So, you don't love your job right now. There's nothing really wrong with it and there's nothing really right about it either. It's just there--a paycheck, a place to go to during the day, and a guaranteed office holiday party invitation until something better comes along.

Many people want a job that they believe has a greater impact or benefit on the business or world around them. In fact, millennials are leading the way in changing attitudes and expectations about the kind of fulfillment--and dare I say, joy--we should all try to get out of our jobs. Times have changed in the way that we have the luxury of challenging the status quo. What used to be mostly about salary, benefits, and security is now more about salary, benefits, and satisfaction.

And yet, many people set off in search of work that stokes their passions and quickly find that it's not that easy. This is especially true for working parents with a full plate of other obligations including the kids, the dog, the house, the standard of living to which we've become accustomed, etc. Once those pieces are in place, it's difficult to toss them up in the air on a chance for a better job. Just hoping everything magically works out is no longer a viable option.

So, what do you do when you want a better job but you can't skip a paycheck?

  1. Know upfront that your job search will likely be longer than the average job seeker because you're going to have to be more selective. The often-cited rule-of-thumb suggests that job seekers should plan on one month of searching per $10,000 in salary they're seeking. For example, that $100,000 job might take 10 months to find. That job search might be longer after you necessarily narrow the options.

  2. Know what you're looking for. It might seem obvious but it's a real challenge for some of us to precisely put our fingers on it. Don't feel bad if you're not sure of if your answer is something like, "a place where I can make a difference" or "somewhere I'd be valued." A lot of people answer this way. However, you'll need to get more specific about what industries and roles are most likely to produce the result you want. Start a journal or keep a running list of jobs and roles that you find intriguing.
  3. Get clear on what job criteria are flexible and which aren't. The ability to relocate is often a big but important limiting factor. Maybe you can afford a 15 percent salary cut but can't increase your hours. Or you could do regional, day travel but not bi-coastal overnights. Be specific.
  4. Talk to everyone in your social circles about what they do, what they like or don't like about their jobs, and ask for advice. Getting the word out accomplishes two things: you'll get valuable insights you can use and you'll enlist a couple people to help in your search.
  5. Identify whether or not you need additional training or certifications but only pursue these if you're nearly certain that they're required for entry. If you're able to wiggle around the norms in your chosen field without additional training, save yourself the time and money and start working first.
  6. Study habits like these that increase your chances of landing the position once you find it.

What if you're looking not just for a new job but contemplating the sometimes riskier proposition of starting your own business?

The bottom-line is that you're going to have to do two jobs at once for a while. The question then becomes which two jobs are you going to do. Are you able to get your new business started while at your current job? If your hours today aren't too overwhelming and you're starting a business that doesn't compete with your current employer, the answer might be yes. If you can barely keep things going at work now or are thinking of launching a business that will be a competitor or attract your existing clients, the answer will be no. You'll need to find another interim job that is less strenuous or without potential conflicts. You won't want to invite legal hassles or burn bridges in the process--it's rarely worth it.

Published on: Apr 7, 2016