Time for a new job—or time for a career change?

Before you walk away from a job—or an entire career—ask yourself these five questions.

Time for a new job—or time for a career change?

Your answers can help tell if a job change is in order.

After several years—or even a decade or two—in a particular field, you might feel that you’re ready for something new. You’re at the end of your rope and you need a career change. You may even engage a career coach to help you figure out what you want to do next. Should you pursue a career transition? Or is it just time for a job change? 

“Sometimes people come to me and they say, ‘I need a new career, I’m totally done,’” says Jessica Sweet, a career coach for mid-life professionals and executives at WishingWellCoach.com. “But it turns out they just need a new job. It’s about defining the problem.”

Asking yourself a few questions can help you evaluate your current situation:

  • If I could do this work in a different environment, would I enjoy it?
  • If I was told tomorrow I couldn't work in my field anymore, how would I feel?
  • Do I know what my perfect promotion would be?
  • What is it about my job that's making me unhappy?
  • Does the work environment I want exist?

Monster spoke with experts to break down these questions and help you understand what your answers are revealing about your desire for change. 

If I could do this work in a different environment, would I enjoy it?

Take the time to notice whether you’re contemplating a career transition because the work you’re doing is unsatisfying—or because of where you’re doing the work.

“I find that people are often just miserable in their situation, and they can’t separate the work from the bad boss, the crummy commute, or the co-workers who are backstabbing,” Sweet says.

The verdict: If it’s pretty clear that it’s the people, places, or things—and not the actual work, it might be time for a job switch, not necessarily a career transition.

If I was told tomorrow I couldn’t work in my field anymore, how would I feel?

This question gets to the root of what you’re passionate about. Do you feel a deep connection to what you’re doing, or are you ready to break away?

“Remind yourself how you ended up in your field to begin with,” says Cynthia Pong, a coach and facilitator at Embrace Change Consulting in New York City. “Think back and write down your ‘spark story’—the story of how you first got excited about the work that you do. If you were never excited about it, that is important to recognize.”

The verdict: If you were excited once, but now only feel dread, boredom, or worse, it might be time to talk to a career coach about exploring new possibilities.

Do I know what my ‘perfect promotion’ would be?

Craft a job description that would make you thrive. What would it look like? Does the new description focus on your skills and talents that are currently being underutilized?

“One of the best exercises I do with my clients, before they make any big career-change decisions, is make sure we know what they truly want so we can determine whether that can be found at their current job, in their current industry, or somewhere completely different,” says Kelsey Murphy, career strategist and founder of online work-life community Whiskey & Work.

The verdict: Determining your future goals can help you see whether you’re on the right path. It will make it clearer whether switching jobs can bring you satisfaction, or whether a career change is in your future.

What is it about my job that’s making me unhappy?

Can you pinpoint the things that are driving splinters under your fingernails, or is it a wholesale sense of doom?

“Make a chart of pros and cons, what you like about your job and what you don’t,” says Angelo Giallombardo, vice president at Central Executive Search and author of You Got the Job! “Are the things that you don’t like about your job circumstantial, or are they passion-based? Is there a holistic view there, meaning is it something that’s bigger than just a situation or a boss?”

The verdict: It could be that you love the career and field that you’re in, but you don’t love the role you’re playing within your company. A job change is in order. 

Does the work environment I want exist?

Once you’ve noted what you want to change, you must ask yourself whether that situation is findable elsewhere.

“Sometimes, depending on the nature of the work, the market is shifting and people are finding that it just doesn’t exist for them anymore,” Sweet says.

Research companies within your target industry to find out more about their culture, workplace benefits, and employee satisfaction. Knowing what it will be like to work in a new role is more than just understanding the job description. It’s also about how well you fit in the company’s culture and vice versa.  

Start off on a strong foot

The verdict: Being honest with yourself about what truly gives you job satisfaction will make it much easier to know what your next steps will be.

When you're ready to make a move, update your resume so that it puts the focus on the skills that are most important to a job change (or career transition) you're pursuing. Could you use some help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression. It's a quick and easy way you can help position yourself for success, no matter where the road leads.