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How to Decide What Your Next Career Step Should Be

No one likes their job 100% of the time. That’s normal. But does your job have you feeling shortchanged most of the time? Maybe it is time for a change and your next career step. But before you jump to any hasty conclusions, consider the following.

Your Current Workday

First of all, take a deeper look at your current workday. Write down every task you do and describe how you feel when you think about them or how much you like the task. Do this for a full week or even a few weeks (you can also retrace your work week[s]). This will help you pinpoint out what it is exactly that you want to change, either in your current job or in a new job in the future. If the likes and dislikes are disproportionate, then something is indeed wrong, and it is time to work on it.

In addition to your work assignments, also look at your surroundings: Do you have good relationships with colleagues? Is your boss a bully? Do you feel valued (enough)? Is your salary sufficient for what you do? Is your office easy to reach, do you like the office space, etc.? All the things influencing your well-being at work should be considered here. Of course, the main focus should still be placed on the job content itself, however.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Your Ideal Day (After a Career Step)

Now you know what you don’t like about your current job, but that on its own is not enough: You should also have a clear view of what you would like to do. You made a list of what your current workday looks like. To better compare, you can make another list of what your ideal day should look like. Again, consider the environment as well: Do you want to work in a foreign country? What do you want to earn (go for a minimum)? Who do you wish to have as colleagues?

Once again, it’s important for you to keep the focus on job-related tasks. Another important thing is to internalize why you want to change jobs: If it is only about escaping your current job, you should probably try focusing more on the positives of it all. Consider having a discussion with your boss about your workflow and see if they can you give you more of the good and less of the bad aspects.

Lists, Lists, Lists

Extra research can help, not your usual day-to-day research for a job, but some soul-searching. What are your interests? What excites you? Your previously made lists can help here; surely there are some aspects in your job that make you happy or get you all pumped up at least. Hopefully, your ideal day is filled with things you enjoy. You should broaden your sight, look outside of the work environment, and into what you like in life, such as your values and the things you hold dear. Be specific about things you like and think about experiences in the past as well. Ideally, you can find a link between several of these activities and find out what you enjoy doing in a job. Eventually, you should end up with a broad range of things you like and dislike.


Prioritization is key. Is it important that you have a job with mostly fun assignments, a good pay grade, and close proximity to home? Well, the obvious answer is “Yes, it is!”. Everyone feels this way. Unfortunately, it’s rare for jobs to tick all these boxes, so you should be prepared to make some compromises. It is very important for you to know where it’s okay for you to let go a little in terms of your idealized version. Make sure you know this before you apply for a new position because it will impact your quality of life in the near future.

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Photo by Alex Wong on Unsplash

Quantify for Objectivity

Try to put this all into numbers, so you have a good yet rather broad range again. Define a maximum distance/transportation time, a minimum salary, the minimum number of hours that you want to spend on something you like, etc. The more you quantify, the better an idea you will get of what you expect from your job and the easier it will be to identify your ideal job when you start applying. This will help you look for a job in more targeted manner, so that you can at least make sure you do not apply for something that is not objectively better than your current job. It will also prevent you from only leaving because you want to escape.

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Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Talk to Experts and Acquire New Skills Before Making a Career Step

Up until now, you have only broken things down into tasks and specific things. It is time to look for the jobs that incorporate a lot of these tasks and combine them with one of your interests. You probably already have an idea about the jobs you should look for, but it can definitely be insightful to consult with others. Ask people in the industry you have in mind if you could meet for coffee or lunch. Here you can discuss what their job entails and to find out if you actually want to do these things. Even if it’s not what you want to hear, you can scratch the job from your list, which ultimately is a step in the right direction.

If it is a rewarding talk, you can always drop the company a line to see if it has any similar vacancies to fill at the moment. More often, you might find out about skills that you need to develop for the job(s) you have in mind. If so, start working on them! Maybe you will have some time to work on some things in a new position, but it is always better to be prepared and already know the basics of something new. This is particularly important if you are looking for a change of industry.

If the pendulum is swinging in favor of a career change, it might be worth your time to read another one of our articles. Good luck with the next step in your career!

Bullet points:

  • Make lists about everything
  • Quantify, prioritize, and define limits
  • Don’t just escape your job
  • Talk to relevant people
  • Learn new skills if necessary

About the author

Belgian polyglot. Interested in working cultures around the world. I have been working at JobLeads since January 2019.