3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Professional Change and Overcommitting

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Professional Change and Overcommitting

Thinking of making a professional change? Here are some questions to consider before taking the plunge and overcommitting.

We’ve all been asked to take on new projects at work when we’re already completely swamped. In the moment, it can be very hard to say no. And we’ve all jumped on LinkedIn to see what other opportunities are out there. More money, less headaches. The grass is always greener.

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review about asking some tough questions of yourself before making a professional change. It got me thinking about our tendency (my tendency) to overcommit.

Executive and life coach Regan Walsh’s article, Before You Agree to Take on New Work, Ask 3 Questions, offers three key questions to ask before making any major professional decisions. Walsh believes that you need to move past the “should” in order to find fulfillment in your work.

Shoulds and wants

“Shoulds are the things we do out of obligation because we have not thoughtfully considered our true objectives, even out of fear,” she writes. “What if we never get another opportunity? What will others think of us if we say no? What will we think of ourselves if we say no? Sometimes, shoulds even seem like things we want to do.”

But honestly, shoulds are often things that are in direct opposition of our wants. Instead of focusing on professional goals and aspirations, we become burnt out by the “must dos.”

We must keep moving up the corporate ladder. We must take that promotion that means double the workload. We must say yes to new projects that could lead to new opportunities.

It’s worth taking a pause to consider why you’re making a professional change and if it will, in fact, be for the better.

3 questions to ask yourself

Here are three simple questions to ask yourself before making any major professional decisions.

1. What is my motivation?

Ideally your motivation for any professional change will come from within. Oftentimes this is easier said than done. External factors can play a large role in motivating our decisions. Money, professional growth, a new title — these are hard incentives to ignore.

But if you’re seeking more than just employment, real fulfillment from your job, you should start with your passions. If you’re making decisions based on your interests, your job will become more than a paycheck.

More and more employees are seeking a sense of community, educational opportunities, and a sense of purpose from their career paths. Aligning these opportunities with your personal interests will help make your job more than just a way to pay your mortgage.

2. Does it align with my values?

To answer this question, you need to identify what your core values are. What matters to you? What principles do you live by?

For most of us, these core values can include honesty and integrity. You can find these words in endless corporate value statements, but saying it and living are very different. If you can find an organization that stands by its value statements and works to embody these values, you will find that a sense of pride in your professional setting.

In a world based on data and analytics, finding an organization that can move past the numbers to create opportunities for its employees that will make them better members of their community will increase employees’ commitment to their company.

“Ideally, an organization’s core values explicitly define how people will behave with each other and with customers. When values succeed, the daily behaviors of your people will embody the core values you set forth,” Chris Cancialosi says in 2 Ways to Ensure Your Corporate Culture and Values Align.

3. Do I have a choice?

Your supervisor walks into your office and announces a new project she’d like you to spearhead. Your first reaction might be flattery and pride. Taking a step back, you might ask yourself, “Did I have a choice?” Were you forced into taking on more work? Are you even interested in the project?

Self-determination theory suggests that in order to act, or to feel motivated to act, we need to feel that we’re in control. We’ll enjoy something more if we recognize that it’s a choice.

Just as in our personal lives, when we feel like we have a choice in the matter, we’re more likely to give it our best effort.

Companies are expecting more and more of employees, and often in less time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Taking a step back to realize you have a choice in the matter — or, at the very least, the ability to communicate these feelings with your employer — will help you keep a balance at work.

Before taking on new projects or additional workloads, consider how much time it will take to complete the assignments and how much impact it will have on your existing workload.

We are all influenced by obligations. It’s easy to say yes to things, professionally and personally, because we feel like we have to. In order to feel real satisfaction from our professional choices, we need to look internally.  Saying yes to things that align with your core values and being motivated by your passions takes time and practice, but the end results will far outweigh the shoulds.

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