If you’re unfulfilled at work, you’re not alone—nearly half of all employed adults daydream about leaving their job on a monthly basis, according to a Harris Poll commissioned by my company, Hired. And what’s more daunting than staying at the wrong job? Finding the right one. Of those daydreaming of a switch, only 14% are taking steps to make it happen, because finding a job is hard. Most people think job hunting is more stressful than moving, planning a wedding, being trapped in an elevator, or spending a weekend with in-laws.
In the rush to get the job search over with, candidates too often settle for a less-than-ideal role. Having been in a variety of roles and companies over the past 17 years, I know it is not worth staying when you know you’re not in the right place. The good news is that it is possible to take initiative to make a move. Here are a few tips to help you achieve a fresh start:
Watch out for red flags
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to sell yourself during a job interview. Instead, it should be your time to ask questions and really dig into whether the role is the right fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to really probe into your interviewers’ experiences and preferences. Ask questions like: “What’s your least favorite part about your job?” “What have previous people in this role struggled with?” “If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?” No job is going to be fun all the time, but it’s important for you to look closely for red flags.
Build a network
Professional and personal connections are key to landing a job. Referrals are the primary way working adults found their current job, according to survey responses.
If connecting with strangers seems hard, start by reconnecting with old friends. Surfing through Facebook (FB, -0.17%) and LinkedIn is an effective first step. Set up informational interviews with the people you have existing relationships with. It will give you a better idea about what they do and whether it’s something you’re passionate about.
After you feel more comfortable harnessing existing relationships, branch out to university alumni networks and organizations like Out in Tech and the Professional Women’s Network; knowing that everyone is there for the same reason can make networking feel less awkward and forced. After making an initial connection, follow up by sending a thank-you note, being specific about what you enjoyed chatting about and why you’d like to stay in touch. Citing a specific job of interest listed on the company’s career page is a good way to gather concrete, position-specific information and hopefully benefit from a referral.
Focus your search
There are a number of ways to search for a new job; unfortunately, most don't lead to actually getting hired. Rather than combing through job boards that will inevitably lead to dead ends, take advantage of tools that match opportunities with your experience and research companies you’d really like to work for.
The top two ways working adults generally get jobs are by applying to the company directly (30%) or by a referral from someone who worked at their company (21%). While sites like Monster sound good in theory, the reality is that you’ll be competing with the 427,000 other resumes posted on it each week.
If you’re unhappy at your current role and want to find a job that you love, the stakes are too high to just give up. Roughly 2,000 hours of your life will be spent at work this year, and if you’re unfulfilled and stressed, those hours can cause major damage, like gaining weight, lowering your immune system, and even wreaking havoc on your personal relationships. If you’re dreading going into the office every morning, remember: A job you’ll love is out there and finding it doesn’t need to be stressful. Actually, it may be the best thing you can do for yourself.