Where you’re at right now isn’t where you will always be.
That’s true about most things in life, especially in the professional world. Over time, you’ll grow, learn new skills, and deepen your knowledge on a number of subjects. You’ll reach goals and reconsider paths. A job is just one stepping stone over the course of an entire career.
That can make choosing your next role feel like a daunting process. There are lots of factors to consider, ranging from pay and benefits to your own personal goals. If you’re looking into a new role or changing jobs, you have a lot to think about, so where do you start?
A good first move, before you even begin the application process, is to take a look at your current role. Make a list of pros and cons, take note of the skills you’ve learned, and think about the workload and the points of stress.
What would you change about your job, if you could wave a magic wand? What are the things that motivate you and keep you engaged?
These questions can steer you toward an opportunity that is a good fit for you. It’s not always about the title or the paycheck – though they are important – that makes the job the right choice. It can be a number of other factors, such as work environment, opportunity for growth, and your own definition of success.
The N+1 theory
It’s easy to get caught up in the next step and what changing jobs might mean for the immediate future, but it’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Don’t be afraid to consider your next career move as a stepping stone to another one in the future. While that’s not something we tend to admit to hiring managers during the interviewing process, it’s something to have at the forefront of your decision-making process.
The N+1 theory guides you to look at your career trajectory. What will this job do to set you up for the next one?
“My advice is always ‘Think about N+1’; not the job you are going to accept next (N), but the one that you will get after this one (N+1),” explains Sumit Gupta, a product leader at Google. “Every new job sets you on a different trajectory. The experiences you gain in the job will change your resume and influence how recruiters and hiring managers see you.”
If the next job you accept helps you earn more money but doesn’t do much in the way of reaching your professional goals, it might not be the best option to propel you forward. While none of us are capable of seeing exactly what the future holds, we can begin to shape a path by thinking in terms of the N1 theory. The only way to reach lofty goals is to start laying the groundwork, and that starts in the jobs we accept.
J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of career development website workitdaily.com, has a list of criteria to consider when seeking out a new role. She calls it the GLOW Method:
- Gain perspective: Force yourself to look at your situation from a new point of view.
- Luminate the goal: Dial-in tightly on a specific result you want to achieve.
- Own your actions: Map out the specific habits you'll need to succeed.
- Work it daily: Set up systems to build those habits consistently.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this method is examining future goals and the achievements you want to make throughout your career.
“Getting clear on what a good job means to you is vital,” she says. “When it comes to building a satisfying career, no two people want the same things. Unfortunately, many job seekers start looking for work based on the wrong criteria.”
Those criteria can include ideal salary, benefits, and titles. It’s important to drill down past those things and get to the root of what you want out of your career. Instead of focusing on the surface level attributes of the job, consider what types of problems a new role might help you solve. Will the work feel rewarding to you?
Even if you’re early in your career, you probably have some sense of what you’d like to see yourself accomplish someday (even if you haven’t mapped out a specific goal).
Making the jump
Not all jobs carry the same weight. Maybe you’re looking for a new role that allows you more freedom, less stress, or the ability to take a step back from management. Those jobs are necessary to careers, even if they don’t always fit the linear trajectory we’re used to seeing.
It’s normal to worry that your next step won’t serve your long term because of the title or the job responsibilities, but success and growth are not limited by those markers.
It can be helpful to create a non-negotiable list when considering a new role. Salary might be part of that, but you might also find that you’re willing to be a little more flexible for a job that ticks more boxes, especially if you have a good sense of what you want to accomplish long-term.
For example, if you want to start your own business or eventually work for yourself, that might be the foundation of what you look for in your next role. What skills will this job teach you that will be useful later on?
You can also think about the role in terms of networking, having a reliable support system, and the ability to add mentors to your professional circle. Those aspects of a job will stay with you much longer than the job itself. They’re easy to discount, but they ultimately add value to the role.
Every situation is different for every person at every different step of their career. Deciding to take on a new role won’t always be easy, but creating a foundation and forward-thinking path will help guide you into a spot that’s meant for you.
Written by Kara Mason.