If you’ve been engaged in an endless internal debate over whether to change jobs, one consolation is that you’re probably not alone. A 2018 survey published by recruitment firms Accounting Principals and Ajilon revealed that 25.7% of professionals surveyed are actively looking for new job opportunities and another 55% are “passively open to new job opportunities”. According to those figures, it seems much of today’s workforce is engaged in career “window shopping”. For finance professionals, going beyond window shopping and actually quitting their jobs can have serious and long-term consequences — which makes it critical to plan for this move very carefully.

We spoke to career experts to find out what you should do before taking the plunge:

Build resilience. According to Vanessa Addison, a performance coach based in South Africa, you should stay in your current role for as long as you can whilst you are looking for another role.

“I have found that when people stay to work through the challenges in their current working environment, it builds resilience, improves confidence, boosts self-esteem, and provides much needed clarity to move you forward,” she explained. “Once you have worked through your current work challenges in a productive way, you will approach future challenges with confidence and ease. You will also find it easier to talk confidently about how you solved this with a new or potential employer.”

Assess your current job resources. Tanya Du Plessis, an industrial and organisational psychologist based in South Africa, said that professionals can often become disengaged due to an overall lack of job resources required to fulfil the demands of their roles.

“Such resources could include equipment, trust in leadership, job control, work/life balance, recognition, and job autonomy,” she said. “These resources increase our energy, motivate us, and reduce stress.”

With this in mind, she recommended that before quitting you should consider the demands of your current role — and the associated job resources — and evaluate if you have or could have access to the job resources you need.

If you believe that such resources will not or could not be made available to you, it’s probably time to leave.

Embark on a “me” roadshow. When people are going through a crisis or stressful time, they tend to withdraw. “A great way to stretch yourself and grow would be to start putting yourself out there in interviews, networking events, or discussions with other professionals in different organisations,” said Addison. “You may even hear about new employment opportunities that you were not aware of.”

Addison also pointed out that you can no longer rely on recruiters to assist with a career change. “If you haven’t been active on a platform such as LinkedIn, start now,” she said. “Engage with peers and employers in your industry. This way you can build a strong network that may be able to assist you, before you quit.”

Broaden your skillset. “As you conduct market research and look for new job opportunities, consider the skills you will need to remain relevant in a fast-changing workplace,” Du Plessis said. Within finance, for example, computer programming skills are becoming a must-have — with financial organisations increasingly looking for R, Python, or another programming language. “The focus on upskilling should not only be on your technical ability to remain employable, but should also include emotional intelligence (EQ),” Du Plessis added. “EQ helps us to communicate, collaborate, respond to change, and build better relationships. Building these technical and personal competencies requires more than the traditional, once-off formal education; it requires a growth mindset and a proactive attitude.”

Rework your budget. Before you make a move, ask yourself how long your finances will keep you going. “If you do not have a new job lined up, it is worth working on your financial plan to determine how you will manage your household expenses,” cautioned Addison. “Develop a worst-case scenario plan to ensure that you are covered for at least six months to find a new role.”

— Jessica Hubbard is a freelance writer based in South Africa. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.