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An empty desk begets a new professional opportunity. [Image: DoED]

Sometimes it’s clear when to leave a job—lack of room for growth or a lousy boss could easily inspire one to trek off to other endeavors. Yet changing jobs carries risks: losing an established routine, an established network, and other evidence of an established career. A 2016 article in The Atlantic, titled, simply, “Quit Your Job,” details how and when to know it’s time to move on, and what to do when that time comes.

Career ennui

While her The Atlantic article specifically targets “midlife” professionals, author Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s advice could apply to any career level. Bradley Hagerty notes that while many may feel fulfilled in their work lives, others may be feeling what she calls “career ennui,” which, she explains, occurs when employees are generally unhappy and disengaged from their jobs. If this is the case, she reports that there is “mounting evidence” suggesting that one stuck in such a rut “would probably be better off adjusting course.”

Still, swaying professional directions doesn’t need to be a monumental or radically different shift to be happy. It’s not necessary to go from laser physicist to pastry chef. Bradley Hagerty says that among the many professionals and experts she interviewed on career and professional change, one recurring theme arose often: “making a relatively modest leap.” Writes the author, “Most people can ill afford to abruptly quit their jobs. If giving notice is out of the question, the experts I spoke with suggest that pivoting inside your organization—that is, tweaking your job—can still bring you a greater sense of purpose.”

Taking the leap

If career ennui has reached the point where a bigger step seems necessary, the next opportunity isn’t always obvious. In a 2015 Science article, Beryl Lieff Benderly writes that networking is essential for accessing the “hidden market” of jobs that exist. Networking can help identify and solicit unexpected opportunities through the process of making others aware of how your skills and abilities can help companies or organizations fill their needs and solve their problems.

The so-called hidden market “consists of all the needs and problems that people in every kind of organization constantly face, but they have not yet announced publicly or reduced to job descriptions”

Making the jump to a new position or career creates a whole suite of possibilities. An in-house transition, for instance, could take weeks or months before being finalized, and additional certification might even be needed. While this is happening, an external competitor might even make you an offer, as this Forbes article explains. Before you gear up to battle the possibility of awkward or frustrating bumps in the road, England’s Institute of Engineering and Technology, has published a helpful guide of questions to ask yourself before accepting another job.

The guide’s author, Georgina Bloomfield, points out the obvious questions to ask yourself first regarding logistics and finances: salary, commute time, and so forth. After those questions have been answered, Bloomfield suggests taking a deep-dive look at the role itself. For instance, does it offer career growth or further managerial skills? Finally, she suggests examining at how the role will help you establish and stay accountable to goals, as well as your happiness. Says Bloomfield, “There are lots of questions you need to ask yourself before accepting a job offer. Just remember to take your time and don’t be afraid to turn it down because it doesn’t meet your requirements.”