I'm happy with my job right now but would be interested in moving on if I saw the right position. Given that my need to find a new job is not urgent, what could I be doing that would help me be in a position to capitalize on the right opportunity but not create any unnecessary stress for myself in the meantime?
First of all, we want to congratulate you for being forward thinking! The best time to contemplate and prepare for the next steps in your career is always ideally from a place where you have some employment stability and satisfaction – not when you are in crisis or otherwise feel forced to make a move.
It is very easy to get lost in the day-to-day demands of our jobs and our lives, where days can quickly become years. We strongly suggest that everyone take a proactive approach to managing their career paths – or otherwise risk having your career choices made by people and circumstances other than your own! Fortunately, there are some very manageable things you can do, with a little regular investment of time, that will keep you moving forward and feeling more in control:
1. Regularly browse the job ads and see what catches your attention. Save those postings. Take stock regularly of what positions are attractive to you. What themes or patterns emerge of what kinds of positions you liked? Is it the type of work? The level at which the work is done at (e.g. local/regional/national/international)? The issues the organizations work on? You will begin to see themes and patterns that will help you narrow down and refine what your next steps could be. Make it even easier for yourself by signing up to CharityVillage’s job alerts to get these postings delivered directly to your inbox!
2. Assess your fit for these positions. We suggest using a simple Employer Needs vs My Qualifications grid. What are the consistent strengths and gaps of experience or qualifications that come up for you? These “gaps” can become your professional development plan that you can address at your own pace and start to position yourself better to be ready to get that next job.
3. Use your professional development plan to create opportunities for yourself and expand your network. What are the gaps in skills or experience that you can negotiate to have more of in your current position? Are there ways of volunteering strategically with the organizations you are interested in exploring that would help you both fill some of your gaps and raise your profile within these communities?
4. Revisit your plan, dream postings and qualifications grids regularly to track what has changed for you and to make any adjustments needed to your professional development plan or the direction of your career path.
From our work with clients, we know that job fatigue and decreased levels of motivation often occur in tandem with feelings of stagnation at work – boredom with the tasks at hand or a sense that there is nothing new left to learn or practice. If you use the tips suggested above, you could avoid this pitfall and have some fun dreaming up and preparing for the next step on your career path. Good luck!
Nancy Ingram and Christa McMillin are co-founders and partners at Foot in the Door Consulting which specializes in helping nonprofit professionals build sustainable, satisfying and values-driven careers. Together, they have over 30 years of experience on both sides of the hiring and management process in the nonprofit sector. They can be reached through www.footinthedoorconsulting.com.
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