress and pressure, it can be tempting to throw caution to the wind.
However, sit down and take a long, hard look at your reasons for wanting to move.
A job in hand is always better than three prospective ones, and there may be opportunities available at your current place of work.
Write down all the reasons you want to move, and then ask yourself: Are these mostly push factors, such as a horrible boss, low pay and a negative company culture? Or, are they mainly pull factors – an enticing new career, a reputable company you want to be part of and a new professional field with exciting opportunities?
Jenny Blake, a career strategist and author, advises that one should remember to keep focus on what is working, rather than only focusing on what is not working, to make an informed decision when considering a career change.
Do your research and test the waters
If you decide to move on, don’t give up while you are trying to move up.
This means that you continue to give of your best at work every day, while at the same time investigating career options and positions that interest you. Make a point of attending industry networking events, speak to people who are doing what you would like to do, look at vacancies in the field, find niche growth areas and determine what a move would entail.
Chart the waters
Once you have determined that you want to move on and you have pinpointed your ideal job, plot a strategy for the most efficient and effective way to get there.
Take everything into account: potential loss of income, reduced earnings when starting out, the time required to execute your plan and the resources required.
Make sure that you take all information into account, and develop a plan that works for you.
For instance, it may not be necessary to give up your day job if you can enrol for an online short course dealing with the industry you’ve set your sights on.
Once you have mapped out your plan, start taking action immediately.
In the case of studying further, make sure that you meet the registration deadline and have the required documentation.
Also, check that your CV is in order and keep it updated. And keep your ear to the ground for opportunities in your new field.
It’s important to bear in mind that when the time comes for you to resign from your current position, you leave graciously, without burning any bridges.
Lillian Bususu is the graduate development manager at Rosebank College, which places thousands of students in new positions each year.
“It is crucial to leave on a positive note. Doing so increases your chances of getting a better reference, which will help with future job hunts,” she advises.
“While investigating your brilliant new career and setting plans in motion, it is imperative to keep things confidential and under wraps for as long as possible.
“But when the time comes, play open cards. The last thing you want is for your boss to hear the news via the grapevine.
“That is embarrassing for all parties, and it may ruin the good relationship you enjoyed in the past.”
Bususu adds that when leaving a position, make an appointment with your manager to notify them of your intentions. Follow this up with a formal, polite written resignation letter. “Some bosses will try to counter offer with a better package, but as good as it may sound, you must refuse,” she says.
“Resist counter offers and stick to your initial decision. If you accept such an offer, it appears that you can be bought and you may lose credibility. You have made up your mind to move on, so believe in yourself and your new path.”
Kriel is general manager of the Independent Institute of Education