Are you searching for a new job – or maybe just daydreaming about it? When changing jobs, the right approach is critical, writes How to Build a Happy Life podcast host Arthur C. Brooks. In this helpful article, Brooks unveils three career transition truths that can help you more successfully navigate periods of professional change. Learn how having realistic expectations, increasing your overall happiness and being proactive about your career can have positive effects on your professional life and lead to better job-change experiences.
- Fear keeps many people from making job changes.
- Set realistic expectations about the happiness a new job will bring.
- Choose to pursue happiness in your non-work life.
- Take a proactive approach to your career.
Fear keeps many people from making job changes.
According to 2022 survey research conducted by Monster.com, 96% of American workers are considering changing jobs. A Pew Research Center study found that only around 30% of workers followed through and changed jobs in 2022, however. Many fail to act on their desire to leave their current job due to fear: They worry that the new position could be worse than their current one.
“Thus, ‘the devil you know’ wins out, and you stay put.”
This fear, rooted in human evolutionary instincts, dominates decision-making processes: Survival often hinges on avoiding unfamiliar and, thus, potentially dangerous circumstances. But staying in a job you don’t enjoy will likely leave you frustrated and dissatisfied. Approaching job change with three truths in mind can help you avoid stagnation and rash decision-making and feel more confident making a change.
Set realistic expectations about the happiness a new job will bring.
Research shows that changing jobs can boost your happiness, but the effects may only last for a short time. Initially, people rate their satisfaction with a new job higher than their old one, but after six weeks, satisfaction declines and stays lower for about five months. Individuals with an “organization-focused” mind-set – who see their needs in the context of the whole company – see their satisfaction rise again after that point. Those who prioritize their own interests continue to feel less satisfied.
“If your expectations are too high, you will be disappointed; then you might find yourself on the job market over and over again, stuck in a cycle of unmet hopes.”
Given that the happiness increase from changing jobs may be temporary – particularly if you’re not very organization-focused – it’s essential to set realistic expectations. Avoid creating a cycle of disappointment and unmet hopes. Don’t idealize job change.
Choose to pursue happiness in your non-work life.
Studies indicate that people who are happier overall are more adaptable. They can better handle professional challenges and the need to learn new skills – two core elements in changing jobs. This ability to adapt, in turn, results in greater job satisfaction.
Pay attention to your work-life balance and prioritize happiness in your personal life to increase your overarching happiness. Avoid placing excessive pressure on your job to maintain your well-being and improve other aspects of your life to enjoy more stability and contentment.
Take a proactive approach to your career.
Job change may feel like a big deal, but statistically speaking, it’s a relatively common occurrence. That said, people are far more likely to feel happy about a job change if it occurs of their own volition. If you lose your job or are otherwise forced into a change, you may feel a lack of control, among other negative emotions such as embarrassment, anger and guilt. These feelings can get in the way of your feeling satisfied in your next job.
“A man with a higher education will, on average, throughout a lifetime, hold nearly 12 different jobs; a similarly qualified woman will hold more than 13 jobs.”
To avoid being “pushed” into a transition, take a proactive stance toward your career. Pay attention to red flags within your current employment situation, like hiring freezes or significant managerial changes. Choose to move your career forward via a job change, if necessary, before finding yourself compelled to do so.
About the Author
Arthur C. Brooks is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the host of the How to Build a Happy Life podcast.