Four questions you need to ask yourself before changing jobs


"The great resignation" is one of those phrases that has been so over-used recently that even writing it makes me cringe a little as it creeps toward cliché.

But it does effectively describe the interesting trend of people using the return to the office as a Rubicon moment to assess whether a job that pays less money, but is more convenient, more flexible or more values-aligned, might, in fact, be better for them.

We've enjoyed working in our pyjamas, ditching the morning commute and spending more time with the people and things we love.

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But now, the very habits and status quo instincts that kept us in a job pre-COVID are the ones that are encouraging us to find new work that accommodates the working-from-home life we've become accustomed to.

But before you make a dramatic Zoom exit or spend hours penning your LinkedIn resignation post, there are some things to keep in mind standing on the banks of your Rubicon. These are important, because sacrificing salary for convenience might be you sacrificing future prosperity for immediate pleasure.

I'm a big fan of people re-evaluating their career choice (I have had a number of dramatic changes in my life that have turned out quite favourably), but these four guiding concepts will help you better navigate these big decisions in a way that keeps you in control of your journey.

1. Are you running away from something, or towards an opportunity?

The way you finish one story will influence the narrative of your next chapter - this is true of anything in life. If you have a traumatic end to an experience or relationship, the shadow of that trauma follows and influences you.

If you are running away from something out of fear, sadness or anger, then these emotions will act as a psychological poison in your new opportunities. Do everything you can to leave in a way that is positive and caring for the people you are with. At a fundamental level, ensure you are making proactive steps towards a better version of you in the future, rather than simply blowing up your current career out of frustration or indifference.

Of course, some people who find themselves in extremely abusive or traumatic situations need to extricate themselves in order to heal and rebuild their sense of identity, but we are not talking about those types of cases here.

For most of us, it's coming to the realisation that we only have one life, it is precious and we want to make the most of the short moment in history we are given. Be grateful for your previous opportunities and look to new horizons as a fulfilment of who you want to become, not as a magic elixir that will heal old wounds.

2. Are you viewing this career change as a transition or a single moment in time?

People often underestimate how long it can take to change careers, which can require years of education, re-skilling, networking and reputation building.

You can start many of these things a long time before you cut the financial support of your current job.

There are many ways to navigate the transition, but make sure you have a financial plan that isn't influenced by the heady excitement and good feelings you often get when thinking about removing a stressor from your life.

Don't underestimate the power of money to enable positive change, just don't be trapped by it either. There are many stories of people who get to the end of their working life regretting being stuck in a job they found suffocating simply for the dollars.

There are just as many stories, however, of people who threw it all away to chase a dream only to find that they blew everything up in the process, including their relationships.
 As in all things, life is about balance. Don't let fear stop you, but also don't let headiness blind you.

3. Are you hoping that turning a hobby into a career will make your life meaningful?

The truth is that most people find meaning through work, through the things that challenge, stretch and even stress them out a little.

Finding a job that feeds your soul rarely starts with a navel-gazing question like "What do I love?" or

"What do I enjoy doing?" It most often starts with "What can I do?" or "What opportunities are in front of me that I can curiously explore?"

Playing a meaningful role with people making an impact, banding together to overcome an obstacle that seemed insurmountable, finding out that you're really good at something that other people value - this is where you often find meaning and happiness.

Sometimes when people think they need a career change, all they need to do is find new challenges within their current sphere and allow the new experiences to unveil what feeds their soul. It's through work, challenge and struggle that you find meaning - that is work's greatest gift to us.

4. Are you making a decision out of fear?

The final thing to consider is to make sure it's not the fear of change or reluctance to break habitual behaviours that is driving your decision making.

A lot of people have become very comfortable during the pandemic, and as humans we don't like to change something that feels easy.

The pandemic revealed for many what living a more balanced life looks and feels like, but make sure you don't mistake a penchant for idleness as striving for balance.

I think it is brilliant that so many people are using their re-emergence from the pandemic as a moment to reflect on their situation and redefine who they are and what they want to be in this new digitally empowered age.

Keeping these four things in mind will prevent you throwing the baby out with the bathwater and help create a positive legacy. Be brave; the future is yours to design.

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Phil Slade is a behavioural economist and psychologist and the author of Going Ape S#!t! and founder of Decida. He works across digital innovation, strategy and cognitive bias. Phil holds a Bachelor of Psychology from The University of Queensland and a Master of Organisational Psychology from Griffith University.