Take the plunge: How to overcome the anxiety of leaving a comfortable old job for something better

Take the plunge: How to overcome the anxiety of leaving a comfortable old job for something better
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With a new year around the corner and an incredibly tight labour market, power is well in the hands of candidates. If you've thought of embarking on a new job journey, now could be your moment.  

Data from a Trade Me Jobs survey in April 2022 shows up to 7 in 10 Kiwis are planning to leave their jobs within the next two years, with nearly a fifth of respondents planning to leave within 12 months.

But even with the potential for greener pastures on the horizon, making that move often comes with a bundle of nerves and complications, from a difficult conversation with your (soon to be) old boss to the anxiety of stepping into the unknown.

Newshub and Trade Me have teamed up to help you through the transition, including some expert advice from both a psychologist and an HR specialist on how to navigate your nerves and ensure you leave on good terms.  

How to get over your nerves

First off: It's natural to feel nervous! But remember, everything good in life is usually on the other side of discomfort. Moving outside of your comfort zone will always be accompanied by a little anxiety but that's the price of growth. 

Of course, before you do anything, make sure you're moving for the right reasons. Clinical Psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland advises paying close attention to your feelings and separating out a normal bad day at work from a deeper dissatisfaction. 

"It's quite normal for all of us to have periods where we don't really like our job. Has this been a long-lasting feeling that's not just about something like, you've had a difficult interaction with a coworker, or is this something that's been going on for a little while?"

Once you've made your decision, one of the easiest ways to settle those butterflies is to focus on the happiness a shift into a better-suited role might bring.  

"There is a sense of fulfilment and life satisfaction, and general contentment from being involved or engaged in a job that you find very meaningful for you," says Dougal.

Following the pandemic, both workers and businesses have a renewed focus on the broader purpose of their work. Trade Me’s Head of HR Jenna Langdon says the best job satisfaction usually comes from ensuring a match between your own values and goals, and those of your company - without those ingredients, you may not find shifting roles will actually lead to better outcomes. 

"What's really important is that you align with the company culture, and purpose, and that  the job is really right for you …[Make sure] You're going in at the right job level because you are never really going to be happy otherwise."

One of the benefits for job seekers in the current market is businesses going over and above to attract talent. This means extra perks, from more flexible office hours to gym memberships or a simple salary bump, could be on the table. 

Of course, knowing that a better role might be out there and actually getting it are two different things, but Dougal suggests narrowing your focus and tackling the job hunt one step at a time. 

"It can make what seems like a huge task a little bit more manageable if you're just doing it in small bite-sized pieces and remember you don't necessarily have to commit to anything."

Remember that ‘looking isn’t committing’ is also a great way to make the task less daunting. Going to an interview doesn’t lock you into taking a job but it always helps to  see what options are available to you when making big decisions.

But what happens once you have committed? Well, that leads to a tough but inevitable workplace conversation. But no worries, we have your back. 

How to make sure you leave your current role on good terms

Leaving a job, particularly a long term one, can feel a little like a break up, Dougal suggests a classic line to smooth things over. 

"Frame why you are leaving in terms of what you need rather than what the organisation isn't doing for you. So: 'it's about me, it's not about you'."

While the conflict avoidant among us may want to mumble through that conversation and clear out as soon as possible, be upfront with your boss - communication is key. Leaving on bad terms is never desirable, particularly if your new boss ever gets in touch with the old one for a recommendation. 

With summer approaching, there might be a temptation to announce your move right before or after the holidays but if possible, try to avoid leaving your current workplace in the lurch.

"If you give everybody a bit more warning they can do something about filling the replacement. Realising that you are leaving will create a gap for the organisation and doing what you can to minimise the size of that gap," suggests Dougal.

Jenna agrees, saying while a new year might feel like an appropriate time to quit, leaving it till the last moment can sour relations.

"A lot of people resign at Christmas time. This leaves no time for handover and that can make it really hard to leave on good terms. It’s about considering the impact on your leader and peers."

Remember that once you've made a reasonable effort to ease the transition, you should prioritise your own well being and future, and not let worrying about your replacement put you off from leaving. Staff turnover is a normal process. It's not your responsibility to manage staffing levels at a business you're departing.

Ready to take the plunge? Head over to Trade Me Jobs to start exploring your options or check out the Trade Me job survey to find out more about the current market. 

Article created in partnership with Trade Me.