If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times over the past year: we’re in the midst of “The Great Resignation.”
The coronavirus pandemic brought about a shift in the way we approach our lives and think about our careers. Adjusting to the new paradigms of work-from-home, and now, return-to-work, have made many of us take a second look at what, exactly, it is that we’re doing for 40+ hours a week.
If you are in the throes of an existential career crisis, taking the following considerations into account when you’re thinking about switching to a new job, field, industry, or entirely new career path, could help you frame out exactly what you might be looking for:
Tangibles vs. Intangibles
The first step is to break down any new career opportunity into its component parts.
Of course, there are the tangible aspects: the pay, the benefits, the technology you’ll be working with, whether you need to be remote or physically in the office, and location.
Next, it’s important to identify the intangibles: what are the other, less quantifiable, aspects of a potential role? These could include culture or work environment, team structure, relationships with bosses or coworkers, professional development opportunities, social or networking opportunities, and a myriad of other items that make a job worth having to you.
Then, identify differences and similarities – and prioritize them.
When you’re looking for a new job, it’s sometimes helpful to think about the things that you don’t want to change. What quality of life do you want to have, and what type of career can provide that for you? What are your non-negotiables?
Then, you can start to think about what does need to change: maybe you want to relocate, maybe you’re looking for an entirely different culture (i.e. startup versus corporate), or maybe you’re looking to work in a role that’s completely different from anything you’ve done before in subject matter, but similar in pay, benefits, and environment.
At the end of the day, choosing any new role – or new career path – comes down to what you want to prioritize.
In short, what makes a new job “worth it” to you?
We often get so excited by the thrill (and ego boost) of being offered another opportunity, that we don’t think before we take the leap – or, if you’re like me, you get career FOMO and don’t want to regret taking an opportunity that’s offered
Here’s the hard truth: unless you receive an opportunity that truly is too good to refuse (of course, what constitutes a “dream job” is up to you), most new opportunities will offer pretty incremental change from your current situation.
In fact, you likely could negotiate a similar pay or responsibility increase in your current role, using leverage from your offer.
If the “tangibles” – the pay, the title, even the benefits like retirement, insurance, and paid family leave – are similar across the organizations you’re considering, then all you’re left with to consider are the intangibles: work-life balance, culture and environment, and opportunities for growth, learning and development.
And especially in the midst of this time we’re in now, it’s important to consider exactly what intangibles are most important to you – and what they’re worth. Would you trade a better work-life balance for a slight decrease in pay? Would you take a more junior-level role in a completely new field that offers more opportunities for growth and development?
The jungle gym career
At the end of the day, we choose our career paths by making a series of tradeoffs. Is being a Director more important than working in an environment where you’re able to come and go as you please? Is the opportunity to travel “worth” sacrificing a $10,000 pay raise? Alternatively, is the chance to pay off your student debt with a significant raise more important than, perhaps, needing to love what you do every day?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to think about your career as a jungle gym, not a ladder. You can go up, but you can also go down, around, and to entirely new rungs – without falling off.
If you don’t take an opportunity that offers more pay and a better title, you’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, you’ve done something RIGHT – you’ve made a decision that takes into account what you prioritize.
This time offers us the unique and unprecedented opportunity to re-evaluate where we are in our careers and re-define what we want our lives to look like as we emerge from this pandemic. Prioritizing what’s important to you, and removing judgement by thinking about your career as a jungle gym rather than a ladder, are important steps to take as you evaluate what’s “worth it” to you.