At the time of this writing, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is in full swing around the world and especially in the United States. For months, tech workers have worked from their home offices and attempt to keep things going; business as usual. However, one challenge this pandemic has provided is the number of opportunities to change jobs. This shrinkage of available jobs is slowly beginning to yield growth again, but changing jobs during a pandemic is not easy. Recently, I accomplished this task myself and wanted to share with you what I found to be 4 very important questions to ask yourself before attempting to change jobs; pandemic or not.
1. Who do you know?
This is the typical adage of “it’s who you know that counts.” This is very true both in terms of individuals that you’ve connected with over the years of your career, your followers on social media, and your general network but also what companies you know. Do you know anyone whose company is hiring currently? Is there a person you see as a mentor or a former colleague which you want to work with? Is their company hiring? Do you know any companies you would love to work for some day? Do you want to work for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, or Google (sometimes referred to as F.A.A.N.G.)? What about one of the “best places to work” as denoted by magazines and business journals?
Use these questions in order to identify your goal positions and companies that you’ll be applying to when the time comes. Review their job postings and the job descriptions in order to take inventory of any technical skills you may need to learn or talk towards in your resume/CV, cover letter, and hopeful interview. Also look at each company’s Glassdoor and LinkedIn profiles to get a good feel for how active they are as well as any good or bad reviews they may have. Always be mindful that during this pandemic, many companies had to lay off people so negative reviews may stem from such which is something to ask about should you get an interview.
2. What do you like/dislike about your current position?
The second important question to ask yourself is a two-part question. This is asking yourself to make a list of what you like (and liked – past-tensed) about your current position and company, as well as a list of things you dislike. While at first it may be very apparent that one list may become longer than the other (you are considering changing jobs after all), give it time and make sure to reflect. One thing I often have heard from friends and colleagues during their annual review time is that more recent events trumped passed ones. Be honest with yourself and try not to fall under the trap of only looking at recent events. What brought you to your current company in the first place? What appealed to you? Why did you choose this company, and why did you leave your previous company to come to this one?
This question will help outline your rationale and provide more certainty as to why you may want to leave your current company. This provides you with a strong answer to the common early interview question of “why are you looking for a new opportunity?” This also provides you with two lists of things to seek out during the interview process to ask question and listen for – one list of things that you like and one list of things you will want to avoid.
3. What skills do you have and/or want to learn?
Piggy-backing off of the first question, this question relates to your current and future resume/CV. What skills do you currently have and would you consider your strengths? These can be technical and non-technical skills, soft skills, etc. Make a list and make sure your resume/CV is up to date so people know what you are interested in, have experience with, and are reliable with such skills.
A second list is one of future skills, curated by looking at job postings from the first question. This list starts with any gaps you may have and skills you need to invest time into nurturing. You don’t have to become an expert in such; however, there is a large difference between honest ignorance about something versus obvious desire to grow yourself by speaking and asking questions about the skill or topic in question. The hardest part to this is finding the time so pause for a moment and think of which skills matter before setting your learning priorities.
4. What would need to change for you to stay at your current job?
There is a phrase people sometimes use stating “the grass is greener on the other side”. Truth be told, that isn’t always the case though. At this point, you have looked at what other opportunities are out there, gained an understanding about yourself regarding your likes and dislikes about your current job, and have prioritized a list of skills that can help you grow. This last question is really about how you could transform your current position in order to shorten that dislike list and lead with the new skills you’re looking at using. Not every company allows this type of freedom and some toxic environments try to squash such; however, try and identify what things would need to change that would make you want to stay.
Your current company has invested resources and time into you despite how you may feel at the moment. Do you feel like you aren’t making your market salary? Consider talking to your manager about the research you’ve done and ask for a raise. It may surprise you in the response; however, in my experiences, money isn’t the main motivator of people changing companies. Do you feel like you are working too many hours? Researching ways to set limits for yourself and others in order to try and take control of your life. Talk with your manager and others and let them know. For this particular item, I highly recommend the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
What if your manager is the largest negative on the list? If your manager is your largest negative on the list, consider talking to their manager or consult a colleague’s manager for guidance. Discuss not so much the negativity of your manager as much as your desire to evolve your job beyond the bounds that your manager considers it. This turns things truly into a discussion about your future with the company instead of venting about a bad manager. Depending on whom you talk to, they may offer suggestions with how to work within your current bounds in order to use your new skills, how to communicate better with your manager, or begin to think of you in a new light with regards to future promotions or special projects. The person who you talk to may provide you information you may not have known that changes your perspective or informs you about future opportunities. In the end, it’s always worth talking to someone – especially if your “likes” list is longer than your “dislikes”.
At this point you’ve done your due diligence and have enough information to make an informed decision on whether to change jobs or not under rational circumstances. You have a great starting point in terms of people to contact to apply for referral or companies to send your application/CV. You have lists of things you are looking for in a new company and things you want to avoid, as well as lists for skills you need to learn or brush up on while applying (since it takes time). Lastly, you’ve considered what staying means and what would need to change in order for that to happen. The only thing left is looking at everything you have before you and decide on if you are applying and where. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a response immediately and don’t be discouraged if the company went for another candidate. Changing jobs is never easy but hopefully these 4 questions will help crystalize your goal for what you truly want so you can be happy with your next endeavor.