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by Steve Burrell | September 13, 2012


Knowing when to move on from one job to another is tough and a decision that remains one of the most personal decisions you can make. Jobs mean money; they mean security and the ability to pay your bills, to eat, to sleep indoors.

While the necessity of jobs is unquestionable--outside of winning the lottery or coming from royalty--their fit, on the other hand, isn't. But knowing which questions to ask yourself about your job, and how to decipher the results, is not an easy task.

"It's a rough economy out there," "the job search is brutal today," phrases like these, in various incarnations, have no doubt been a ubiquitous response when the subject of moving on is brought up.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics put July 2012 at about 8.3% unemployment; and with many students seeking jobs outside of that percentage, not to mention the underemployed at about 17% unadjusted, according to, you may feel guilty or ungrateful considering quitting your current job.

Don't. Though the numbers out there are a bit intimidating, there is always room to move and chances are your dream job is out there, waiting for you to find it and reach for it. You shouldn't feel trapped by your work; likening your job or office building to that of an incarceration is definitely one of the biggest indicators that it's time to move on.

Hit the reset button

If you're on the fence, it may help you to make a list. First, clear your mind of your current job; in fact, make sure you're well away from your current job when you make this list. Go home, relax, have a nice moment for yourself, and then begin otherwise you're likely to cloud the list with the bias left over from the day.

Dream big

Now, take an inventory of all the things you want in a job, and not just any job, but your dream job, as improbable as it may seem. For instance, if all you want to do is become a mystery writer writing from some remote, sandy beach, use it. Next, find out what about that dream job makes it so appealing? Is it the amount of independence, the self-employment? Is it the flexibility of the schedule? Is it the location of the job, the social allure, the aesthetic of the occupation?

…Then get grounded

Next up, make another list of all the things that you want in a job; this list should be a bit more practical. If your dream job was to be on the PGA circuit but you can't clear triple digits even with lessons, it may be time to look for a runner up. Try to be as specific as possible with this list. Don't just put "employee happiness" as a trait; while it probably is important to you, it's amorphous, utterly unquantifiable and completely personal. One worker's happiness may be another worker's nightmare. Instead, figure out what will make you happiest on the job and list those things. It may also help to put what traits you're looking for in an employer: do you need a slave driver or General Patton to get the best work out of you, or are you looking for an employer who's more laid back and gentle like a golden retriever? You'll more than likely find that this second list is pretty close to the first or at the very least a more tangible list to the job market.

Organize your thoughts

Use this second list as a checklist and begin crosschecking your current job with the traits on the list. If you need, put it in an Excel Spreadsheet (you can even attach values to certain items and create a score for each job). Use this same checklist for past jobs and for prospective jobs. This will help you get an idea of where you are currently, where you've been and where you'd like to go. You might find that your first job running a taco stand was the job you were most happy at, and that pursuing something similar is right for you. Conversely, you may find that the job you're at right now is where you need to be.

The list won't tell you if it's time to leave, only you can decide, but what it will do is give you an objective idea of how to look at your current job and what to look for if you are indeed ready to move on. You'll find yourself armed with peace of mind knowing that your decision won't be rash, that you've considered everything fairly and when/if you move on, you know you won't be looking back.

As a career counselor, Steven Burrell firmly believes there’s a right job out there for everyone, and he often recommends tools like aptitude tests to help his clients discover theirs.

Read More:
Going Solo: Success as a Solo Practitioner
Have You Googled Yourself Today?
Obama’s Advice for Would-Be CEOs


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