New year, same old job

If you're stuck in a rut at work, handing in your notice isn't necessarily a good move. There are other ways to make a change, says Alex McRae
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The Independent Online

Piqued by your profession? Nettled by the never-ending 9 to 5? Want to start 2006 with a satisfying bang by telling your boss where to stick it?

Well, don't. At least, don't just yet. That's the advice of life coach Rekha Wadhwani, whose new book, Don't Change Your Job (Polarsoft Ltd, £9.97), advises against throwing in the towel too quickly. Many people return to work after the New Year with a resolution to change careers. But when disenchanted employees trudge into Wadhwani's office, saying they hate their job and want to leave, she asks them to wait and mull over the decision carefully, before handing in their notice.

"People say 'I hate my job and I'm going to start my own business'. But when you go through the process with them, it turns out they aren't prepared yet. Or they realise they aren't the right kind of person to run a business," she says. This advice is based on her own experience of starting afresh. She set up her own business several years ago, when the management company she'd been working for went into meltdown. The learning curve was precipitously steep, and the experience taught her that it's worth taking several steps back to prepare, before launching yourself into a new field.

"It's quite easy to think 'Oh well, I'm not coping with my job, so I might as well just leave'," she says. "But a new career won't be all about the good things, so you need to research what it actually involves, and ask yourself if you're happy to do that on a long-term basis." Sticking it out in your current job buys time to swot up on the job you've set your sights on, she says. It also lessens the risk of encountering financial horrors along the rocky path to career nirvana. And who knows, after a few necessary tweaks, you might find that your old job wasn't so bad after all.

That was the conclusion that Leo Broads, 28, reached. Six years after starting work as a manager for a carpentry firm, he was itching for a new job. "I was bored with doing the same thing every day," he says. "So I wanted to try doing something else." After applying for a few other jobs, he spoke to Wadhwani and changed his mind about leaving.

"Rekha asked me to explore what was making me bored, and I realised they were small things. In fact, it was more my attitude that needed changing. I hadn't realised what opportunities were open to me." He spoke to his employers, who gave him new tasks to do, like meeting more customers. The fresh challenges gave him the boost he'd needed to shake off the boredom. "Now," he says, "I feel much more settled."

Doing a bit of soul-searching before switching jobs is very important, says Gill Wilson, chief executive of CRAC, the Careers Research Advisory Centre. "Quite often, disillusionment can be something that sits within you. Reflect on the cause of your unhappiness. You need to be honest about how you see the world, and have a more can-do attitude." Some headaches might carry over to your new job. If you hate the back-biting that goes on over the photocopier, for example, consider whether things would be rosier in a new career. "Office politics is a fact of life. Do you really think it's going to be better somewhere else?" asks Wilson.

Another thing to bear in mind before packing in your job is that your employer probably wants you to be happier. Recruiting new people is expensive, so it makes good business sense to encourage employees to stay. Talking to your line manager often highlights new opportunities within your company, says Wilson. You can satisfy a hankering for something different by going on secondment for a few months, getting new training, or even trying a few days work experience in other parts of the company. Networking with colleagues, and doing some homework on developments in your organisation, might show you paths to big breaks that you would otherwise miss. "A change doesn't have to be drastic to be effective," says Wilson. "Some people can change careers without changing their employer."

What if you have thoroughly scrutinised your reasons for quitting - and still switch jobs? The key, say Wadhwani and Wilson, is to pinpoint what you really love doing, and what you're good at. Research the sector you want to move into as thoroughly as possible. Look at the opportunities, and how they match up with your strengths. Then consider how it will affect your personal life and the financial implications, and make sure you're ready. "Changing your career is difficult," says Wilson. "You'll need at least six months to research it. But once you take the time to reflect on where you're going, magical things can start to happen."

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