Career boost. How to make January the launch pad for a better job

The new year often heralds an upturn in the jobs market, tempting those who feel their career has stalled to make that move. Roisin Woolnough finds out how to do it or whether, indeed, you should

January is a prime time for people to get the work blues. And anyone who was already feeling bored, stressed or frustrated by their job tends to feel doubly so when the Christmas festivities are over and it’s back to earth with a bang.

Consequently, January is also a prime time for people to look for a new job – as Community Care’s readers’ poll last week would suggest: 79 per cent said they were planning to jump ship. Revitalising your career is one of the most common new year resolutions people make, along with going to the gym and drinking less alcohol.

“New year is a classic time for people to reflect and take stock of their lives,” says Heather Wolsey-Ottaway, social worker in Cornwall Council’s fostering service and also an independent life coach. “It’s a powerful time to make intentions to positively change the things that we feel are not right or to get out of a rut.”

Fortunately, if you are one of those January jobseekers, the new year is also a time when employers tend to look at their recruitment needs and take on new staff. Plus, if some of those other similarly restless people, who have made the same resolution, are successful in finding new work, more vacancies are created when they move on. As a result, more jobs tend to come on the market from January through to June, so it’s a good time to be seeking new work.

This doesn’t mean you needn’t put much thought or effort into finding a new job though. Good career moves generally require careful consideration and planning and often take time to happen. The last thing you would want to do is leave your current job for another that looks better and then find a couple of months later that it wasn’t the right move and you might have been better off staying where you were. The classic mistake is assuming that a change of scene and faces is all that is required.

“Remember, that the grass is not necessarily greener elsewhere,” says Wolsey-Ottaway. “Rather than jumping ship prematurely, sit down and think carefully about the reasons for why you’re thinking about changing your job. The key to making successful, positive change in your life is to really understand what it is that you want to change.”

Likes and dislikes
Think about your current role, what it is that you like and dislike about it. What elements do you enjoy and would like to pursue further? Don’t be too unrealistic though in deciding what elements you don’t want to continue doing in the future. Unless you are extremely lucky, all jobs contain elements that are routine and boring and chores such as paperwork are part and parcel of social care and have to be accepted.

If you feel the balance between interesting and routine work is not right, however, and that your role contains too much of the routine or work that would really suit a more junior role, then think about how you can change that. Talk to your line manager about the situation. It may be that some parts of your job could be handed over to a more junior employee for whom it would form part of their career progression or that your load could be shared with colleagues. Not only would this improve your daily workload, it would also free you up to take on new challenges. Something as simple as this could make a huge difference to your enjoyment of your job.

It might be up to you to start the ball rolling. Employers like staff to be proactive. If you want to be seen as someone who is ambitious and can take the initiative, then you need to be displaying those skills and making the right noises rather than moaning.

Having someone in an office who whinges is tedious for everyone. Instead of boring colleagues with negativity, ask them for help. They might know of new opportunities or help you take a fresh look at what you are good at. “Focus on your strengths,” advises Wolsey–Ottaway. “Write them down and don’t be modest. Look at how you might use those strengths in more interesting ways.”

Look at what training is on offer. Are there any skills opportunities that would help your career progression? It doesn’t have to be straightforward training courses though. Ask whether there are any projects you could work on or secondments that would give you a chance to gain new skills. Project work can be a great way to gain management experience for someone who wants to move into a managerial role but doesn’t have the relevant experience.

Experience counts
“You can develop skills and experience by seeking out acting-up opportunities, project work or job swap arrangements which your current employer may have available,” says Pauline Moignard, HR consultant specialising in social care. “As well as adding to your store of knowledge and experience, this may also give a taste of a different role or promotion without actually committing you to a change.”

If you want to move into a new area of social work or move up the managerial ladder, this can be an excellent starting point. It shows prospective employers that you are serious about the move and could give you the necessary skills. It is often easier to make a sideways or upwards move with your existing employer rather than expect an outsider to take a chance on you.

“If employers have a choice of candidates then they will usually take the person with the most relevant experience,” says Rebecca Clake, resourcing adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). “For that reason, it is important not to overlook the opportunities that exist in your own company.”

Clake also recommends putting yourself forward for specific projects, particularly company-wide ones. “Project teams are often composed of people from a lot of different functions, so it’s a good way to network with people in other areas of the business, to find out how they work and what opportunities are coming up.”

Speak to your line manager, human resources department or friends and leaders in your organisation’s other departments to find out what’s out there.

Referral schemes
Clake says it is vital that jobseekers let people know what they are looking for. “Word of mouth can be a very useful way of finding out about jobs,” she says. “Lots are not advertised so talk to contacts to see if they know about anything that is coming up.”

The CIPD’s annual recruitment and retention survey has recorded a growth in employee referral schemes so speak to friends and colleagues in other organisations. The cash bonus they could be in line for is an incentive for them to help you. If you have decided that it is definitely time to work for a different organisation do your research to see whether there are any particular ones you want to target. If it’s a local authority you want to work for, go to the Audit Commission’s website and look at the council’s comprehensive performance assessment.

Get your CV up to date and sign on with agencies. You can also download application forms from the websites of prospective employees to gauge their expectations. Moignard recommends keeping a log of career activities and achievements that can be called on when completing those application forms or going to an interview.

The trick is to be prepared and know what job you want. A targeted approach is more likely to yield success and help you make that the first step in achieving your new year’s resolution.

Have you got any career advice that others could benefit from? to have your say visit our Discussion Forum

This article appeared in the 11th January issue, under the headline “Should I stay or should I go?”

This weeks other feature articles

How an Ealing care leavers project scooped the top prize
Asperger’s need not put off employers. Goldman Sachs and Transitions work together to give people with autism new hope at work
Art therapy and its uses: Knowledge Zone
The outcomes oriented approach and older people: Knowledge Zone

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