Why Reflection is Key to a Successful Career Move

15 December 2017

With all the "New Year, new you," talk, it's easy to see why it's tempting to think: “New Year, new job.” However, rushing into a career-changing decision without taking the time to reflect on where you are currently can be a recipe for disaster.

When looking at the best way to move forward, a great starting place is to look back on where you’ve been. It's crucial to take the time to reflect on your career to date prior to making a move. Reflection is a great way of identifying how you actually feel. Ask yourself questions such as Why did I choose this career/role? Is my current role giving me what I want? What have I learnt in the past year? Do I genuinely enjoy my role? Am I currently where I wanted to be five years ago? What is causing me to want to make a change?

Bear in mind that the end of the year, whilst a great time to reflect, can also be incredibly stressful and can accentuate how you truly feel about certain aspects. Try to keep yourself grounded and realistic, as the last thing you want is to make a poor decision.

If you find you are genuinely unhappy, you need to be clear on what is causing the discontent before moving forward. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised about how many people start a job search off the back of being unhappy, without fully understanding what is causing them to feel that way. Without this insight, it is impossible to say whether a new position is the solution. If I asked you “what is the one thing about your role that you would change?” chances are that it will relate to either a specific part of your role, your team, or the company itself.

To find out whether your role is the issue, conduct a diagnostic of your day-to-day activities. Jot down your daily/weekly tasks and responsibilities to find out what you actually spend your time doing. Look over your list and take stock of the things you enjoy, what you find fulfilling, and what you find challenging and frustrating, Weigh up the benefits against the challenges, and think about what you can potentially do to spend more time on the former and less on the latter. If you find that you're spending a lot more time on things you don't like and there is little room for change, then it genuinely may be time to move on.

Alternatively, you could be perfectly happy with your role, but might be facing conflicts with the people you work with. We've all had our fair share of bad managers – over half of New Zealanders leave their jobs due to a bad boss – but at the Executive and Board levels this is a completely different story, and it can be extremely detrimental to both your performance and long term health. This isn’t always an easy problem to solve, however you do have options, and speaking to a trusted advisor from within the organisation about mediating the issue or potentially taking up a different role, is a good start. However, once again, if the problem is too deeply ingrained to effectively improve the situation, then it's time to look at other opportunities.

What if the company is the problem? The company culture you're immersed in is incredibly important. If you feel their values don't align with your own, or that they do things in a way you simply can't get behind, then it’s unlikely that you're going to be happy long term. Naturally when it comes to Senior Management roles, you have an opportunity to stamp your own mark on culture and directly influence the issue. If this should be part of your remit, but you feel that you can't do this effectively, then there may be a wider issue that requires solving.

The problem with moving on however, is that it's hard to know what the culture of a company is like until you're in it; this makes moving companies somewhat of a gamble. You can avoid this by working with a recruitment partner that you trust. Your search consultant will have a deeper-than-surface insight into the companies they work with, so can give you a detailed view on what working at that company. This, coupled with your personal reflections, allows for a far more considered career decision.

If you are struggling to know where to start with self-reflection, another option is to canvas the people whose opinion you value. Talk to friends and colleagues and ask them to repeat what you've been saying throughout the year. See what they've picked up on, and what impression they got from you. Were you more positive or negative than you’d initially thought? This can be an eye-opening experience, and they may well remember or notice something that you hadn’t thought about.

Next Steps

Once you've got clarity on what you're looking for, then you can take next step. If you do choose to use a recruiter, the best thing to do is come prepared. The clearer you are about your wants and needs, the more effective your search will be. If you're really stuck, one of our partner businesses here at Luminary Search is Grafton Consulting, who offer in-depth career diagnostic services.

Whilst the end of the year is a common time to consider your career options, you can choose to reflect and take stock at any point in the year. After all, you are ultimately responsible for your own career development and wellbeing. If you'd like to see how we can help you, please get in touch.

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