Last year, a study by Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation revealed that a whopping 71 percent of Americans were actively looking for new jobs. And this portion of the workforce isn't just looking for new jobs, but also new employers. From being underpaid to overlooked, a vast majority of the people surveyed said they were on the lookout for greener pastures.

But people who are unhappy at their current jobs have to carefully think about their next moves to make sure they're not jumping from the frying pan into the fire. And happy employees are in the same boat: As the economy improves -- and their ability to be choosy strengthens with it -- they have to carefully think through their options.

For ambitious types looking to make strategic moves, there are three factors they need to keep in mind when looking for a new role.

Everything Is Relevant

One thing to remember is that employees' values and motivations vary, so make-or-break details for one person may not matter at all to the next. If there's a deal breaker that outweighs anything else -- a specific title, insurance coverage, working for a particular boss -- that factor should take precedence. For most job seekers, however, these three factors need to be considered:

Long-term opportunities and growth: No matter how appealing a role might sound, it won't pay off the way you'd hoped if there's no future to look forward to. Look into a company's recent performance and expected prospects: Is it growing? Is it well-positioned within its industry? Is it making moves in anticipation of how things might change?

For example, Credera, a management and IT consulting firm, recently joined the Omnicom family. With an eye on Credera's digital chops, Omnicom acquired the company in an effort to expand its capabilities and growth -- which correlates to similar growth for job seekers. "The company is positioned and planning for rapid growth," said Justin Bell, Credera's president. "I'm excited about what this means for emerging leaders in our firm. Great career growth opportunities are inevitable as we seek to further expand the Credera footprint nationally and work to double the size of our employee family. That growth, along with our structured career model, provide excellent opportunities for our team."

Likewise, look at the growth you might experience from the role itself. Will you acquire new skills? Will you be able to parlay your experiences into another role you're interested in? Is there any career path associated with that specific job? If you're looking to become a manager but nobody in that role has ever been promoted out of the front lines, you're committing yourself to a guaranteed departure or disappointment -- or pinning all your hopes on extraordinary circumstances.

A positive environment: A role with amazing potential isn't as wonderful as it might seem on the surface if it comes with a bad work environment. Because you'll spend at least 40 hours per week at work, it's important to make sure that time is spent in a healthy, positive environment. As the Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation study found, people's workplace had a significant impact on their physical and mental health, with negative environments leading people to abuse alcohol or cry.

Instead, look for companies that foster challenging but supportive environments. You want to be pushed to improve and succeed -- that's how you'll build your skill set, after all -- but you don't want to feel penalized for taking risks. You also don't want to work at a place that ignores your existence as a human being outside the office.

Sweetgreen is a good example of a company that fosters a nurturing environment. To boost employees' morale, Sweetgreen hosts a "Gratitude Night" to showcase the many ways its employees have provided excellent service, using customer letters and handwritten notes from corporate executives to acknowledge their impact. The company also offers opportunities to give back, like helping with the LA Food Policy Council market, and provides emergency financial support for employees in need.

Work that's enjoyable: This may sound like a no-brainer, but the number of people who accept jobs with an "I can suffer through anything" mindset is startling. The problem with this approach is that mind-numbing work that was seen as "temporary" can become permanent if a business experiences a downturn; a hoped-for promotion can take years to come to fruition if a retirement is delayed.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't pin your hopes on future growth. What it means is that you need to accept a role where the work you'll actually be doing is enjoyable and worthwhile. Five years fly by when they're spent doing work that plays to your strengths, allows you to flex your creative muscles, or sparks your interest. If your work feels like a way of passing the time until something better happens, those five years will drag.

Tim Richardson, an author, and speaker, told ZipRecruiter that he loved his job because it was right in his wheelhouse and felt meaningful. "I have an opportunity every time I speak to an audience to help someone make a positive change in their company or life. It's poetic justice that I now get paid to do what used to get me in trouble in school -- speak!" he said.

People on the lookout for a new job are in a great position -- they have their pick of roles in today's economy. But it will pay dividends to take advantage of your ability to be choosy and find a place that offers all three things: growth, positivity, and enjoyable work. That's how you can guarantee that your next move is your best yet.

Published on: Dec 2, 2018
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