Updated: Jun 27
People nowadays don’t stay in one place for long. Luckily, most people constantly look for new opportunities to grow and become better assets for any company. In older generations, people stuck to their jobs for a lifetime, but today, there are so many new options, opportunities, and doors open for young adults to not only become an asset in their chosen field, but they can grow as a person too. But how do you decide when it’s time to move on? When is it right to look for the next opportunity either in your current workplace or elsewhere? People have to be very smart about this decision, as it is always a gamble.
Most people who choose to leave their current positions and look for something else, a better opportunity, or a position where they can learn new things, is when they “outgrow” their current job. Outgrowing a position is very common after a few years, and these days, most people look for the next step very quickly after realizing it. Outgrowing a position basically means that you don’t find it to be a challenge anymore, there’s no effort put in, you can do it in your sleep, and there’s no place else to go.
And if there’s truly no place to grow in their current company, there’s no way to step up the ladder or to attract more stimulating projects where they can learn new things, they look for their next workplace. Something they’re passionate about, something that opens new doors, and presents new opportunities, even add something special to their CV. This is an intricate and hard process, that usually involves a lot of self-assessment and binge-watching TED Talks.
The first step is to pinpoint what’s missing. Are you capable of more work? So you want to try working in a new sector but in the same position? Do you want more challenges? Different working hours? A position where there’s a possibility of stepping up the ladder closer to being a leader? And once you’ve found the stimulus that’s most motivating for you, start cross-checking these motivations with your CV.
Why would someone in your desired company want to hire you? What can you show that’s enough for you to start dreaming bigger and facing challenges? For this, it’s best to find a position similar to your current one, but with a bigger challenge, or space to grow. And lastly, tailor your CV and cover letter.
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For instance, if you’re currently a receptionist, but you oversee the duties of an office manager from time to time, it might be a good opportunity to apply for a full-time office manager position, as you can demonstrate knowledge within the field.
Or if you’re an administrator, but you often work alongside HR, PR, or work on bigger projects now and then, you can apply for a position that’s closer to these fields that you are currently just on the surface of, but want to know on a deeper level.
So once you’ve found the right area and possibly pinpointed the perfect position, you’ll need to tailor the perfect CV and cover letter. Leave out anything that isn’t relevant to the position, and go into intricate details about the things that make you look like a stronger candidate for the desired job. So if we stick to the office manager scenario, leave out your summer barista job, or your job working as a store clerk while emphasizing your relevant experiences. Like what you learned in your current position. What area did you gain insight into while working there? What projects did you manage, what department were you working close to?
And yes, you will need both a CV and a cover letter, too. Why? Firstly, because most places require both, but apart from that, it’s very useful for you also. In your cover letter, you can get into further detail about why you would be the perfect candidate. You can tell them exactly what made you an asset for the HR department when you were only a receptionist at the time. You can share details about the projects you’ve worked on, and how it was above your duties, but you still did it and did it effortlessly and perfectly. Do not be afraid to make yourself look better than you do based on just your CV. A CV is just a list of facts, but the cover letter is the true key.
And lastly, always, always ask for a recommendation letter from your employer before leaving. This also entails that you leave on good terms, but most of the time it isn’t even your employer who writes it, it’s someone working in HR, and they’ll gladly write in any shiny detail. And this is a great asset when applying for any position. Even if the company of the employer is not a well-known public figure, people still love a good recommendation. And if you leave on great terms, your employer will write anything you want into it. This is the least of their worries, so they usually write stellar recommendations to someone worthy.
Now that you have all the necessary documents, and have your interviews lined up, it’s time to make an impression. Make it a show. Show off your best self, speak clearly, confidently, and really stand out. Spend time on your appearance, and wow them with your knowledge. Have some questions ready, and answer theirs as well as you possibly can. Don’t be afraid to ask risky questions. You are trying to apply for a position that’s a bit higher than your current CV can prove about you. Make them want you, and have them feel that you are in fact an asset. Be motivated, self-confident, and just sell it in the interview.
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If you’re not sure what to answer, think about what they want to hear. If you’re not sure what to ask, don’t just sit there shaking your head, tell them that you’ve heard everything you have to know, and you thank them for the wonderful opportunity. Or you ask them something about the position, the finances, or employee parking. Although, there are things to avoid. Do not ask them about lunch breaks. Don’t ask them about the number of free days you have, or the length of each holiday. Do not ask about the flexibility of work hours, unless absolutely necessary. Absolutely necessary means, if you’re a single mom, and you have to pick up your son from singing lessons each week at 4, then you can ask about the flexibility of that day. Do not ask about potential raises or bonuses. All of these can wait for after you start working there, and you can ask HR rather than your employer. Basically, before saying or asking anything, think about what that entails. You don’t want to seem lazy, too eager, or unmotivated. These questions let them know that you can’t wait to leave the office each day, and you’ll max out all your free days each year. That’s not a good first impression, especially for someone who’s slightly under-qualified.
To sum up, finding that next step is very important. Don’t stay in an environment that isn’t stimulating, challenging, or just isn’t worth it because you have no place to grow. But be smart about it, because applying for a better position means you have to over-sell yourself and to pull that off, you have to have some experiences to highlight, and you have to make a perfect first impression. Look for connections you’ve made, ask for advice, and don’t forget your recommendation! And if you’re just not sure yet, or if you’re still looking for that perfect opportunity, don’t give in your two weeks notice. The opportunity will show itself with time.