A 4-step decision-making process for young professionals thinking about changing jobs...

Most young professionals experience the feeling of being stuck at a job, and it seems like a dead end. That is when the temptation to seek out greener pastures and make a change starts to look really good. Remember, fast moves without thoughtful consideration usually have a bad outcome.

The following four steps will help potential career or job hoppers evaluate options and minimize risk to create good outcomes.



1. Assess: It’s easy to get down at any job, and it’s important to realize your judgment is skewed when you are angry or discouraged. Every job has unpleasant experiences, tasks, and annoying colleagues. They come with the territory. The variable under control is you. I advise a personal assessment of you and the job. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Why are you considering a change?
  • Do you enjoy the job responsibilities?
  • Do you like your colleagues?
  • Does the company have a path for upward mobility?
  • Would you stay if specific job responsibilities changed?
  • Is it simply you need more money?
  • Could you accept a pay cut if the new job was a fit?

Think about these questions and write down your thoughts. The best decisions are made when you are in a good frame of mind. Most importantly, don’t make decisions after a grueling work day or after a meeting that frustrates you. A new job change may be fantastic, or it may make things worse. Regardless, there are risks.

2. Explore: I made three job changes within the same industry over the first fifteen years of my career. My success rate was 67%; one bad and two good. I made my first job change after five years, and it was horrible. It was a time in my life when I wanted a chance to start over, ignite a new fire, and improve my income. I made the decision impetuously, and it was a disaster. I barely lasted two years. On my next two forays into the job market, I was methodical, and the results were much better. What three things did I do?

  • Consult respected professional colleagues and friends inside and outside different industries to get a sense for pay scales and opportunities. 
  • Job Shadowed: I used some friends who had jobs that sounded intriguing and went to their offices for several ½ day visits. It was instructive to see and helpful. I experienced the setting, energy level, employee interaction, and workflow.
  • Interview with companies within and beyond the chosen industry to gauge the value you can offer or command.

This methodology proved to be a reality check and in a few places a cold slap in the face. I learned my skill/experience was not transferable unless I took a pay cut, and on one of my office visits the environment was unappealing. I discovered the best career opportunity and earning was within my industry. This was not the outcome I wanted, but it helped me eliminate unrealistic possibilities and re-focus my energy and priorities.

3. Support: Everyone needs support. For some of us, it’s a family member or a friend. For others, it is a therapist or spiritual adviser. Regardless, we need to share our plans and our dreams with people we trust. Most importantly, listen to feedback and give yourself a few days to absorb the answers. For me, life changing advice came by way of casual conversation with a few close friends and my father. If I had not opened up and talked about my goals and aspirations with someone, I would not have gotten realistic assessments, understood my motivations or reached my potential. I advise all professionals seek help and advice with your big career and life decisions.

4. Decide: We need to “make a decision to make a decision”. Remember, it’s important to end the analysis and get back to focusing on success at work. If the decision is to stay, make a conscious effort to improve. On the other hand, if a change is needed, take the risk, and know you did your best. You made your decision to “stay put or move on” after research, careful thought and consultation. It’s time to get back to being productive!

Professional careers are hard to manage because priorities shift from year to year. There is not a simple answer, and career decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. The best decisions are thought out, explored, and talked out.

Remember, the world is filled with opportunities for professionals with great focus, high energy, an ability to make reasonable decisions, and a strong work ethic.