This is a guest post by Bryan Adams.

Stay in the corporate world long enough, and you’ll eventually want to leave.

For me, it happened early. I was 25 and had just set out on my career path. I was the only designer working for a magazine back when magazines were still mostly printed. Deadlines were always looming, the hours were long (especially at the end of the month before printing time), and the industry’s changing economics created additional pressure.

But I was happy. I was learning every day. I had tons of creative freedom. I loved the adrenaline-fueled environment and the passion and camaraderie of my small, close-knit team.

I’ll never forget the day all of that changed.

I was working in an open office surrounded by a few dozen colleagues when the magazine owner — a guy who rarely acknowledged the dedication and sacrifices of the people who put his beautiful magazines on store shelves — approached my desk. He reminded me of a rugby player or Bluto from “Popeye,” and he looked quite mad on that day.

As it turns out, I was right. He put two big, hairy knuckles on the deck of the forthcoming issue and leaned in until his face was just inches from my own. I could smell the bitter scent of coffee on his breath.

“You don’t have the authority to do this,” he snarled. “Who do you think you are?”

He felt I had made a poor creative decision that I was not qualified to make, and he spent the next several minutes making that clear. I sat there and listened, too shaken to respond. When he finished his tirade, I gathered my things, got into my car, and drove home. I knew I was never going back.

From Idea to Action

Growing up, I had always planned to start my own business. That day provided me with a moment of clarity and an incentive to turn those plans into action. By the time I got home, I had already decided to become an entrepreneur. I wanted to prove to this man that you can succeed in business without mistreating people.

I had no idea how I was going to make it happen, though. For the first six months or so, nothing really did happen. I had no clients, no financial security, no real professional network to rely on, and relatively little confidence that things would work out.

Eventually, however, I did make it work. And 17 years later, I still am.

A Sign of the Times

Today, countless individuals are experiencing the same moment of clarity I did years ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to show their true colors in the face of hard decisions, giving workers a unique opportunity to assess their lives and career paths. Many have decided that it’s time to do something different, with Americans quitting their jobs at an unprecedented rate — a phenomenon officially coined the “Great Resignation.”

If you’re one of them (or are considering joining the ranks) and are uncertain about your next move, here are three tips from someone who’s been there before:

1. Identify why you’re making the decision.

The factors that influence the decision to start a business or begin looking for a new job vary from person to person. For me, it was mostly my one bad experience, but it also stemmed from a deep desire to create a different kind of employee experience than the one my former boss offered. For others, it might be years of feeling unappreciated or unfulfilled, unhappiness in a 9-to-5 job, or a personal life event that provided a change in perspective.

Try to pinpoint what’s driving you. Doing so will help you understand what you need most as you take the next step on your career path.

2. Be honest as you plot your next move.

Whether you’re leaning toward starting your own business or finding a new organization to join, understand that you’ll face trade-offs. When trying to pinpoint your next move, reverse engineer the derivatives of purpose, impact, and belonging to assess where gaps exist in your current position.

No matter what you do next, you’ll constantly be asking yourself, “Is this worth the effort?” When the answer is consistently “yes,” you’ll know you’re on the right path.

3. Use the three C’s to find the best fit.

If you decide to take the leap, you can use the three C’s (career catalyst, citizenship, and culture) to evaluate potential new employers or employment opportunities. It’s a critical piece of effective employer branding that will tell you a lot about how you might fit into a new role.

Is your next move a career catalyst? In other words, will it accelerate your professional growth or redirect it along a better trajectory? Citizenship refers to the opportunity to do something that has purpose and impact that will be reflected on your résumé. In terms of culture, you should feel comfortable being your authentic self around your colleagues; this freedom will allow you to add and receive the most value from any given situation.

Leading employers can clearly articulate the give and get that comes with joining them. Decide what you can give, be clear about what you expect in return, and resolve not to settle for anything less.

Making a major career change is a massive decision. It requires heart, gumption, and intention. But it can also be the best move you ever make. Ensure that you’re ready by identifying why you want to change, understanding exactly how you want that change to look, and why it’s right. The rest will follow.


About the Guest Post Author:

Bryan Adams is the CEO and founder of Ph.Creative, a global employer branding agency.

He is a prominent employer brand thought leader as well as an author, podcaster, and speaker.