Written by Katie Rosseinsky
Mulling over a career change as we head towards 2023? You’re not alone, but how do you work out whether it’s genuinely time to move on or whether it’s the end-of-year tiredness talking?
Let’s face it: the last working week before Christmas can often feel like a serious slog. There’s the panicked rush to tick off your spiralling to-do list before your annual leave,the desperate attempts to reach inbox zero, the tinny strains of Christmas music piping around the office… all at a time when your motivation and productivity has totally flatlined (experience has taught me that it’s almost entirely impossible to do anything useful once the festive issue of the Radio Times is on supermarket shelves).
Combine this with the cumulative impact of end-of-year burnout and tiredness, and you might find yourself questioning a career move as we head into the Christmas holidays and then into the start of 2023.
The new year, new job fantasy is certainly a tempting one: there’s something about the dawn of a new year that leaves us craving a fresh start, and given that the average employee spends around 1,795 hours per year at work, making a change in this area of your life can have a major impact (and if you are keen to channel that new year mindset, a job hunt also feels like a more manageable place to begin than, say, putting all your belongings in storage and booking one-way flights to a far-flung destination).
Plus, there’s some evidence to suggest that January is arguably one of the best times of the year to start seeking a new role. The jobs website Indeed found that 9.4% of all yearly job postings are made in January in the UK, and many companies will have been working on their budgets in October and November, ready to advertise for new roles and make new hires when the start of the next year rolls around.
But how do you know when it’s really time to make that big work move – and when it’s just itchy feet, brought on by a combination of end-of-year exhaustion and new year idealism?
“Knowing when to make a big career change can be tough, especially with the pressures we’re facing right now,” says Chris Donnelly, Forbes 30 Under 30 entrepreneur and co-founder of Lottie. He counsels against making a knee-jerk move and instead recommends taking as long as “90 days to process and evaluate your decision… to help you decide if it’s just end-of-year exhaustion and your body’s way of telling you that you need a break from work, or if it’s something more serious”. Leadership development consultant Katya Kim, founder of WhizzMind, agrees that “[taking] the time to think and reflect” is crucial. “Don’t make any decisions in the heat of the moment,” she cautions.
Careers coach and Reboot Global founder Sheryl Miller advises taking a pragmatic approach, especially in the current economic moment. “It’s worth bearing in mind though that no job is perfect and given the cost of living crisis you also have to factor in financial stability,” she says. “If you feel happy around 70 to 80% of the time at work, then that’s not bad going. When it comes to fulfilment (or purpose) it’s important to not romanticise what life would be like if you were doing your dream job.”
One way of making things better in the short term, she suggests, could be to “look creatively at your job and the time you have available” and work out if “there can be a way of getting more meaning out of life at work or [during] your free time”, to help you feel more fulfilled. “Is there some community or charity work work you can get involved in, either though your employer or outside your job?” she asks. “At work are there any interesting projects going on where your work that can going an extra challenge and make things interesting? How can you be more creative and inject your ideas into your everyday work?”
For Kim, the first sign that you might need a change “is when you don’t feel happy or fulfilled in your work. You don’t enjoy it any more and while you still deliver at an acceptable level, you don’t push to do your best. When we feel engaged, we bring our creativity, passion and ideas into our work.” Another red flag, she says, is a “toxic culture – if you are not heard, feel ignored or are even being bullied, you deserve better and should think about a career change”.
In order to pinpoint when your feelings towards work changed, she recommends asking yourself: “When was the last time I felt happy at work – and can it be restored?” That way, you can look back at the timeline of your feelings: if it’s just a recent shift, then it might be linked to that general end-of-term malaise; if your feelings have been brewing for months, it’s likely that there’s a more significant root cause. It’s also worth taking some time to focus on “how work makes you feel”, advises Donnelly. “Do you feel content with the work you’re given and producing, are you supported by colleagues and do you feel worried, anxious or stressed because of your job?”
“List all the things you don’t like about your work and think about ways you might be able to improve them,” Kim recommends. “If there is a chance to make some changes, talk to your manager and see what can be actioned. If that doesn’t work, then it’s probably the right time to think about new opportunities.” If the change you’re considering will impact “more than one area of your life and relationships” in a positive way, says business mentor Rachael Howourth of Her Infinite Abundance, it’s certainly worth further consideration. “Can you list out the positive effects of this change, [for your] finances, happiness [and] future opportunities?” she asks.
If you do find yourself swaying towards leaving, Donnelly recommends making “a list of reasons” about why you want to do so, to make your intentions clear and to ensure that you don’t end up repeating yourself by stepping into a role or company culture with similar problems. “Stick to these when you’re interviewing for a new [job], as you don’t want to experience the same [problems] in a new role,” he says.
And if, once you’ve made the decision, you start to feel doubt creeping in? Remember that it’s never too late to make a change – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to stick with it forever. “Sometimes we feel that the work we do isn’t exciting any more but we stop ourselves from trying something new as we worry it’s too late to start from scratch,” Kim says. “The reality is, if you don’t try you’ll never know.”
Six questions to ask before making a big career decision
Tempted to make the jump? Chris Donnelly shares six simple questions to ask yourself beforehand to “help you to make a rational decision, without acting on impulse”.
1. What is it about my current career that I’m not enjoying?
2. What are the long-term opportunities associated with my current career – and my new, potential one?
3. What am I passionate about? Are there any new career opportunities I could explore?
4. What are my career values?
5. Who do I know that’s in my new career path that could give me an honest opinion on what it’s like?
6. What am I willing to learn?
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