When faced with a difficult work situation, return to the workforce, or seemingly never-ending job search, we are often inclined to make a power move. A power move is a gusty decision that completely shakes up your career or how you show up at work; it can give you a fresh start and a chance to leave behind what you’ve known. Power moves can be self-affirming—learning how to say no, speaking up for yourself, asking for a promotion—and they can rock your core foundation, like quitting your job, changing careers, starting a business, or relocating for a job. Either way, power moves push you out of your comfort zone, which is a good thing—or can be.
Sometimes a major shakeup is absolutely necessary, but it’s important to also take full stock of your situation before diving into a huge change. Let’s explore the situations that regularly lead to a career-altering power move and how you can approach each.
Read more: Is It Better to Quit or Be Fired?
4 signs it’s time to make a career power move
1. You’ve hit the ceiling
A power move may be necessary if you have hit the ceiling at work and are unable to progress in your position, be challenged, or receive a promotion you have been seeking. In these cases, it is important to check in with yourself to see what assumptions you may be making. Are you assuming that because you have not received a promotion that your leader thinks you are underperforming? Are you assuming that you cannot take on more responsibility because others have been told no? Are you assuming that because you don’t see a role of interest there is nothing that can satisfy your needs? Check these very common assumptions with your manager. This conversation in itself may be a major career milestone for you and an honest conversation can give you a clear assessment of what your path may be.
First, share your desire for more. Let your manager know your career ambitions and ask what steps you can take toward more responsibility, a promotion, or additional challenges. It will be important to come with a plan, sharing your expectations as to what you would need to do to get a promotion and check them against what your manager thinks. Lauren McGoodwin, author of Power Moves: How Women Can Pivot, Reboot, and Build a Career of Purpose, suggests that you “work with your boss to set goals that align with the company and then send weekly progress emails.” That alignment will help you both measure success.
2. You’re not engaged
Gallup, a leader in employee engagement research, defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace. Does that sound like you? If not, consider what could be done to get you re-engaged. What could your leader offer you that would get you excited? How could you use your strengths at work more? Is that even possible?
When it comes to the engagement question, Gallup looks through a strengths-based lense, finding that people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. So what are your strengths and how can you use them more? Strengths may be the key to discovering whether or not a power move is necessary and, if it is, help you to determine the right direction. For example, if you love variety, reacting to different situations every day and solving problems as they arise, adaptability is probably one of your strengths. Consider roles in fields like customer service or emergency management where you can be a calming force when others are flustered and thrive at a fast pace. It will be hard to flex that adaptability muscle working on a long term project with a set schedule.
3. You’re underperforming
If you feel like you are walking a tightrope, dangerously close to making one mistake too many, it might be time to move on from your role or consider a power move. First, examine some possible contributing factors to see if it is, in fact, the role. Are you wrestling with a distracting concern outside of work? It could be family, health, relationships, or something else. Remember that old adage, “leave your problems at the door” is not actually possible. You bring your whole self, your worries, joys, and distractions with you to the office whether you like it or not.
So, before you jump ship, notice if your work performance issues may be tied to something outside the office. If so, it is time to find ways to look after yourself and communicate with your team and/or leader about how they can support you to get on the right track. Taking care of yourself can also be a career gamechanger. Avoid covering up mistakes or rushing your way through and be honest with your leader, as much as you are comfortable, about what’s going on and why you might not be your usual productive self so you can get back on track.
You may also be underperforming because you are not suited for the role. If you think of your strengths as being in 4 Themes—relationship-building, influencing, executing, and strategic thinking—imagine what it would be like to have your strengths in one area, and key responsibilities of your role in another. I recently worked with a client who was an exceptional connector—she knew the right people to get the job done and loved making introductions. She lit up a room and instantly gave energy to every interaction. When she took a role as an executive assistant, she struggled with details and made mistakes, which led to her feeling like she couldn’t do anything right and many frustrating conversations with her leader. Her strengths were not in executing, but she had chosen a role where that was her primary objective, and beyond that, she was not interacting with people to flex those muscles of building relationships. A career change to concierge at a trendy hotel where she could put her strengths to use everyday made all the difference.
Read more: I Learned How to Be Happy at Work
4. You’re having the Sunday Scaries everyday
We have all been there, the feeling of dread as your weekend, or vacation, is drawing to a close and you can’t imagine having to go back to the office. When this happens, we look for a way out and may think that the path to happiness is a 180-degree change. This is another chance to examine the root of your concerns and what you can control. I’m a fan of the tried and true Circles of Influence and Control by Stephen Covey, where you look at what you can control, what you can influence, and what is out of your control. Seeing what you can control can be an important step in deciding how to move forward.
There is always something you can do, whether that is a company change, or a conversation you’ve been putting off. Look inside first to determine if a career power move is right for you.