Take Five: On considering a job change

Written by
Sarah Trounce
Illustration by
Ryan Gillett

Take five minutes and read five practical steps to help you level up your job hunting or hiring strategy.

If you’re pondering a job change, it’s worth first taking some time to examine your specific wants and needs around work, and the options that might be available to you. In the long run, some unhurried contemplation can make a positive difference to the job hunting process. All that’s required at this stage is to ask yourself some open questions, listen carefully to the answers, and trust your instincts. Using this time wisely, you’ll pinpoint what excites and motivates you; understand what you alone can contribute to a workplace; get clarity on what you want to gain in return; identify the kind of working culture you feel most comfortable in; and begin to suss out where you want to get to eventually.

Of course, embracing a period of dreaming, exploring and plotting is a privileged position to be in. There will be readers who have recently found themselves unemployed, or those who’ve been searching for work for months. Yet even those of us with the luxury of choice so often skip the first step of the job hunting process: asking yourself what you really want. Looking for a new job is a bit like building a house. To start with, you might have a wildly ambitious wish list: say, a life-changing salary, awesome benefits, incredible office, hilarious colleagues, a worthy cause to fight for. But there’ll naturally be compromises along the way since work is a practical concern as much as an emotional and intellectual one. Whatever the shape and size and colour scheme of the role you finally step into, the groundwork is key: strong foundations, a sufficient and hopefully inspiring setting, and enough room to adapt and grow. To get you started, here are five questions to ask yourself.

What am I excited by?

In the creative industries we have the opportunity to carry out our search for work in a way that reflects the best parts of our sector – with insight, integrity, and imagination. What if job hunting itself was a chance to better understand how you see yourself and how you connect with others? Before you start actively searching, get to know your passions and motivations – in life and work. These might have changed since you last applied for a job so it’s worth starting afresh with your list. What gets your heart racing? What makes you cry? What would you save first in a fire? How do you spend your evenings and weekends? What do you like to do in company? What keeps you happy and occupied when you’re alone? The answers should offer some useful clues to uncover your true obsessions.

What will I contribute?

Throughout your job hunting journey, but especially now, try to keep imposter syndrome at bay. This is your time to dream and consider your options freely, without judgment. What are your skills and strengths? This isn’t just a list of bullet points on a CV. What do you uniquely bring? What are your personality traits and how do they play out in the workplace? Do you gather people together around a shared mission, or do you have the confidence to push forward alone with something you genuinely care about? Get to know your weaknesses too. We all have them but awareness is our friend. Asserting that you want (and deserve!) a role that builds on your strengths, engages your interests, and supports your blindspots is a healthy starting point for job hunting.

What will I gain?

What are you looking for? Be specific. Better pay? – How much? More flexibility? An exhilarating challenge? A creative home where you’re actively encouraged to express yourself? It may be a combination of several factors, but there should be one or two that are non-negotiable for you. In many creative agencies, founders weigh up new business leads using ‘The Three Ps’ metric which assesses the desirability of projects according to Pay, Portfolio and Passion. An amazing job would tick all three boxes, yet in reality, most of the time it’s more like one or two. In the same way, it’s unlikely your next job will fulfil every one of your dream job criteria perfectly – but that’s even more reason to make each one ambitious. The third ‘P’ for Passion has something to do with another ‘P’ word… Purpose. That’s the purpose of the organisation you’re considering joining, meaning what drives them, and what unites them as a team. Your passion (what you said excited you in question one) should feel compatible with the purpose of any company you decide to work for.

Will I belong?

There are some basic values that should be protected and practised in any place of work: equality, respect, empathy, safety. But beyond this baseline, what kind of working culture are you looking for? What kind of outlook do you want your employer to share? This is a great moment to start doing some window shopping. No applications yet; for now we’re just browsing. How does the business talk about themselves and what do they have to say? Check out ‘about us’ pages, blog posts and case studies. Then look for evidence of an authentic commitment to their cause, beyond the company website. Are there talks you can watch online? Revealing social posts? Photos of fun team activities? Are they being discussed in the media? Whatever the company’s story, if you’re thinking of working there, the narrative should feel relevant and emotionally meaningful to you.

Will I learn and grow?

Where do you want this job to lead? You don’t need a rigid five year plan (or even a flimsy one) but a rough idea of how your ambitions and interests might evolve in the near future will be helpful in demonstrating commitment and curiosity when it comes to tackling applications and interviews later. Any job you’re going to consider applying for should feel not just right for right now, but also right for the months – and possibly years – to come. The role should have some stretch built in. If you can imagine yourself quickly getting bored or frustrated, keep on dreaming. If the thought of a certain job or company gives you a jolt of electricity, notice that, ask yourself why, and stay curious.

Take Five

If You Could's Journal hosts a range of useful Guides to help you navigate key decisions at every stage of your career journey. Each Guide consists of 5 simple steps, alongside advice from professionals working across the creative industry. Read more from our Take Five collection here.

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