4 tips for mastering career changes

If you're unhappy in your job and considering a shift, think through these things first.

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Key takeaways

  • Think about what's important to you. Before making a transition, take time to reflect on your values, passions, skills, and career aspirations.
  • Salary is only part of the picture when evaluating an offer. Make sure to assess other factors, like benefits and potential changes in your cost of living and quality of life.
  • Don't leave anything on the table. Before leaving a job, make sure you check what your last day would need to be to make the most of your benefits, bonus, and other compensation.
  • Beware of cashing out any retirement savings. Consider your options that can help keep your money growing.

Sweeping changes to daily life in the wake of the pandemic have caused many of us to think hard about our careers—and record numbers to quit their jobs in what's being called "the great resignation."

Are you unhappy in your current role? Are you mulling a change?

If so, take a deep breath and give yourself the time to consider your motivations and the potential implications of a job change for your life and your money. Here are 4 tips to help you make the move that's right for you.

1. Think about what's important to you

Ask yourself questions like: Why do I want a change? What are my values? What am I passionate about? What am I good at? If you're currently employed and unhappy ask: What in my current role needs to be adjusted? Would a raise, a vacation, or a sabbatical help? Is there a new role in my current company that would excite me?

A career change could mean different things. It might be changing to a different role in your current company, finding a new employer, maybe even changing fields entirely. Taking some time to reflect on your current job and what's important to you can help clarify what's the best next career move for you.

2. Salary is only part of the picture

Remember that your salary is only a piece of your total compensation. As you consider a new role, make sure to weigh other important benefits. Does your new prospective employer offer 401(k) contribution matching, profit-sharing, or stock compensation? How about health and disability insurance or student loan assistance?

And don't discount any changes in your cost and quality of life. What will your hours and potential stress level be in your new role? Will you need to relocate? How will your taxes and other costs be impacted? How much time will you be expected to work on-site versus remotely, and what will any commute look like?  Considering all these factors will provide a more complete picture of your decision.

For more tips on how to evaluate a job offer, read Viewpoints on Fidelity.com: How to evaluate a job offer.

3. Don't leave anything on the table

Before you finalize your exit plans, make sure you check relevant dates on any bonus payments, 401(k) match vesting, or stock compensation vesting. It could be in your interest to choose your last day carefully, so you can take advantage of as much compensation as possible. Also, be sure to wrap up any expense reimbursements before your last day and check out your company's policy on unused PTO or vacation days (such as whether you can be paid out for unused days as you exit, or whether they're use-it-or-lose-it).

And make sure to leave on a good note with colleagues. Your network and reputation are among your most valuable assets.

4. Make the most of your retirement savings

If you've saved in your employer's retirement plan, you'll have some important options which include keep the money with your former employer's plan, move it your new employer's plan, roll it over into an IRA, or cash it out. Learn more about your 401(k) options.

For more tips and resources for your money and beyond, go to the Modern Life website. Also, make sure to sign up for the Modern Life newsletter for stories, tips, and resources delivered to your inbox every week.

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