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With the start of a new year, lots of folks are looking for a career makeover while others are simply ready for the next step in their journey. Before you start sprinkling applications everywhere, here are a few things to think about.

Why Are You Leaving?
Before beginning a job search, consider why you’re leaving the one you have. Identify the big reasons you want to change your position and analyze whether the reasons are personal or purely professional. It’s not ideal to leave a job out of spite or desperation, as that can lead you to accept the first offer that comes your way no matter what it is.

Start your job search by figuring out why you want something new and then develop a discreet and professional exit strategy.

Career Progression
Consider whether the job you’re looking for is a step up, a lateral move, or a demotion. More than likely, you’re not seeking anything less than a lateral move, unless you’re taking a strategic demotion in order to set yourself up for something better down the line or devote more time to yourself or family.

In the midst of your search, Forbes recommends that you find out whether there are opportunities for promotion once you’re hired somewhere else. Many workers find themselves at a professional dead-end at certain companies because there are no opportunities for them to progress beyond their initial position. Asking this question will help you determine whether the next job you take is a stepping stone before making another switch or if the new place of employment is where you intend to continue leveling up your career.

Pay & Benefits
Chances are you’re leaving your job to find better pay elsewhere so it’s important to Google how much you can expect to make for the job you’re seeking in your area.

If you’re not making your preferred salary, suggests that you examine which benefits potential employers provide that could make up for that deficit. Would your new company give you a higher match for your 401K? Does it pay for continued education? Would you get a good Flexible Spending Account or Commuter Benefit? Is their health care a reasonable amount? The quality of your benefits count for a lot, and better benefits might be worth taking less of a raise (or even a small pay cut).

Also, find out how much Paid Time Off you can expect to earn within the first year because that could really be invaluable–especially in the summer and around the holidays.

The Commute
How far are you willing to go for your new job? This isn’t some metaphorical question about what you are willing to do for a better position. Literally consider how far you are willing to travel in order to get to your desired position.

Not long after I got out of school I was working at two different jobs that were in two different states. It would take no less than 2 hours for me to get to my second job at a newsroom in New York City, but that was a reasonable tradeoff for me. I wanted to work in the #1 news market in the nation, and that came with some sacrifices. A two-hour commute might be too much for you, but consider how far you would be willing to commute on a daily basis for a job that you really want.

Also, think about whether you would be willing to move for a job, should you receive the right offer. If it does, find out whether your company would be willing to help with relocation costs.

Your Resume
When was the last time you updated your resume? Before you start applying for new jobs, take the time to polish up your CV. Make sure your job history, special skills, references, and contacts are up-to-date. It may also be worth it to have a professional take a look at your resume to see whether there is anything you may need to adjust for current hiring practices.

While you’re at it, advises that you also update your LinkedIn profile, as many hiring managers and recruiters will check it when your application crosses their desk. However, it strongly advises against putting that resume on job boards if you want to have a discreet job search. Don’t forget: Application resumes are not one size fits all. Tailor each resume for specific applications.

Your Skill Set
The job you have may not be preparing you for the job that you’re seeking. Look at your current skill set and compare it to the general requirements and responsibilities of the types of job you’re seeking. Once you’ve done that, determine whether there are any gaps in your knowledge that you can fill in through study or by applying your existing abilities in different ways.

Management & Company Culture
It’s often said that people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers. You may be perfectly suited for that job you just came across, but are you a good fit for the company? Better yet, are they a good fit for you? Take some time to research the company you want to join on websites like Glassdoor, which offer company reviews. Look for any common complaints and decide whether those things are problems that you can manage to work around during your prospective time at a particular job.

Office Environment
No matter how introverted you may be on the job, coworkers can make or break a job as much as managers can. When you go in for an interview, take a good look around the office. Analyze the environment in which you could potentially work. Do the workers look happy to be there or does everyone look mad? Do the people look like they get along? You can tell a lot from a brief look around, and it might be all you need to know whether a potential office might be right for you.

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